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It can be hard to catch up with a technology once it’s picked up steam. It seems like everyone knows every little detail about it and, if you can’t find a welcoming community, learning the ropes can be almost impossible.

For some folks, that’s what happened with virtual reality. A technology that went from silly retro tech to developer kit to full-blown cultural phenomenon overnight.

If you missed the first four years of VR’s rise to prominence, don’t worry. The technology is less complicated than you think and is super easy to understand. There’s affordable ways to try it before you buy it, and plenty of ways to find new content if you’ve already bought a headset.

Not sure where to start in this wondrous world on the edge of the digital and physical spaces? Let us be your virtual tour guides as we take you step-by-step through the technology.

What is virtual reality? How is it different from a computer or a TV?

When we talk about virtual reality, we’re talking about images, videos, games or software that offers a 180-degree or 360-degree field of view. It’s content that you can explore or experience first-hand, getting closer than ever before.

When most folks think about VR, their first thoughts are of 3D – the display technology that used stereoscopy to give the illusion that images were popping out of the screen. VR is similar in that it sometimes uses tricks to add realism to content, but it doesn’t stop where the screen stops – it fills your entire field of view with an image or environment.

Why people like it so much is because the content feels more immersive. Instead of looking at a shark on Discovery Channel, there are apps that put you in a shark cage and allow you to experience what it’d be like to see the animals swimming around you. It’s the first step towards the holodeck that you saw on Star Trek 40 years ago.

Now, obviously, not every video or videogame ever made is available in VR – at least not natively. VR works best when the content is produced for virtual reality and is viewed on a virtual reality headset… even a cheap one like the Google Cardboard.

The quality of this content varies wildly – just like every YouTube video isn’t an Oscar-award winning production – but the central idea behind it all is that it’s more immersive than 2D.

Is VR healthy? Can you get hurt while using it?

The general consensus is that yes, it’s totally safe to use, especially for adults whose eyes have already stopped developing and who don't really get motion sick. Whether it’s safe for kids ages 13 and under remains a subject of debate, but most companies recommend limited use for the age group with plenty of breaks.

In fact, even for adults just getting into the medium, we recommend slowly getting acclimated. Putting the headset on for a few minutes at a time then taking it off, just to get your eyes used to having a screen that close.

That said, eye fatigue is probably the most ‘dangerous’ part of VR. Wearing a headset for an hour or more does put some strain on your eyes and it can cause headaches if you’re not properly hydrated or motion sickness if the content you’re watching moves in a way that feels unnatural to your body. Neither is permanent, though, and both should subside fairly quickly once you take the headset off.

Just as important as taking breaks is clearing the space around you while using a VR headset – unless you’re using the passthrough cameras on the headset, there’s no way to see what’s going on around you so it’s incredibly easy to trip and fall if you’re playing in a furnished room. Most PC headsets will ask you to setup boundaries before you start playing that will prevent you from walking into anything but usually the more empty the playspace is, the safer it’s going to be for you.

What’s the difference between the headsets? Do you need one?

When we talk about headsets, they usually fall into three categories: PC-tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift and Valve Index, mobile-powered headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and standalone headsets like the Oculus Quest. There's also one console-based VR headset called PlayStation VR that plugs right into your PS4.

PC-tethered headsets usually look the best, feel the most immersive and offer the greatest range of experiences. They’re also typically the most expensive, too. They work by plugging the headset into the USB and DisplayPort/HDMI ports on your computer and installing specific software like SteamVR or the Oculus app. Most often they come with specific controllers and tracking stations, but that’s not always the case and each headset is different.

Mobile-powered headsets were the first to market and gained popularity when Samsung gave them away with the purchase of a new phone back in 2017. They work, as you’d expect, by slotting your phone into the headset and strapping it to your face. The experiences on this platform aren’t as immersive or as good-looking as the ones you’d find on PC-tethered headsets, but they’re a good starting point if you’re not sure about VR.

