Resources & Tutorials

How to Upgrade Your Live Stream Background

Upgrading the visual elements of your live stream background is the key to a polished and professional look, something that can massively boost engagement and visibility. Here we explore the primary visual elements of a live stream to help you mesmerise your viewers.

Why the look of your live stream is so important

Our society is driven by visual stimulation, and live-streaming is no different. Just think of the value that slick and creative production lends to the visual landscape of successful artists like Daft Punk, Justice and The Chemical Brothers, to name just a few.

Professionals connect with audiences by captivating them with unique, cinematic content, and viewers often identify specific broadcasts because of this. For instance, like him or loathe him, Joe Rogan’s red studio tunnel is instantly recognisable. Establishing a distinctive look for your brand makes your set stand out when viewers are doom-scrolling through a sea of live content.

How to pick a background

Also dubbed the “backdrop”, this is the visual space that frames your set — think of it as your virtual stage design, if you will. The first rule of thumb is to make sure your set looks clean and polished, so get rid of any distractions that might pull the viewer’s wandering eyes: we’re talking dishes, clothes and coats to any bedroom DJs out there.

Everything within the foreground and background of a live stream needs to have a purpose to it, so try filming in front of a plain wall or bookshelf. You can get a quick sense of what your bedroom DJ set will look like through using Mixcloud Live Studio — this lets you stream straight from your browser without the need for any third party software.

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Keeping it real: just you and the camera

To install and run OBS Studio, your computer should first have enough memory — at least 4GB of RAM/2GB free disk space. It is also vital to have a steady, reliable internet connection.

On the whole, shooting in a real environment adds an unbeatable level of authenticity to your live stream background that virtual technology can’t. It’s also a great way to upscale the professionalism of your set — a common feature of Boiler Room sets, like this one, is outdoor shoots on rooftops and terraces. If you don’t have one of these at your disposal, try it in the garden like Coco Poco does above. Not only does it make for a great contrast between natural surroundings and your tech, when you’ve artfully set up your tables, decks and other equipment, you’ll look both relatable and creative, and like a pro.

Enhancing your space: building a background

If you’re happy overall with your backdrop but feel it needs more work, there are many household items that you can use as props. Think plants, candles, or your own personal record collection. Aim to set a specific mood and ambience that matches your set —  be as creative as you’d like.

Get other overlays in the frame like accessories and fabrics, anything that can bring a bit of personality to the set. Otherwise, you could just keep it sparse and highlight yourself and your mixing deck, or through a strong colour scheme for your brand, like red and black or aqua and blues. You could even design a custom logo for your channel, and have it placed behind you.

🔆  Lighting

For your lights, invest in sound-reactive LEDs or ring lights. The former, as you might have guessed, change their brightness right in time for the beats and that epic bass drop. Ring lights can help minimise shadows and make sure the focal point of the stream is uniformly lit.

If you’re at a more advanced level and can afford professional lighting, we’d recommend products from Elgato. These are premium, mid-level products that are highly customisable, powerful and easy to use — plus, they are specifically meant for live-streamers.

This is your opportunity to play around with different styles of lighting to emphasise what is the most significant part of your stream: is it your deck, your surroundings, or you? Use some key lights to spotlight yourself as the master of ceremonies. Alternatively, you can just go minimal, similar to a more underground DJ club set — as long as the mood is consistent and reflects the ambience of the audio.

🎨  Graphic overlays

Still not happy with your physical space? Using graphic overlays in Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a good solution. Just as the name suggests, this is artwork laid on top of your backdrop to build a virtual background for live streaming.

You can insert logos, images, and even videos. If you’re familiar with design software, you can easily input your own overlays and upload them directly to OBS. When you open the programme, you’ll have the option to design your own scene and upload an image or another media file (i.e. a video) into the “source” tab. This is where your design elements go.

For instance, you may have “Starting Soon” or “Thanks for Watching” scenes made up of different “sources.” Make sure these are stacked in the order that you are layering. For example, my “Video Capture Device” source, which you can see in Mixcloud Live when you are setting up your stream, is lower than the “Spread Love DJ Booth” overlay — this is because I want it to sit behind it.

Your scenes can range from adding a few decorative GIFs to your frame, or creating a whole new world with a green screen and virtual club. If you have the creative skills to design it, anything is possible.

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👾  Widgets

With regards to widgets, it’s the same process as using graphic overlays. These are essentially animated (or still) notifications that are typically smaller and supplemental.

An example of a widget is a logo that you have at the top right of your screen or a banner that reminds your viewers to subscribe. Instead of physically placing your brand name in your live stream background, you can digitally insert one instead. If you already have a Streamlabs account, you can create widgets directly from their platform.

✳  ️Green screens
By simply setting up a green screen, you can digitally insert dazzling visuals as your virtual background for live streaming. Just be sure not to go overboard — viewers will be disoriented by busy patterns and colour clashes, as these are visually confusing and will distract them from your epic tunes.

