Streamingmedia.com recently posted a great article detailing everything you need to know about building your own streaming workstation. We're going to be taking a look at some of the finer points of the article.
It takes a lot of know how, and research, as well as time and energy to create an efficient workstation. Choosing the right hardware is not only daunting- it is a make or break. This is why Telestream introduced their WireCast Gear Product. However, there will still be streamers and users who either require a custom work station- or want the experience of building one.
Generally speaking, live streams done at a higher production quality tend to be somewhat higher rated- and do a better job of retaining views. However, running a powerful real time software application requires a higher demand on your system.
One of the most important things about building your work station is making sure you have the basic workflow requirements for your stream.
First Things First
The horsepower of your machine is first and foremost. So when you are building your own workstation, there are four components that are end all be all.
- CPU & RAM
- Storage (for both OS and Media)
CPU and RAM
And underpowered CPU can be detrimental to your streaming capabilities. So what CPU do you need? That depends.
CPUs are differentiated by their clock speed as well as the number of processing cores they feature. In most instances users want to aim for a middle of the pack CPU when it comes to cores vs clock frequency. Its worth noting that all the latest mid-range Intel CPUs support eight cores.
"Theoretically, having a higher clock speed is always going to result in a better encode. When playing back video files, things can vary drastically based on the codec and the format of the source. For example, you can play out a 720p ProRes file and it's going to impact the CPU far less than a more compressed version of the same material."streamingmedia.com
The motherboard of your computer is where everything flows in and out of. An improperly configured motherboard from a previous generation will not be able to deliver the speed and density of data streamers need to produce their content.
A lot of people focus on the actual speed of the bus, but that's not the most important metric. It's much more important to understand what components are sharing the bus, through which lanes, and how your chipset's PCIe lanes are mapped out.streamingmedia.com
The GPU is also critical to your workflow- especially for professional streamers. GPU resources are precious and critical for the operation of your software. It is also vital for loading items into the UI and decoding H.264 videos.
Using the GPU to encode video streams instead of the CPU is a popular option. As discussed, CPU resources are precious. We need those CPU resources for the operation of the software, for loading things in the UI, to decode H.264 videos, and generally run all the processes that can't be accelerated through the GPU. Using the CPU for the encoding workflow significantly reduces your overhead if things get backed up. Sometimes the smallest background task can throw a wrench into things. With GPU encoding, it's a completely different processing unit so you're not adding all that work onto your CPU's to-do list. You end up with much more headroom and are far less likely to have an issue.streamingmedia.com
Currently the debate between HDD and SDD drives is a hot topic- and NVMe solid state drives have just been added to the discussion. Needless to say- there are ample choices for storage available. Where Spinning Hard Disks give users a lot of storage at a low price- the technology tends to run very slow.
If your workflow involves multiple ProRes ISOs then you may want an SSD or a Solid State Drive (or multiple). This is because the system is reading and writing a massive amount of data.
You could use multiple drives, one for each encode, but you might run out of SATA ports on your motherboard. This is particularly problematic on laptops since they don't typically have a lot of ports. SSDs have a fairly good price to storage ratio these days (1 TB for $110) and they offer a tremendous increase in speed. This allows you to do more things simultaneously without slowing down—more ISOs, more program recording.streamingmedia.com