Tis the season for gift guides. You can’t click a link in a google search without tripping over a “10 best tech gifts” story. One category of guide is always missing though: what to get for content creators.
More accurately, this guide is for the friend/parent/significant other of a content creator. 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 each new piece of hardware can make on your content.
Let’s start off with an area in which a creator can easily improve: audio. Microphones, to be exact. Starting off with your gaming headset’s built-in mic is fine, but people will notice the extra buzz or your breathing. A streamer can spend hours on third-party programs to try to smooth out the audio. Eventually, though, it is time for an upgrade.
My first suggestion is a personal one, as it is the mic I use, the CAD U1. It is a very cheap upgrade option, usually going for $20 – $25. Additionally, I bought and suggest this mic because unlike most microphone suggestions, it is not a condensor mic but is a dynamic mic. This immediately cuts down on environmental noise and, with the $3 foam cover, cuts way down on breathing noises.
If you want to really give them a treat (or treat yourself!) I highly suggest considering the Rode NT-USB. It is 6x as expensive as the CAD and returns to the 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 your stream will thank you.
Next up are webcams. You may be using your laptop’s built-in camera or something you dug out of a drawer from the good old days from before the dot-com bust! This is fine to get started, but now it’s time to get rid of that pixelated mess and step up your game.
Next is if you are really ready to step up your game: the Razer Stargazer which will run you around $150. The first camera to offer Intel Realsense, which uses multiple cameras to perform depth sensing and remove the background of the video even without a greenscreen! On top of that, it does 60fps at 720p. If you don’t have use for either of those features the last camera will cover your needs, but if you stream in a cramped space or do some crazy movements on Twitch’s new IRL category, this is the camera for you.
Lights are an important component, but one of the hardest to find a good brand. A majority of them are of the same quality and will last you a number of years if you 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.
Lastly, we’re going to get into a couple of miscellaneous and premium add-on items once you have everything else decently setup.
Virtual Reality is starting to really take off but has a rather high barrier to entry. There are options from Oculus and HTC/Valve but both will run you around $800. A slightly cheaper option if you already own a Playstation 4 is the PSVR. No matter which one you gift (or buy for yourself), it will add a whole new dimension to the content produced.
If the content creator is starting to explore the idea of a two-computer setup, 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 card uses USB-C, but it will be well worth it. Real time 1080p 60fps recording with no impact on the gaming PC — truly the next level of 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.
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.