My Live Streaming Setup for 2021: Iceland Edition

Home Office, Streaming
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Erika and I moved to Iceland for a while. For those of you who don’t follow my personal blog, here’s why we moved, and how we got here with a teleworker visa. You can spy on our adventures via my Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

We’re working half the time while we live here, and sightseeing the other half. It’s easy to telecommute from Iceland because it’s one of the most connected countries in the world. Most houses have symmetric gigabit fiber available – even though we’re extremely isolated, we still have great bandwidth:

This isn’t a permanent move – probably just 6-12 months – and we’re doing some traveling through the country, so I didn’t want to pack my full home office setup with my Mac Pro and big monitors. I downsized my streaming setup, and I figured some of y’all might find it interesting. It’s closer to what most folks would use for remote presenting.

Laptop: MacBook Pro 16″ – the fastest Mac laptop available today, a 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i9, 64GB RAM, but…it’s a long, long way from the 16-core Mac Pro I usually use. When I live stream, I really put the CPU fans to work. I was tempted to try one of the new MacBooks with the Apple Silicon M1 processor, but I’m holding out for the higher-horsepower versions that will surely follow. I brought my Keychron K8 keyboard and an Apple Magic Touchpad at the last minute at Erika’s insistence – I was trying to pack lighter, heh.

External monitor on right: 15″ generic 1080p. Normally for monitors, you want high resolution, but when you’re streaming, you actually want a plain 1920×1080 because that’s the max size you’d stream out to your audience. The monitor has inputs for USB-C, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, etc, but the nice thing is that it can use a single USB-C cable for both power and for the display signal.

When I’m streaming, the MacBook Pro’s high resolution display has Slack (for attendee chat & questions) and OBS’s control panel and preview. The 15″ 1080p monitor is what’s showing to the audience, so I’ve either got SSMS on there, or a PowerPoint.

I usually teach while standing up, but I’m trying the dining room table to see if I can make that work. If it turns out I just absolutely gotta stand, we’ve got a high bar table picked out at a local furniture store – if necessary, we’ll grab that and leave it in the rental house when we leave.

Cameras: two Sony A6100s each plugged into Elgato Cam Link 4K: in my normal home studio setup, I plugged the Sonys into a Blackmagic Design HDMI recorder, but that’s a PCI Express card. The Elgato is an easier/smaller USB solution for laptops. I do prefer a two-camera setup, alternating between a head-on camera and a from-the-side camera for casual discussionss. I still use my iPhone with the NDI camera app as a scenery camera during the breaks – that’s good for breaks, but not for a main camera because it has unpredictable latency, meaning your speech and moving lips can drift in & out of sync, and I can’t stand that.

Microphone: DPA In-Ear Broadcast Headset plugged into a Focusrite Clarett. I’m only reusing these because they’re part of my desktop setup, so I don’t need to buy them again, but they’re overkill for most streaming setups. I have a Rode VideoMic GO ($100) on-camera microphone as a backup, but the sound on that isn’t nearly as good since it also picks up echoes from the room, keyboard noises, laptop fan, etc.

Customizable keyboard control: Elgato Stream Deck. LCD keys so you can configure what they show & do, like switching between different cameras. Could you do this by memorizing a bunch of hotkeys? Probably, but as you start to rely on more advanced OBS functionality, like playing sound effects, this will come in super handy.

USB-C dock: CalDigit TS3 Plus: if you count the above devices, that’s 5 high-speed USB ports right there, plus Ethernet. The MacBook Pro only has 4 USB-C ports, plus it needs one for electric power, so I needed a USB-C dock. The CalDigit is by far the most stable dock I’ve found – a lot of USB-C docks flake out during sustained 4K streaming with multiple cameras.

Tripod mounting: Manfrotto Magic Arm plus Super Clamp: I could theoretically clamp these directly to the dining room table that I’m using for a desk, but they’d shake when I jostle the table. Instead, I brought a couple of tripods, plus these Magic Arms so I can mount multiple devices to the tripod, like a camera plus lights.

Green screen: collapsible with stand: at home, I used a wall-mounted pull-down green screen, but obviously that’s not gonna work on the road. This folds up, and I’ll have it behind me while I’m teaching. I expect to be teaching sitting down while I’m on the road, but I’d be completely delighted if I could put together a setup where I could continue standing & teaching. The box it shipped in was exactly the max dimensions for standard airline checked luggage. It collapses, but not small enough to fit in a regular checked bag – it’s still an odd shape.

Carrying the electronics: Pelican 1620 case: on one of our Iceland flights, the airport crew unloaded the baggage during a serious rainstorm. Our bags and their contents were all completely soaked with water. We didn’t have any electronics in ’em, thank goodness, but for this trip, I wanted something waterproof that I could check as luggage. (It won’t have any lithium batteries in it – I take those in my carryon.)

If you wanna see the results and you’ve got a Live Class Season Pass, hop into my live class page during any of my classes this month:

See you in class!

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