What do you need?
• Computer, tablet or smartphone
• Stable internet connection
• Sound card
• Correct audio and data cables for your setup
• DJ mixer and decks
• Streaming software or service provider
• Web cam or internal camera
• Microphone if you want to speak
What is the signal flow?
The audio begins with your decks (i.e. digital media players or vinyl turntables), which pass into your DJ mixer. Many mixers also provide an input for microphones if you want to speak. Your mixer should have an additional output besides the main signal. These are typically called record outputs, but you could also use the monitor/booth out depending on what your mixer is equipped with.
These outputs typically use RCA cables, but your mixer might use XLR or 1/4-inch outs instead—you'll need to check. For streaming, we connect this signal to a sound card, which converts the audio coming from your DJ mixer from analogue to the digital domain, using USB, Thunderbolt or FireWire data cables to communicate with your computer. Unfortunately for us in this case, most sound cards don't have RCA inputs. So if your mixer record or monitor outputs use the RCA standard, you'll need a cable or adapter that ends with a 1/4-inch or XLR tip. Again, this depends on what inputs your sound card provides. Finally, streaming software (OBS Studio, Wirecast) or online streaming services (Twitch, Hangouts) route audio coming from the sound card to your audience.
The performance of your computer and internet connection is crucial to streaming. If one or the other isn't up to the demands on CPU and upload speed, your stream will experience drop outs, low quality or simply won't work at all.
You can help by making sure your streaming device is fully charged and connected to power during the stream. A direct ethernet connection to your router will help; otherwise try to stream as physically close to your router as possible. Streaming can be very intensive for your computer's processor, so try to free up as much free disk space as you can. You'll also want to monitor the stream on a separate device, as this will reduce the streaming device's chances of crashing.
Streaming options for audio and video
The main question to ask is between using third-party software or an all-in-one streaming service. There are pros and cons to each. Third-party software can offer more professional results and flexibility, both regarding streaming settings and your choice of channel. The flip-side is they are potentially more complex. The all-in-one services offered by platforms like Facebook and Google are easier to use in some cases. But they're also comparatively limited and force you to host your content to their platforms. If you don't want to gift your content to these companies you'll need to look elsewhere.
A popular free and open source third-party option is OBS Studio. Third-party software like OBS lets you run multiple camera angles and audio channels, control the quality of your stream and route it to whichever hosting providers you wish. If you don't need video, Mixlr is another good free option (Autechre have been using Mixlr for their 12-hour livestreams). If you have budget to spend and want to stream directly from an iOS device, consider Wirecast Go.
Facebook and Google's free services are arguably simpler because they eliminate the need for a dedicated streaming application. But, unlike those applications, you're limited to a single audio and video input source, can only broadcast to the host channel, and have limited control over the quality of streaming and recording. Again, you'll need to weigh up the pros and cons and decide what works best for you.
What does this all look like in practice? Here we'll provide an example of one streaming setup so you can see what each stage of the process might look like. We're not endorsing these options above any others. But if you want a way to broadcast, this will work.
We're going to use OBS Studio to handle the stream. We'll assume you know how to get your DJ setup working and that you're using a laptop or PC rather than a smartphone or tablet.
First, we need to route the audio from your DJ mixer into your computer via your sound card. Connect the record or monitor outputs from your DJ mixer to the sound card's line inputs. As previously mentioned, these could be RCA, XLR, 1/4-inch or 1/8-inch audio cables depending on your mixer. You need to make sure both ends of the cable are the correct spec for the DJ mixer outputs and audio interface inputs. They're not always the same!
Once the DJ mixer is connected to the sound card, connect the sound card to your computer. Opening OBS for the first time presents you with an auto-configuration wizard that tests your computer to find the ideal streaming settings. It asks you about video settings like frame rate and size and the streaming service you'll be using. We'd previously created a Restream account, so we chose the Restream.io - RTMP option, linked the accounts and left everything else on the default setting.
Once that's done, open the preferences menu and select audio. Under the list of devices you'll see Mic/Auxiliary Input with a dropdown menu. This is where you select your sound card so the software can hear the audio coming from your DJ mixer.
Here you can see we've selected Scarlett 2i2 USB, which is the sound card we're using.
Now head to the Sources window in the bottom centre of the main display. Clicking the plus symbol presents a list of source options. We choose and create a new Video Capture Device, which is set to receive video from the computer's internal camera—if you were using external cameras, this is where you'd set them up. Next we added an Audio Input Capture device, which is set to receive audio from the Scarlett 2i2.
Time to broadcast
The adjacent audio mixer will show the input levels coming from your DJ mixer via the sound card. Below the meter is a volume control—use this to make sure the input coming from your sound card isn't too quiet or too loud. Hit "start streaming" and "start recording" to send your audio and video on to the next stage.
We'll then use the channel dashboard page on restream.io to route the stream coming from OBS to whatever channel we like. For the sake of demonstration, we've chosen Twitch. Once you hit start streaming, restream.io and whatever channels you're forwarding on to will begin broadcasting. Have a friend tune in while you're testing to judge the stream's quality, as it's important to be confident in your system before beginning a proper broadcast.
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