Last but not least, there’s standalone headsets that build everything you need into the headset itself so you can basically unbox it and be ready to play in minutes. We like these because they offer a happy medium between price and performance, and offer almost all of the same experiences you’d find on PC-tethered headsets. Heck, Oculus even gives you the option of plugging the Quest into your PC via the Oculus Connect Cable – so it’s the most flexible option as well.

Once you’ve decided on what type of headset you want, it’s worth looking at the specific specs each headset offers. You should compare resolutions (how many pixels are on the screen), field of views (how much you can see at once), frame rates (how smooth content is) and how the headset is tracked, either with discrete base stations or via built-in cameras.

So do you need a headset at all? Well, if you want the full experience, yes. But if you just want to watch VR videos to see what you’re missing, YouTube, Facebook and many other sites have the option to view 360-degree videos on your mobile phone and PC. This can be a good first step into the world of VR without plunking any money down.

What type of content is out there?

Not sure where to start? Check out our lists of the best VR games, best PSVR games and best VR headsets.

This question is sort of like asking “what type of content is out there on the internet?” The answer is, well, lots of things! The vast majority of the time, though, you’ll use a VR headset to watch VR videos like 360-degree concerts or art installations or roller coaster rides as well as play VR games from Oculus and Steam.

If you’re an enterprise user or you need a VR headset for work, you might use it to hold virtual meetings where you bring in 3D assets for everyone to look at or use the headset for specific training simulations. Educators might use it to bring their lessons to life for their students via interactive experiences, and you might even try a headset on inside amusement parks as more begin to adopt VR as a new form of entertainment.

The pool of content is as wide and deep as you’d expect it to be. There’s a lot out there, and there’s no way to see everything in one day.

So how much does this content cost? Well, it varies. Lots of these YouTube and Facebook videos are free, as are the apps like Gizmo and Oculus Video that you use to view them. There are also a number of free demos of VR games that are available to try, and a number of free VR educational apps. You can get reasonably far without every spending a dime.

That said, premium content like AAA games or longer VR experiences do cost money, from $10/£10 all the way up to $60/£60.

The good news is that there are a number of subscription services out there like Viveport Infinity that allow you to download a number of these games for one monthly fee and many of the online stores where you buy games and experiences often hold sales with massive discounts on the most popular content.

Should you buy a VR headset?

Hopefully by now you can answer this one yourself. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be on the cutting edge of technology and who has the time to dabble in new experiences, then yeah, it’s totally worth diving into VR. But if you’re strapped on time and money, and you’re not sure VR is right for you, watch a few VR videos on your phone to get a preview of the experience or buy a cheap VR headset that you won’t feel bad if it sits on the shelf.

Personally, we use our VR headsets once a week – typically to try the latest marquee game that’s available in VR or catch up on cool new videos. Some people use it everyday as their primary way to play games, while some might use it a lot less. It all depends on you, your schedule and your interest in the platform.

But hopefully now you have a better idea of what to expect from VR and how it’s different.

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Livestreaming is a big part of the gaming community these days. Millions of people watch gamers from around the world play games on Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, Mixer, and more every single day. While the most popular games are non-VR shooters and MOBAs, there is a growing focus on VR gaming on these platforms as well. Here at UploadVR we stream our VR games on Twitch (in the past we did YouTube and Facebook as well) and try to show off all of the latest and best games — as well as have some fun with viewer recommendations.

What I realized is that we get asked a lot about what we use to stream, how we do it, and what you need to get started. That’s where this guide comes in. I won’t pretend that I can give good advice on best practices and how to build a stream community (I can’t) but I can tell you the technical side of how we do what we do and what works.

Continue reading for our guide on how to stream VR games from Rift, Vive, PSVR or any other VR headset to services like Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, Mixer, and more.

What You NEED To Download and Buy

The most important part of getting ready to stream VR games is that you download the proper software. If you’re playing PC VR games with a Rift, Vive, Windows VR headset, something else, or even if you’re on PSVR, Oculus Go, or any other non-PC headset, you absolutely need Streamlabs OBS. No questions about it. Streamlabs OBS is a streamer-specific version of Open Broadcast Software (OBS) with tons of added functionality that makes streaming super easy and painless.

