Morning Coffee Blog: VTuber

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So, about those Frankie Play streams…

As mentioned on yesterday’s blog, the Frankie Play streams tend to be our least-viewed content, and that’s why I’m having a re-think about them and moving them down the priority list. However yesterday on the build stream I was asked about the next Frankie stream and we decided that yeah, we’ll do another one this weekend (Friday Jan 20 8pm ET on Twitch and YouTube). Unless I get direct feedback I have to go by what the numbers say, but if I’m asked for something, you know I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Discord and O:P regular Pineocoles suggested I do a blog post about the Frankie Play streams, and that’s a good idea. They can be fairly involved and like most streaming setups these days, there’s lot going on under the hood.

First a quick word about vTubers. I’m on record as being one of those rare sort of nerds who is not an enjoyer of Anime in any form. But this isn’t about that. In our minds the vTuber phenomenon is linked to Anime — it makes sense, the whole thing started in Japan and Korea and a lot of the core software still widely used is from developers there. However when I first encountered it, being a non-Anime sort, I was immediately drawn to the idea of the characters being digital puppets. I’m certain that if Jim Henson were still with us, he would be deeply interested in the process of bringing a vTuber character to life.

Under the hood

I always wanted to bring my puppet characters to my streaming audience but as age ravages my frail body and entropy encroaches (drama queen), I just can’t maintain the physical demands of puppeteering for the length of time it would require. Like many puppet-based streamers have found, converting to a digital puppet is the logical evolution. The whole point of a puppet is they take a fictional character and give it the illusion of life, in real time and sharing our physical space. That’s what sets them apart from any other form of animation. vTubers, likewise, share our digital space in real time.

I’ve changed the software I use to drive the Frankie avatar a few times, but at the time of this writing I’m using vTube Studio, one of the more popular packages. The art for the current character was drawn by Justin of Uzzyworks. I’m usually streaming Frankie Play from my office (pictured above), and it involves several machines: 1) a dedicated streaming machine, in this case a Mac Studio, 2) A machine to power and serve the vTuber, in this case a home-built Windows PC sending the video feed via NDI, and 3) whatever device is powering the game, usually an Xbox series X, on a capture device. Audio is processed via a Rodecaster Pro II and voice chat hosted on a Discord channel. All this comes together in OBS Studio (scene switching with a Stream Deck) and is broadcast using to Twitch and YouTube.

While not the most complex setup ever (one day we’ll dig into how the build streams work. That’s much more complex), there are still quite a few moving parts that all need to work seamlessly to have the whole thing run. As y’all know, I’m a stickler for quality. I could probably do something similar with less equipment, but this is the configuration I’ve found, using the gear I have, that yields the most consistently reliable and high quality results.

It certainly is fun to do the Frankie Play streams and it was gratifying to be asked about them. Frankie is near and dear to my heart and I like to think that having him around makes other people happy too.

Coffee time.

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