It’s that time of year again; it’s getting darker earlier and the temperature is dropping. What does that mean? It’s time to start thinking about gifts! Don’t worry, I’ve got a gift guide for you and the content creator in your life. One of the great things about streaming is the low barrier to entry; people can start with a pretty low-budget setup. What makes it even better is the amount of impact that each new piece of hardware can make on the quality of the production.
One area where a creator can have a massive impact on the quality of their videos from a single purchase is microphones. Starting off with your gaming headset’s built-in mic is fine, but people will notice the extra buzz or your breathing. A creator can spend hours using third-party programs to try to smooth out the audio. Eventually, though, it is time for an upgrade. This year we’re going with three price points.
First up is the mic I use, the CAD U1. It is a very cheap upgrade option, usually going for $20 – $25. Additionally, I bought and continue to suggest this mic because it is a dynamic mic and not a condenser like most other microphones used by creators. This immediately cuts down on environmental noise and, with the $3 foam cover, cuts way down on breathing noises.
Next up is a great middle-of-the-road option and happens to be a condenser mic. Many a creator started their journey with the Blue Snowball USB microphone. It will generally run you between $50 – $60 and because it is a condenser mic you’ll have to contend with a bit more background noise but with some tweaking it makes a great choice.
If you want to really give them a treat (or treat yourself!) I highly suggest considering the Rode NT-USB. At $170, it is 6x as expensive as the CAD and is also a condenser style of microphone, but provides a lot more options. Additionally, it has a clarity and fullness of sound that other mics just cannot touch. You will need a couple of additional accessories to make full use of the NT-USB but their stream will thank you.
Another area where a huge impact on video quality can be made, especially during those full-screen face-cam moments, are webcams. While a laptop’s built-in camera or the old Logitech eyeball camera they dug out of their parent’s closet might work, it is not going to look good. Let’s get rid of that pixelated mess and help them step up their game.
The first camera is the newest version of Logitech’s legendary C920 line, the Logitech C922X. The C920 line has long been the choice for content creators. It will give you a (nearly) flawless 720p or 1080p signal. The newest one even has 60fps support (at 720p) and background replacement software built-in. The C922x costs $100 but is often on sale for much less.
Next, if you want to offer them something a bit different, is the Razer Kiyo which will run you around $100. This camera offers a built in ring light that can be activated with a twist. Great for content creators who are always on the go and don’t want to carry extra lights with them. It supports 720p at 60fps or 30fps and 1080p at 30fps.
Lastly, we have an option for a truly top tier webcam experience, the Elgato Cam Link at $129. The camlink takes any HDMI signal from a compatible camcorder or dSLR and makes it appear to Windows, Linux and MacOS as though it were a USB webcam. This is obviously a costlier solution as they’ll need a compatible camera (such as a Canon HF R800 for $200), but you could get them one of those as well.
There are many miscellaneous items that can contribute to a great setup, some super-obvious and others a bit more “out there.” Let’s look at some other items you can get the content creator on your gifting list to really make their holiday.
Lights are an important component, but one of the hardest to match to a good brand. A majority of them are of the same quality and will last them a number of years if they treat them right. The best thing is to find a decent deal on a two softbox combo. A quick search on Amazon brought up a pair that are cheaper than the recommended Cowboy Studios from Fancierstudio. Whichever you go with, good lighting is a must. Be prepared to spend around $100.
Another favorite among video content creators is, of course, a green screen. You can buy them a $30 – $50 green screen kit that will come with the fabric and rigid stand, but many don’t have room for such a setup to be permanent. An elegant solution is the Elgato Green Screen: while pricier at $150, it comes in a compact carrying case and is quick to deploy. Generally just the right size to sit behind a streamer and small enough when collapsed to put under a desk or bed.
Virtual Reality has shown it is here to stay. It used to have a rather high barrier to entry but the prices have dropped significantly. The Oculus Rift will run you about $400, and the HTC Vive runs around $600. Another option, if they already own a PS4, is the PSVR for $350. No matter which one you gift, it will add a whole new dimension to the content they produce.
Part of the complication of creating content is the management of different scenes, graphics, sounds etc that are a part of a creator’s show. This year Elgato introduced the Stream Deck, for $150, to help simplify the production of both live and pre-recorded content. It comes with 15 LCD backed keys that can be assigned to do a multitude of things using their provided software. From switching to the latest meme scene at the push of a button or quickly muting a mic to cough, the Stream Deck is sure to make life way easier.
If they’re starting to explore the idea of a two-computer setup, or want to capture console footage, you can help them by giving them a capture card. There are a lot of options out there but the most popular among streamers is the Elgato HD60s. They will have to have a fairly modern computer because this device uses USB3.0, but it will be well worth it, offering real-time 1080p 60fps recording for just $170.
Finally, if you’ve looked through this list and wondered where the reasonably priced gift idea was, giving a Steam Gift Card of any amount is a great way to support your favorite content creator. One of their largest expenses, year after year, are the games they have to purchase in order to continue to produce up-to-date content. Giving them Steam credit means they will have the funds they need the next time a game launches.
As of this year, Twitch is offering the ability to gift channel subscriptions to other viewers. If you’re savvy and involved with the creator’s community, consider gifting a few $5 subscriptions to their viewers who haven’t already subscribed. Obviously this only applies if they are a Partner or Affiliate, but doing so will potentially unlock the ability for Partners to get more emotes and hopefully prompt the user who was gifted a subscription to continue it for themselves. Not only will the creator receive their cut of the subscription money but you may help convert more viewers into hardcore fans.
These are all great options but they certainly don’t cover the full spectrum of possible gifts. Content creators are constantly upgrading, whether it is various internal computer components, trying out new web services, or even switching out their chairs in hopes that it will improve their content and allow them to keep making a great show. No matter what you get your favorite content creator (yes, even that ugly sweater), hopefully they are thankful that you thought of them this holiday season.
Disclosure: Elgato is a current client of TriplePoint