ExitWestSF: Our DJ streaming odyssey from Zero to Hero......
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
In the time before the Covid 19 pandemic we had dabbled in streaming DJ set's with our iPhone's on Instagram and Facebook. This was before the current ban by both companies on streaming music as content. On October 2020 Facebook finally stopped allowing DJ's to broadcast DJ sets permanently ( we still see people using FB to air DJ sets as of writing this article, however we do not want to be banned from the site as we do most of our promoting there ) .We wanted to share our journey with You, maybe it will help you in your decisions moving forward. We made many mistakes along the way but eventually found a good balance for our live streams.
Our first live stream with a computer happened using a 2015 MacBook Pro Retina 15. Our model was the maxed out version with the top of the line CPU and 16 gigabytes of ram. We used the built in FaceTime camera with OBS Studio as our streaming software and ReStream so we could broadcast to Mixcloud and Twitch simultaneously . Our DJ mixer, a DJM 900 Nexus 2 has two built in sound cards which allowed us to seamlessly broadcast with the Pioneer setting utility. We have also used a Focusrite Scarlett 212 3rd generation sound card when a performing DJ needs to use their own Controller with no issues. Everything worked but our internet connection was a drag. We encountered stuttering and lag several times during the first shows.
We upgraded our internet connection to gigabyte ethernet pretty soon. Comcast Xfinity was the only show in town for our old 1912 era SF building. It was a night and day difference, no more lag and we now could turn up our settings on OBS to near whatever we decided ( outside 60 frames a second ). We found 30 frames a second at 3000 bitrate was nominal for Mixcloud. Any higher bitrate and it created issues on their end with choppiness and the viewer feedback was not good. Twitch allowed 60 frames a second with 6500 bitrate, video games need this apparently. Mixcloud set the limit so we compromised to the lowest common denominator.
Next we wanted to upgrade our visuals so everything looked better. After much research we purchased two Logitech c920 webcam's ( We now recommend the upgraded Logitech e930 webcam ). One for a side view of the performer and the other facing down on the mixer and deck's showing the DJ mixing from one track to the next. The issue with DJ sets is that they can look static if the person playing is low key in their movements. Having another camera creates dimension during a live set . This created a new problem, our laptop was struggling with the extra camera. OBS studio was showing our CPU at 85% workload. Everything was getting hot and we were again seeing video stutter in our feeds.
The next part of our journey became the most frustrating segment. After much research we decided to partition our hard drive on the MacBook as it was recommended in multiple online forums that OBS worked far better in a Windows environment. Not only would it run faster, we could also use all the OBS plugin's instead of the few that were available in Mac OS. Day's later Windows 10 was running on Bootcamp on our MacBook. We set up OBS and plugged in the DJM 900 Nexus 2 mixer, the Pioneer software was seeing the mixer but Windows OBS would not connect or recognize it.
More research uncovered that the Pioneer mixer needed an ASIO environment to function with OBS. Pioneer recommended a work around involving 2 extra pieces of software. Jerry rigged was an understatement!! While we got it to work, it was not trustworthy and crashed multiple times. We finally realized Windows and DJ equipment were not built to work together natively, hence why DJ's use Apple Mac's. Bummed we shut the project down and returned to our Mac and struggled on.
The next big idea was to build a Hackintosh ( Mac OS software running on a PC )!! We looked around for a more powerful Mac but they were way too expensive. Also a Hackintosh would end up being much more powerful than most everything Apple had to offer. Fast forward a month later and lot's of ffing and blinding, we had a running Hackintosh. This process was not for the faint of heart and we would only say that the hardcore and never give up crowd to try this!!
So we have a PC running Mac OS which is more powerful than the fastest Apple iMac available. Everything functions as it should. There is only one problem, the fastest graphics card the Hackintosh will run natively in OS Catilina is the MSI Redeon 580 8gb card. While this is no slouch, it's light years behind the newer faster Nvidia RTX 2080 cards. Not to be limited by this we raced ahead.
Now the Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus 2 was back in business seamlessly connecting with OBS. Everything worked as it should but we could only dial up the settings so high and again our newer much faster " Hackintosh " CPU was again showing strain in OBS but with no issues. We were hoping the upgrade would have allowed us to stream at 60 frames a second but that was not the case. We were more than disappointed. We went back down the online forum rabbit hole searching for answers!!
It turns out that any streamer worth their salt does not use an Apple Mac computer or more importantly an OS environment to stream. Mac's can only encode video through software which means they put all the load on the CPU which in turn also needs to run your cameras and OBS. PC's on the other hand can encode through an installed graphics card with the NVENC hardware encoder. This it turns out is a game changer. While the graphics card we installed for the Hackintosh worked, we could'nt use the NVENC protocol with it. Apparently Nvidia cards were the best if you wanted to use NVENC. That week we purchased a Nvidia RTX 2080 Founders edition, at the time it was the second fastest card on the planet. It was pretty much the size of a brick and weighed several pounds. Thankfully it fit in our PC, we got the Windows 10 software environment set up on another hardrive and hey presto everything worked. We opened OBS on our PC and it said there was only 10% load on the CPU!! It was the biggest difference we had seen since starting this project.
Now onto the old problem with the Pioneer mixer and the PC not integrating. We tried to get it to work again with what Pioneer suggested, but it was too fragile a setup for a stream. Nothing can go wrong streaming and the amount of things that have to go right for a perfect stream are astonishing. Back to the drawing board to find a solution for that old ASIO problem. Thankfully it turned out that some wonderful person on the world wide web had made an ASIO OBS plugin for this very issue!! The fog was clearing, we downloaded and installed it. After fumbling around for a day or two we got it working seamlessly. You can't imagine how incredibly happy we were. We now run 3 cameras, as much media, text, special effects as we need at 60 frames a second, 3500 -6500 bitrate etc.
The lesson is, Mac's are not the best computers to stream video content. They are way over priced and built for other applications. Buy yourself a PC for less money, upgrade to an Nvidia graphics card, the best you can afford and run your OBS from there for the best result. Feel free to reach out with questions or comments,
ExitWestSF DJ Collective