When it comes to recorded video content, YouTube is king. According to Youtube’s own statistics, there are over 2 billion site visits every month, and many content creators see a thriving YouTube channel as a metric for success. What you may not realize is that YouTube is also a fantastic platform to stream live content. While most people see Twitch as the standard for live content, YouTube’s features and functionality are very robust, and it should not be discounted as a live platform.
In this article, we’re going to walk through the set-up process for creating an account, doing your first livestream (with OBS), and what happens once you’ve finished recording your live video.
Create an Account
We covered this more in-depth in our first YouTube Basics video, so feel free to reference that if you need more information. If you already have a YouTube account, know that you just can’t hit record and go – you need to enable live streaming on your account.
Enabling Live Streaming
Your account must be in good standing with Google (with no restrictions on streaming) and must be verified in order to enable live video. The verification process is simple: head over to http://youtube.com/verify and follow the instructions – you’ll be sent a code via text message that you must relay back to them. (2-Factor Verification is a great idea even if you aren’t doing live video – it enables custom thumbnails, longer videos, and the ability to appeal Content ID claims).
Once you’ve been verified (this process can take up to 24 hours) you will be able to access the livestream options. If you are a smaller channel with less than 1000 subscribers, you will only have access to stream directly with a webcam, or an ‘encoder’. In this case, we’ll be using Open Broadcasting Software (OBS) and sending our video stream to YouTube.
Your first “Go Live”
If you want to stream with just your camera, click the “Create” icon at the top right of your screen and click “Go Live”. On the left sidebar is an icon that looks like a camera – the “webcam” section. You’ll be given a few prompts for the video name, the category, and some privacy questions. Check all of your options, and click “Next”. When you’re ready, click the “Go Live” button and start broadcasting!
Now, this is good for simple streaming, but if you want to get fancy you need to set up OBS to send data through YouTube’s encoder.
We talked about OBS in our last YouTube Basics article as well, but here are some reminders. You’ll want to make sure your scenes and sources are all set up and ready to go before you go live. Test your game sources to make sure you can see them in the stream, and make sure your audio settings are as good as they can be. I like to record a test video every so often just to make sure I hear and see what my viewers are during a typical stream.
Once you’ve gotten that figured out, click on the “Settings” button in OBS. Click on the Stream tab, and select “YouTube / YouTube Gaming” as your service. Two new options will pop up. You can leave the first option (the “Server”) as it is, but we need to get a stream key from your channel.
Head back to YouTube and click on the Create link at the top right. Click on “Go Live”. YouTube will ask you a few questions about the Title, Description, Categories, and some privacy settings. You’ll also be asked to upload a custom thumbnail. Once you’re done, hit the “Create Stream” button. If you’re editing a stream, the button will say “Save”, but will give you the same result.
You’ll be taken to a dashboard that shows you all sorts of information about your stream. As you stream, you can refer to this screen to see stats, comments, and any analytics you might want to know. On the left side of the screen are a few text boxes and options relating to the “Stream Key”. The second option (that looks like a password) is your stream key – copy it, and paste it into the Stream Key option back in OBS.
OBS and YouTube are now connected. If you exit out of the settings screen in OBS, you are one click of the “Start Streaming” button away from beginning your first YouTube livestream.
Once you’ve started streaming, everything that you see in the OBS preview screen will be broadcast live to YouTube. In a lot of ways, streaming to YouTube is a lot like streaming to other platforms. Partnered streamers can monetize their channels with “super chats” and stickers that allow messages to stand out. Some streamers also have ‘sponsorships’ that act very similarly to Twitch subscriptions – a monthly fee that is partially passed along as revenue to the streamer.
Finishing Your Stream
Once you’re ready to end your stream, either click the End Stream button (for a webcam stream) or click “Stop Streaming” in OBS. YouTube will then begin to convert your stream into an archived video. Even while you’re waiting for the encoding to finish, you can treat your video like any other YouTube video – you can create tags for it, a custom thumbnail, add it to a Playlist, and make sure the description is properly optimized for search engine optimization.
Click on your profile icon in the top right corner and visit YouTube Studio. You’ll see a link for your video collection on the left. Once you click on it, look for the tab at the top called “Live” – you will see any scheduled livestreams there, as well as any streams you have previously recorded. Update your tags, category, description, and title as you need to in order to ensure YouTube algorithms are successfully finding your content.
Streaming on YouTube is a great way to build one platform with different content strategies, as YouTube has a place for both uploaded content and live video. With a healthy audience to pull from, great features that any streamer can use, and an instant archival of your live stream, it’s no surprise that several streamers are starting to see YouTube as a viable place for both their live and produced video content.