As a music educator in the post-covid era, having a good online teaching setup is essential to a successful teaching business. When designing my setup, I had a few requirements. I wanted a way to use multiple cameras, have high quality sound, and be able to see and hear my students equally as well.
Part 1: The Hardware Components
- Electronic drums
- A decently powerful computer
- Tripods and stands
- A mixer with USB or and Audio Interface
Electronic drums: You probably already have this part covered, but if you don't, I'll briefly touch on this topic here. The e-drum market has really grown in the past 10 years or so and there are more options than ever if you want to get an electronic drum set. The easiest piece of advice I can give you is to stick with known major brands such as Roland, Yamaha, Alesis, and Simmons. There are of course some great boutique brands out there such as ATV, Gewa, and EFNote, but going into details about all the different drums out there is outside the scope of this post. There are even some cheaper, lesser-known kits being sold on Amazon, some of which are not terrible, but it's much harder to go wrong just sticking to the well-known brands.
A decent computer: You are going to need a computer with at least an i5 processor (or equivalent), 8gb ram, and preferably one with a dedicated graphics card. Obviously higher specs will be even better. I am currently using a 2015 Macbook pro, which can reliably stream at 720p. PCs generally run OBS (streaming software, more on that in part 2) better than Macs, but Mac is finally starting to catch up in this regard. Gaming desktop PCs work really well for streaming applications, but not everyone (including me) have space to setup a desktop just for streaming lessons.
Webcams: You have several options here, but the webcams I am using are Spedal 1080p Wide Angle webcams. I like these cameras because they have a good image, are fairly inexpensive, and a very wide angle. Plus, they also work with both Mac and PC. You may also want some USB extension cables and a USB hub if you're using a laptop.
Tripods and stands: You're going to need some stands for your laptop as well as for your webcams. I recently picked up this great laptop stand that not only has a place of a laptop, but a nice accessory tray that can hold my mixer, and a gooseneck that can hold one of my cameras. For my overhead camera, I am using a standard boom microphone stand with this handy adapter that allows it to hold a webcam. Then for my bass drum cam I am using this SmallRig Camera Clamp that I just have clamped to one of my floor tom legs. You may not have a free standing floor tom though, so in that case you might want to just use a small tripod on the floor.
A mixer with USB: I'm using a Flamma FM10 which works great on Mac or iOS devices, however I do not recommend this mixer for Windows as the level indicators seem to be unreliable under Windows which can lead to digital clipping. Instead, I recommend trying a USB audio interface.
Headphones: Here there are many options again, but I really like these Samson SR850s for my drums. Do not use Bluetooth or wireless headphones for e-drums. The lag will make it impossible to play.
Microphone: Once again, you can use basically any mic you want, but I like these headset mics because they're wireless, cheap, and yout don't need a stand. If you are using that Behringer Mixer I posted above you could even use some kind of Gaming Headset mic/headphone combo which would be convenient.
That's really all you need as far as the hardware goes!
Part 2: Software and Configuration
- A stable Internet connection
- Avanced Scene Switcher
- Virtual Cam
- Google Duo (Meet) / Zoom
Getting all the equipment is the easy part, but hooking it all up and making it all work is where the challenge lies. Don't worry though, I'm going to walk you through the entire setup.
A stable internet connection: The importance of this cannot be understated. Stable internet is crucial to successful streaming or teaching online. A way to check your internet is by using a service like https://speedtest.net. You need to make sure you have at least Cable Internet, which is what I have. Fiber like Fios is even better, DSL will most likely not work so great. Also make sure your router is reliable and not dropping signal. If you are using wifi, which most of us are, make sure you are not too far away from your router or it will drop signal and make the performance less reliable. What about 5G? My experience trying 5G for streaming has not been good, so I would not recommend it.
OBS: OBS is free software for streaming and is currently the industry standard. It will run on any computer platform and works great. It's just a bit of a pain to make work the way you want, but once it's setup, you can pretty much just leave it alone then never have to worry about it again unless you want to make a change. After you download and install OBS, if you have a twitch or YouTube channel, you can go ahead and let the wizard do its thing. If not, just close the wizard and go right into the settings.
In the settings, go to the 'output' tab and make sure you have "hardware" selected for encoder. Depending on your computer you may have NVENC, Apple VT Hardware Encoder, or AMD Encoder, if you only have H264 as an option, you may need to set everything to a lower resolution for your computer to handle it. If you are broadcasting a 720p, then set your video bitrate to 2500, if you are broadcasting at full HD, then you will want to set your video bitrate to 5000.
After you have this setup, head over to the 'Video' tab and set your base and output resolutions to your desired resolution. This will depend on your computer power and internet speed. I am using 720p for both my canvas and output resolutions.
Once this is finished, setup some scenes in OBS and add your webcams as sources. You can setup different angles in different scenes. Once you have some scenes setup move on to the next section. If you're super confused right now, you may want to watch a few general OBS tutorials on YouTube before moving on.
If you want your webcams to switch automatically, head over here and download the Advanced Scene Switcher plugin for OBS. Once it is installed (you may have to restart OBS), click 'tools' from the dropdown menu in OBS then select Avanced Scene Switcher. Once inside go to the Macros tab and click the + to create a new macro. Here you can set the conditions for your scenes to switch. Watch my video below for a bit more details on how to do this. Once you finish setting up the macros, return to the 'general' tab of the Advanced Scene Switcher (ASS) and click start. Now your scenes should be switching automatically.
Once you're done with all of that, close the settings page and click the "Start Virtual Camera" button on OBS. Open up google meet, or whatever video chat app you are using and select OBS Camera as your webcam. Now all changes made within OBS will broadcast to your chat session!
Hopefully you found this document helpful!