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Streaming For a Niche on Twitch

Twitch.tv; the name evokes the image of men and women sitting in front of their screen playing video games for their audience. Yet since last year, when people decided they would spend a night watching a man compose and play melodies on his piano, or even a weekend reliving the magic that was Bob Ross, the “Creative” tag for streams has been growing in popularity.

Yet while you can set which games you’re playing, you can’t specify how you’re being “Creative,” making each art for or hobby a small niche in the giant overall group of “Creative” people. Make no mistake, there are dozens and hundreds of creative streamers but even the greatest among them count as just another “Creative” content producer, their individual niche all but unrecognised by the system.

Streaming in a particular niche, especially in the creative section is often a very different beast to what traditional games broadcasting. For one, there isn’t a shiny game with action, adventure, music and random funny moments to distract the audience, but meticulous and slow crafting sessions. Speaking from personal experience as a Gunpla (Gundam Plastic Model) streamer, my broadcast nights are often four to six hours of just me cutting out pieces, sanding them and then snap-fitting the models together.

It’s not what I’d consider spectator sport but you’d be surprised how often my audiences for those streams surpass those from gaming. Niche broadcasts might be on the minority on gaming-centric platforms but they do draw a crowd, one passionate enough to sit and watch you build a plastic model of a giant robot for hours on end, perhaps following up with painting or even leaving that for another session.

For “regular” streamers, there are two important things to consider and which often determine if people stick around to watch you long enough to follow or subscribe to your channel, or, more important and rare, interact with you on your chat instead of lurking around in the background—you’d be surprised how many people watch broadcasts as lurkers, without ever interacting and even leaving when the broadcasters speak to the audience. Those things are:

  • Good Audio
  • Good Video Bitrate

Good audio, both from the game, the music you’re playing in the background and most importantly from your microphone—if you have one—are of paramount importance, as Twitch audiences don’t forgive echo or audio glitches.

Nor do they forgive stuttering videos, which often isn’t so much a problem on your end but on Twitch’s side, with their technology so heavy and bloated that you must constantly adjust your graphical and broadcasting settings to make sure things stay on the crisp and smooth side.

Charisma as a broadcaster is important of course, but not for everyone. For those who prefer to lurk, they don’t care if you’re a charisma vacuum, and in fact, I think we all know at least a few streamers who fall into that category and who still have large viewership.

No, charisma will be important with those people who dare to interact with you, to break the silence and attempt to connect to the human being on camera. And that’s the best advice I can give, be a human being!

As a streamer in a creative niche, I need to take other things into consideration, things that the bulk of gaming broadcasters never need to pay attention to, such as camera angles, the way I hold things, camera focus and even zooms.

I build Gunpla on stream—and would also paint if my airbrush hadn’t decided to fail a couple of weeks ago—and when I’m taking pieces off sprues, I tend to bring them closer to me, so I can see the excess plastic I must remove with sand-paper or my hobby knife. But while that makes things easier for me, depending on my camera angle, it can mean I leave the audience without something to watch. So, I must always be mindful or where my hands are, and the motions I make so I can work but also never obscure my viewers’, well, view.

But let’s say I’m handling the inner frame of my latest Gundam model kit, where the pieces are often so small even I have trouble seeing them. Well, in those case I need to add a lens right below my camera, a simple hobby magnifying glass with light to so that the camera can pick up the blown-up image, otherwise there’s nothing of interest for the viewer.

These things get even more complicated when you’re applying paints with airbrush, hand brushes or even spray cans, as you need to make sure that the viewer can see how and what you’re doing.

It takes practice, and you’re bound to make mistakes but as I said, there is an audience for these niche broadcasts, and if there’s one thing that can be said about them is that unlike gaming broadcasts where the viewers often expect flawless gameplay or they lose interest, the viewers of the creative streams have no issues with your varying level of skill and in fact many of them enjoy watching you grow in skill. After all, if you can show how you improve on camera, it means they can do the same.

Another great thing about these broadcasts is how amazing the community around them is. Though Gunpla streams are indubitably a small little corner in the gigantic spectrum of Creative streams on Twitch, there are broadcasters making a living out of it and they’re very open to helping newcomers with their projects, giving you advice on crafting, techniques and even purchases.

On my very first broadcast, where I built the Freedom Gundam Master Grade model kit, I had the good fortune of having a group of viewers belonging to the Gunpla Builders Association, which counts several of these “high-profile” Gunpla builders—some of them having taken part in several Gunpla tournaments and even won—and a slew of others and they’re all amazing people. It’s incredible to join them in discussing this hobby which we’re all passionate about and share the misadventures of crafting our dream giant robots.

Back on the broadcasting side, one thing I have learned is to have good music in the background and perhaps even open that to be interactive with the audience, give them something to do while you build, perhaps even subject you to some questionable music tastes—and I’m looking at you Timlah. After all, if you’re building a plastic model on stream, or painting, or doing anything that doesn’t involve music, it’s going to be a very quiet broadcast, the silence perhaps only interrupted by the sound of sandpaper or the sprue cutter.

Lastly, something I like to do and which has had fantastic results for me is to take my crafting broadcasts and turn them into time-lapse videos of the build, cutting the six-hour endeavour into a short 15-25-minute video with some nice music in the background, showing the intricate process at very high speeds. It’s great for audiences who didn’t get a chance to watch you build it live and it’s easier to consume in this format, opposed to the hours of lengthy crafting.

Okay, so you might be wondering on equipment for these broadcasts, what’s different when compared to gaming streams. In terms of the hobby crafting, I covered the details in the Gunpla Primer article I wrote months ago for these lovely people here at GeekOut South-West.

For the broadcasting side, the only thing I recommend having is a second camera, perhaps invest in a little tripod for it so you can set it up as you need. It’s always good for your audience to see your face, that way they can put a face to the voice, or at least I believe so. The second camera is for your work area, your hands, the crafting itself. If you’re painting and have a section of your workspace dedicated to it, then set your camera up near there.

It’s going to be a lot of trial and error, but that’s part of the fun. Record yourself a couple of times with the different camera angles and if you can, then practice handling the kits under the camera to make sure you’re never moving away from it.

If you’d like to see one of my lapse videos, you can always head to The Mental Attic’s YouTube channel, or you can come watch me on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek. I try to have Gunpla broadcasts every Friday—though I haven’t done anything in the past couple of weeks because I’m waiting to get a new airbrush kit, since I need to paint and finish models before I move on to new ones.

And if there’s a niche on Twitch, either on the creative tag or a different one, that you think you can cover, that you think you can get some good viewers on, then do it. Just do it. I can promise you someone will be watching, and you might be one of the lucky few to be the firsts to do it and reap all the benefits.

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