5 Principles of Set Design for Streamers

How many streams have you watched where the streamer simply sat in a gaming chair in front of a white wall? The answer is probably “too many.” The vast majority of streamers – even many popular ones – neglect proper set design.

That’s actually great news… for you. If you take the time to develop an interesting set for your stream, you’ll immediately stand out from the crowd in a positive way. Let’s take an in-depth look at what set design is and how it can help your stream attract a larger audience.

What is Set Design?

Set design is a combination of interior design and video production. You’ll use props, lighting and other design elements to decorate the room you stream from.

Here’s the most important part: The main goal of set design is to create a look which looks great on camera. Too many streamers create a room which might appear well-decorated in real life but is busy, chaotic or downright ugly when broadcast.

Set Design Reflects Your Personal Style

Set design for streaming certainly has no shortage of challenges.

Space is a huge limitation. The on-screen streamer window is extremely small compared to the size of the game screen. The window will only be able to display yourself, a chair and maybe a wall or two.

But you don’t want to skip on set design! Too many streamers film their streams against a backdrop of a plain wall. And that’s just plain boring.

With great set design, you can instantly convey a sense of your personality. New viewers will be able to immediately grasp what your stream is all about.

1. Lighting

streamer with poor set lightingImproper lighting is probably the number one cause of bad set design for streams.

Lighting for a room in real life is different than lighting a room for video.

The good news is shooting a relatively static image is easy.

If you’re shooting yourself sitting in front of your computer, you should use Three Point Lighting. This is how people are lit when filmed for an interview. Three Point Lighting illuminates clearly without casting strange shadows across your face.

Avoid bare bulbs on camera, including Christmas lights. Generally, bare bulbs create a harsh, blown-out look on video.

If your light source does appear on camera, use a lamp with a shade. Ideally, your light sources will be located off-camera.

Three Point Lighting involves:

  • Key Light – This main light source shines on you from the front right or left
  • Fill Light – This secondary, smaller light shines from the opposite side of the key light
  • Back Light – Also called rim light, this shines behind you

 

2. Choose the Best Camera Angle

Streamers usually choose one of two camera angles: a straight shot or a three-quarter view.

A straight shot simply presents a full view of the streamer’s face. Note that usually the streamer isn’t looking directly at the camera. Instead, they’re looking at their monitor, which is either under or above the camera. When they want to talk to the audience, they can tilt their eyes or head slightly. This view allows the audience to see the streamer without feeling like they’re being stared at.

A three-quarter view presents the side of the streamer. The shot will also typically include two walls of the room. While the view of the streamer isn’t as clear as a straight shot, there is more opportunity for general set decoration. Tim the Tat Man is an example of a streamer who uses a three-quarter view shot.

More Than One Camera?

Some streamers use a second or even a third camera. These cameras will show the player’s hands on the mouse and keyboard. While this isn’t necessary for streamers with average skill levels, these “keyboard cams” and “mouse cams” can be very interesting to watch if the streamer is a high-level player.

3. Consider a Green Screen

Used in everything from big-budget movies to your local TV weather station, a green screen allows you to create any type of background you want. You can place a green screen behind yourself to cover up the walls and room.

There are two ways to use a green screen. First, you can create a false background. Using your computer, you can turn the green screen into a landscape on Mars, a rainforest or whatever else you can imagine.

You can also use a green screen to remove your background entirely. This results in your image appearing like a cut-out on top of the video game screen.

Many streamers prefer a green screen for two reasons:

  • You don’t have to do any set decoration at all aside from lighting
  • You can devote more screen real estate to the game you’re playing

4. Create Layers of Depth

However, other streamers prefer the three-quarter view precisely because it allows for the most set design possible.

Set depth is the key to decorating a room shot from a three-quarter view.

The reason sets in movies and TV shows can look cheap is because they lack proper depth. A layered space uses different textures to attract the eye.

Mix woods, metals, glass and other design elements. The eye will naturally move around the room from object to object. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, but remember your size limitations. The stream window is small, so the room can look cluttered on video even if it’s spacious in real life.

5. Pay Attention to Scale

Don’t forget about perspective. A three-quarter view can really change the size of how objects are perceived. Generally, keep larger objects near the back of the room and smaller objects up front.

Be aware of any objects close to the camera. Don’t accidentally block your shot with a water bottle or other small item.

Final Thoughts

Think of your stream as a production similar to both a play and a TV show. The set plays a vital role in drawing the viewer into the world you’ve created. Even though the streamer window is relatively small, all of the information contained within it needs to be carefully considered.

The most important rule of set design for streamers is this: Always judge the results based on how they look when broadcast. Your room might look perfectly fine in real life but can appear busy and poorly lit on stream. View your stream and make adjustments based on what the viewer sees.

Set design is often overlooked by many streamers. But the techniques above are not only simple to implement, but they can also result in a great looking stream which is immediately welcoming to new viewers.