If you’re streaming on an Oculus Rift specifically then that means you have the Oculus Dash feature that allows you to quickly and easily access your desktop. You can do this to check chat quite seamlessly. But if you’re on an HTC Vive, Windows VR, other non-Rift headset, or don’t like using Dash, then you should use OVRDrop. This lets you pin a window anywhere in 3D space around you or attach it to one of your VR controllers. When I use it I have it setup so that it’s invisible unless I flip my left controller upside down and specifically look right at it as shown in this video.

You also need to buy a webcam. If you’re shy about being on camera, get over it. Being in VR helps a bit with that aspect because you feel hidden inside the headset. But if you’re streaming games, especially VR games, people want to see you and what you’re doing in real life to create the things inside the game. It’s essential. This is a good, affordable option. For more on using a green screen (not mandatory but encouraged) check out the bottom of this guide.

Finally, you should download and install LIV for mixed reality if that’s what you’re interested in doing. You can get it here. Read more about mixed reality at the bottom of this guide.

Streaming High-Quality PSVR Without Rounded Edges

The PS4 has built-in streaming capabilities that work pretty well. You can go live to Twitch or YouTube directly from your console without needing any other equipment at all — it even works for VR games. The great thing about this is that it displays chat messages right there in your field of view inside the headset. But the end result isn’t very high resolution and it has awkward rounded edges at the far ends of the video feed so it doesn’t look great.

Here’s what the native PS4 streaming looks like for VR games:

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If you want something that looks much better with a crisp output, higher resolution, and the ability to place overlay images, use Streamlabs OBS, and more — then you need to get an external capture card.

Here’s what a PSVR stream looks like with a capture card and full setup:

The capture card that I recommend and that I use for not only PSVR but also my Xbox One and Nintendo Switch is the Elgato HD60 S. It’s excellent. When you use it you’ll install the Game Capture HD software, which allows for streaming and capturing, but I prefer to just source that window into Streamlabs OBS so I can manage everything from there instead.

And because of the way that my office is arranged I don’t have room right in front of my TV to do streaming with PSVR so I actually have my PS Camera on top of my monitor, right next to my webcam, and I used this proprietary extension cord to make that happen.

Finally, since you’re pumping all of this stuff into your PC through Streamlabs OBS, if you want to have friends to talk to on Discord while you’re streaming or if you want to hear the notifications as they happen, then you should get a good pair of wireless PC headphones instead of plugging into your PSVR headset. If you only listen to your PS4 audio you’ll miss anything that’s also playing on your PC. I’m a big fan of LucidSound devices, personally.

Picking A Streaming Platform

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There are more ways than ever now to stream your games online and we’ve used a lot of them. We decided to focus on Twitch for our gaming content because that’s what everyone on that platform wants to see anyway, it’s the market leader, and we found good traction there with becoming affiliated very quickly. However, YouTube, Mixer, and Facebook are good options as well.

Basically it comes down to two core questions: 1) Which platform do you have the biggest audience already, and 2) Are you intending to monetize and stream seriously? If you already have a lot of YouTube subscribers it make more sense to stream there and focus on that audience. Or if you want to start fresh on a young platform without as much competition, Mixer could be good. Facebook is great as well and they’re pushing content creators more these days, so if you have a big audience with your brand page or video creator page, then go for it.

Ultimately it’s just up to you. I’d highly recommend looking up to the revenue options with all of the platforms to see what seems to be the best or most fair and what you think you can attain in a reasonable amount of time.

Multistreaming With Restream

If you are just getting started — as in you have no audience at all really and want to do this for fun and see how it goes — then I’d recommend using Restream. That’s what we did for a while too. Restream is a great service that allows you to stream to tons of places all at once. We used to stream our content to Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, Mixer, and Twitter/Periscope simultaneously. We can’t do that now that we’re affiliated on Twitch though.

But this is a great way to dip your toes in the water and see what sticks. Plus, Restream has a handy chat app that displays all of the chat messages in one box so you can monitor everything very easily. If you’re streaming with an HTC Vive or Windows VR headset, OVR Drop makes it super simple to check chat using the Restream chat client. Here’s a video showing what that looks like.

