This $80 Gadget Is A Must-Have For Content Creators

This $80 Gadget Is A Must-Have For Content Creators

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CNN —  

I’ve been broadcasting on Twitch for about two years now using all kinds of different gear, and no single gadget has elevated my streaming game quite like the $80 Elgato Stream Deck Mini. This keypad features six LCD buttons that can be customized to do just about anything on your PC. As a result, I can produce an entire live show with a few easy taps, making streaming that much easier — and a lot more fun.

If you’re thinking about getting into Twitch, YouTube, podcasting or really any type of content creation, the Stream Deck (which comes in several variations) is a must-have. And even if you’re not, this accessory can be programmed to perform all kinds of tasks that can make it easier to get work done or control your favorite Spotify playlists.

Here’s why the Stream Deck Mini has become the centerpiece of my Twitch setup, and why it deserves a place on just about any creator’s desk.

Mike Andronico/CNN

Essentially a small black box with six LED buttons on it (larger variations have more keys), the Stream Deck Mini is pretty unassuming at first glance. But once you get the hang of it, this tiny gadget unlocks some serious superpowers for managing your Twitch or YouTube streams — or just controlling your computer.

The Stream Deck can be customized via the free Stream Deck app for Windows and Mac, which syncs up to popular streaming apps like Open Broadcasting Software (OBS) and XSplit to let you easily run a broadcast without even touching your mouse or keyboard. For example, I currently have dedicated buttons for going live, activating different gameplay and camera scenes and turning on my “be right back” screen once it’s time to take a break. This lets me create smooth transitions between, say, talking to my viewers in a close-up camera shot and showing off some Halo action in a gameplay scene, all without making my viewers watch me visibly and awkwardly click around my streaming software to make the switch.

That’s how I normally use Stream Deck, but it only scratches the surface of what this thing can do. You can program Stream Deck buttons to send out a tweet, which is perfect for promoting your stream at the touch of a button. You can also set keys to open any app or website on command — something I’ve utilized often to open up OBS with a quick tap and get to streaming faster.

The Stream Deck gets even more powerful once you install one of the many free plug-ins that are available for it, including tools that let you control Spotify or even navigate Windows right from the keypad. The Spotify plug-in turned my Stream Deck into a musical control center, allowing me to play, pause, skip and like tracks (this is handy for folks without media controls on their computer). Meanwhile, the Windows Tools plug-in lets me lock my PC with a single button, or see how long my computer has been on for right on the LED display.

Mike Andronico/CNN

Once you’ve decided what you want the Stream Deck to do, you’ve got near-endless options for customizing the look of each LCD key to your liking. There are a ton of built-in and downloadable icon sets meant to accompany common functions like going live, hitting record, activating music and sending tweets, including some snazzy animated ones. You can also upload your own icons — such as the one I have of my dog for the button that activates her dedicated webcam feed.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Stream Deck is especially a no-brainer if you use other Elgato gadgets, such as the Key Light or our favorite streaming microphone in the Wave:3. The Wave:3 already makes it easy to manage multiple audio sources at once via the Wave Link app, but when you’re using it in tandem with a Stream Deck, you can access all of those controls with a few button taps rather than having to click around within the app.

And if you have an Elgato Key Light or Ring Light connected, you can use the Stream Deck to adjust brightness and color settings on the fly in case you’re looking too dark or blown out for your viewers. The Stream Deck also works with a variety of third-party gadgets, with plug-ins that let you control your Philips Hue or Nanoleaf lights — perfect for putting on a cool light show for your viewers on the fly.

Assigning all of these commands means that your Stream Deck buttons will fill up fast, especially if you’re using the six-key Mini like I am. Fortunately, you can create as many profiles as you like within the Stream Deck app, each with their own unique functions assigned to each button. For example, I normally use my main streaming profile, but I also have profiles dedicated to controlling Spotify and my Wave:3 microphone. You can even assign these profiles to automatically activate when you launch a specific app.

Adding to the Stream Deck’s value is the fact that there’s an entire creator commu

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