Upgrading the visual element of your live streams not only boosts engagement and visibility, but it professionalizes your stream. We work in a society that relies heavily on visual stimulation and live-streaming is no exception. Having a visually interesting stream helps you set the tone for your brand and the virtual experience you curate. But more importantly, it ensures your set stands out when listeners are scrolling through what’s live.
When it comes to leveling up your live stream’s visuals, there are four things to consider: the background, camera angles and lighting, graphic overlays, and your on-camera presence. In this article, we’ll walk you through your options and how to upgrade your stream to a professional standard.
Let’s get started:
1. The Background
Also dubbed the “backdrop” this is the space that frames you (think of decorating your background as virtual stage design, so to speak.) The first rule of thumb is to remove all distractions from your frame. Now, if you’re a bedroom DJ this means no dishes, clothes, or coats in the background (everything that’s in the frame should be there on purpose.) A plain background like a wall or bookshelf works well.
With that said, 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 that matches your set, and you can be as creative as you’d like. We’ve seen users design their background with green screens, use tapestries as the backdrop, or move entire the set to their garden.
2. Camera & Lighting
At the basic level, your primary source of light (whether that’s a lamp or a professional ring light) should be facing you or at a 45° angle from your face. So, not behind you unless you want to create a silhouette effect. But typically speaking, it’s more professional to have a well-lit face for video streaming.
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; this is where you place two cameras at a 45° angle from your frame, and one behind you (also at an angle.)
It’s important to note that every light has its own color or temperature, and you should factor that in to be consistent with your intended aesthetic or your brand. Here’s a tutorial for DIY lighting that goes into more detail, and if you’re interested in professional lighting here’s an Aputure’s guide on cinematic lighting for your streams.
Listing the best cameras for livestreaming and why is a separate article. So for now, we’re going to focus on some of the best camera angles for DJ streaming.
- 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. So you can spice it up with your background, setting, or camera lens (like the Creator above using a fisheye lens.)
If zoomed onto your face, the former creates an intimacy adding an interactive, conversational mood. This works best for interviews, DJ tutorials, but isn’t ideal for DJ sets. With that said, if you zoom into your hands to showcase how you’re using gear, it’s a very good choice.
- Side Angle
This is a very common angle 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.).
- The 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. If you want to show off your scratching skills or how you use the decks, this angle will cater to that.
3. Graphic Overlays & OBS Scenes
Just as it sounds, graphic overlays are artwork that is laid on top of your stream to create a virtual stage design, so to speak.
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. If you don't, Serato has a whole selection of Overlays (pictured above) that you can choose from. When you open OBS you’ll have the option to design your own scene and upload an image or a media file (i.e a video) into the “source” tab. This is where your design elements go.
In regards to widgets, it’s the same process. Widgets 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. If you already have a Streamlabs account, you can create widgets directly from their platform. Here’s a tutorial to walk you through it.
What are OBS Scenes?
Scenes are like digital canvases composed of one or more elements (like, graphic overlays or widgets) all of which can be resized, repositioned, and affected with filters.
When you open OBS, there’s a column on the bottom left titled “scenes” where you can save your designs. For instance, you may have “Starting Soon” or “Thanks for Watching” scenes that are made up of different “sources.” Make sure your sources are stacked in the order that you are layering. For example, my “Video Capture Device” source 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.
4. On-Camera Presence
On-camera presence is essentially how you show up on camera regardless of the camera. 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 small and big 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.
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 connect with you.
Remember, this walkthrough is very much a guideline and by no means a rule of thumb. If you’re asking yourself “how do I tackle this if I can’t afford all the fancy lighting and cameras?” Well, it doesn’t matter, everyone starts somewhere. Most of our suggestions can be done DIY without spending any money.
And you’re more likely to generate visual interest if you are innovative decorate your scene. At-home DIY props can go a long way to create a vibe for your viewers. And finally, never underestimate the power of your own on-camera energy!