To set up your green screen you will need OBS, along with a computer that has sufficient processing power. The key thing to ensure is that the green screen hangs smoothly behind you, and is evenly lit. Shadows prevent your image edges from being clean and solid, and any wrinkles or folds will mess with the chroma key which is essential in mapping virtual images onto the fabric. You should also avoid copyrighted images when choosing your virtual background for live streaming — some great (and free) stock image databases include Unsplash, Pexels and Visual Don.

You can also go the extra mile and make it so that the source for your live stream background changes throughout your broadcast. This is a surefire way to keep your audience’s attention, and can be achieved using OBS plugins. If you want to know how to do this, you can find out more by having a look at one of our articles on using OBS for your live stream.

How to use camera angles

Upscaling your camera input is just the beginning, and you now need to choose the right angle. For DJ streaming, the three most popular camera angles are a front-facing shot, side angle, or bird’s-eye view.

Front-facing shot

This angle can work as a close-up and at a distance.

If you choose the latter, it’s ideal for DJ sets but has been overused. You can spice it up with your background, setting, or camera lens (like the creator above using a fisheye lens). For other broadcasts, such as live podcasts, get your camera at eye-level if you’re addressing the audience directly.

Zooming onto your face creates a sense of intimacy, evoking an interactive, conversational mood. This works best for interviews and DJ tutorials, but isn’t ideal for DJ sets. With that said, zooming into your hands to showcase how you’re using the gear will captivate your audience’s attention — with all the more reason to make sure your mixing moves are pitch-perfect.

Side angle shot

The side or “Dutch” angle is very common for gamers and DJs alike. It’s palpable, easy, and gives your viewers the sense of being a fly on the wall — not a very intimate shot, but it can be less jarring than the front-facing camera. You can also do a 45° angle placement, which is in between this and the front-facing angle (pictured above).

These angles are also a great way to highlight multiple aspects of your background space. A brilliant example of this is Kaytranada’s Boiler Room set, in which viewers get a sense of the club’s atmosphere and depth of field, while showcasing his wizardry on the decks.

Bird’s-eye view

By placing your webcam above you and to an angle, you create a bigger picture and allow your viewers to “see the action,” so to speak. This angle is perfect for flexing your scratching skills or showing viewers how you use the decks. While side-angles may result in your arms or hands getting in the way of the essential action, birds-eye gives viewers clarity, and lets them imagine they are the ones performing the action.

Overhead views of the DJ setup and other kit are common in most tutorial and review videos, and have grown increasingly associated with a slick, professional production, like content from DJ TLM and Laidback Luke.

How to position lighting for impact

At the basic level, your primary source of light (whether that’s a lamp, ring or key light) should be facing you at a 45° angle from your face, not behind you — unless you’re trying to create a silhouette effect. Generally speaking, it’s more professional to have a well-lit face for video streaming as it plainly shows your audience who you are.

Now, this is where you can get creative.

If you have more than one light source you can place them strategically to create a visually interesting setup. The 3-point lighting technique is revered and often used for video streaming. For this, two lights are placed at a 45° angle from your frame, and one behind you — also at an angle.

The effect of this soft lighting is to add another dimension to the subject in the camera’s line of vision. In other words, it makes you look like a more fully-rounded human being. This creates a vibe that is light, open and upbeat — it will also enhance your visibility in the stream’s image on the list of videos from other producers and content providers available on Mixcloud.

It’s important to note that every light has its own colour or temperature, and you should factor that in to be consistent with your intended aesthetic or your brand. Warm colours like red and orange evoke an atmosphere that is passionate, lively or primal. Cooler hues of blue and green will naturally reflect a calmer or more melancholy vibe, so pick whichever is right for your set.

How to hone your presence

On-camera presence is essentially how you show up on film, regardless of the actual device you’re using. It’s the energy that you bring to your viewers, the enthusiasm you have about your set, and how good of a virtual host you are.

You can work on this in both small and large ways. Start off by looking at the camera regularly, reacting to your comments in the chatroom, or simply by dancing (definitely avoid standing still for too long). If you have a microphone you can take this a step further by playing the “hype-man” and shouting out your fans during your set. If you prefer to take things a little more low-key, you are perfectly able to stay humble — that can be a presence of its own.

Of all the tips in this tutorial, this one is the hardest to teach. There is no one way, but as DJs, we have to compensate for the fact that livestreaming isn’t as an organic, interactive environment as the club. So exploring how you can allow your personality to shine through the screen will help your fans engage with you.

Ultimately, the key is to be consistent, but also to be yourself. Audiences like authenticity and confidence: if you can connect with them in some shape or form through demonstrating your shared passion for music, you’re going in the right direction.

Everyone has to start somewhere

The important thing to remember is that there is no silver bullet for creating the best live stream background possible. In that sense, this walkthrough is very much a guideline and by no means a rule of thumb. If you’re asking yourself “how can I do this if I can’t buy all the fancy lighting and cameras?”, we’re here to say: it doesn’t matter — everyone starts somewhere. As you will have seen, most of our suggestions can be done DIY without spending any money.

It’s also not all about having flash gear — you can garner more visual interest if you’re innovative in decorating your scene. At-home DIY props can go a long way to creating a vibe for your viewers. And finally, never underestimate the power of your own on-camera presence!