Setting Up Steamlabs OBS

The setup process is pretty simple. You create an account, pick your streaming platform, and then you’re basically good to go. They also have a ton of great documentation on the website. From the Editor view you can see in the bottom left corner a box for “Scenes” — this is where you setup the different views that your streamers will have. To the right of that are the Sources that you use to setup your scenes.

For example, you could have a “Stream Starting Soon” scene that shows a static image, or video, and has a spot for chat to appear, and maybe your webcam too so that everyone can see what you’re doing while you get ready. Then you should have your main game view scene with the game window, any overlays you want to use, a spot for your webcam, chatbox, alertbox, etc. I also have a “Be Right Back” scene in case I need to step away for a moment during the stream. The best tip I can give for this portion is to honestly just tinker around with it. There are tons of options and possibilities you can uncover with a little experimentation.

Then once you have Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS) downloaded and ready to go, I recommend using these widgets:

  • Alertbox: This lets you setup the GIF and sound effect that plays when people follow you, subscribe, donate, or do anything else that deserves a mid-stream alert.
  • Chatbox: With this you can have chat messages display on-screen wherever you want and in whatever size you want. This is great because not everyone likes to watch with the chat box open natively, so being able to still see comments is great. Plus, if you export your stream or upload it as an archive this ensures all of the chat messages are still there.
  • Goal widgets: If you get serious about streaming and want to work toward Follower goals, Subscriber goals, Donation goals, or anything else, then those are good widgets to use too.

Best Settings For Streaming With Streamlabs OBS

Now we need to cover the actual settings you use in Streamlabs OBS itself. You can see what I use in these two screenshots. Click on them to enlarge and get a better look at the settings:

For streaming these are your two most important tabs, after the Stream tab of course (which is where you pick your service like Twitch, Facebook, Restream, etc). On the Output tab you want to make sure the encoder is set to NVENC with rescaled output to 1280×720 — if you have great internet and a really good PC, you might be able to handle going 1080p but it’s usually not worth the performance hit. Set Rate Control to CBR and I use a 2500 Bitrate.

On the Video tab your Base (Canvas) Resolution should match whichever monitor the game window is displayed on. In my case it’s a 1440p monitor. Set the scaled resolution to whatever your rescaled output is, so 720p in my case. I’ve got Downscale Filter set to Lanczos (Sharpened scaling, 32 samples) and the Common FPS Value at 30.

For more detailed advice on what these settings mean there are tons of guides online that cover the under-the-hood implications in more detail. I just wanted to quickly go over everything.

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Using a Green Screen

Even if you don’t stream in mixed reality (that’s covered below) you should still be using a green screen during your livestreams, there isn’t really an excuse not to. If you want a compact setup just to cover your standing space, which is good enough for most VR games, I can’t recommend this one from Elgato enough. You can get fancier if you have the space though.

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Once you have a green screen it’s really as simple as just going into Streamlabs OBS, right clicking your webcam window, selecting “Filters”, adding a Filter, and picking the “Color Key” option. You’ll need to make sure your lighting is good and that the green screen has a consistent, flat color all the way across.

In my experience the LIV app (explained more below) is also great at keying out your green screen if the Streamlabs OBS option is too finicky for you.

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Streaming in Mixed Reality

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Mixed reality streaming is what allows it to look like you’re inside the VR game while you’re playing it, which can be an incredibly cool and immersive way of watching for your viewers. That’s what I’m doing up in the featured image at the top and you can see a streamer doing it in the image right above this paragraph too. Here’s the latest list of newly added LIV-supported games that will let you stream in that way.

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I am not going to try and explain all the steps to get LIV setup with mixed reality streaming because that’s already been done much better elsewhere. You can see the detailed instructions (plus tons of more info) over on the official LIV Wiki site.

The most important thing is that you have patience. It takes a lot of tweaking to get it working right. That and finding the right angle — having a larger green screen area is super important to get the best shot of the action. If you have any questions then you should stop by the LIV Discord channel to ask for help — everyone there is incredibly nice and helpful.

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There you go, this should be everything you need to get started! Let me know down in the comments if you have any questions.