One of the latest developments in the ever-expanding world of digital content categories is the trend of IRL streaming. Still a genre on the grow, IRL streaming can broadly be defined as the streaming of various activities from various locations. It stands in contrast to streams broadcasting video games played in a studio. The practice is digital media’s answer to televised live events, just as YouTube videos are an answer to recorded television shows. 

A brief look at the non-gaming tags on Twitch shows that nearly any activity can be streamed. Some streamers share their favorite hobbies, such as the dedicated squad of metal-detecting enthusiasts broadcasting their beach trips. Others opt to share more personal events, with church service streams being a common occurrence. Sometimes, however, creators decide to stretch the concept of IRL streaming to its limits. Trevor Daneliuk, for instance, travels for a living, hitchhiking his way around the country and streaming his trips in their entirety. 

Trevor Daneliuk sits outside on a roadway with his backpack at his side.
Trevor Daneliuk, aka Hitch, spends his time hitchhiking throughout different countries around the world, all while streaming live to millions of viewers.

How it’s done

The idea of streaming while going about your daily business can sound intimidating. Odds are, however, you already have all you need. Setups for IRL streaming can run the gamut from as minimal as a smartphone to as complex as carrying an entire studio in your backpack. 

Most smartphones support mobile apps that allow streaming to popular live content platforms, such as Twitch or Mixer. This means the phone camera and onboard microphone are all you need to get a stream started. That said, while these can enable a stream, they aren’t necessarily ideal for a good-quality stream. Neither one is designed with the purpose of supporting a professional-grade live stream. Additionally, cell signal can be spotty, especially while on the move. Broadcasting live video can also tear through data far more quickly than you would expect. 

The other extreme allows for streaming as polished as what could be done in a professional studio. There is an entire market for complete bundle packs, such as the GUNRUN IRL Backpack. A setup like this includes an HD camcorder and microphone. These can be mounted to a tripod, a selfie stick or a harness on the strap of the backpack that the entire operation is contained in. There’s also usually a cellular hotspot. Some of these even come with backups so in-depth that they run on four separate signals at once, just in case some drop out on the go. This yields very high-quality content, but a lot of effort and money go into it for that payoff. 

What’s the big deal?

Some may not understand the buzz around IRL streaming, but creators see the great opportunity the practice holds. It allows for an intimacy that viewers generally can’t get from their favorite creators elsewhere. Real-time, unedited interactions in an uncontrolled environment are as genuine as digital content can get. Creator-driven content aside, streaming your world can give viewers tastes of worlds they may never see themselves. Not everyone can know what it’s like to walk down the streets of Tokyo. Or to search a beach with a metal detector. Streamers, however, can bring the most authentic secondhand experience possible right to them. Viewers are drawn to the real-world experiences that IRL streaming can provide; being the one to provide those experiences is a great way to attract viewers to your own content. 

Who’s streaming IRL?

Looking at the streamers putting out this content, you won’t find a lot of familiar names. By and large, the people utilizing IRL streaming aren’t the biggest creators out there. Likewise, the biggest creators out there aren’t IRL streaming. It may not be appealing to well-established creators since it allows no space for the production values and setups they rely on for their carefully-crafted content. Instead, the genre forces a more raw product than they may be comfortable releasing.

There doesn’t need to be an overlap with mainstream digital media for iRL to be a successful practice.

It seems to be a world of content on an entirely separate path than the more established genres. However, there doesn’t need to be an overlap with mainstream digital media for it to be a successful practice. The most popular IRL streamers aren’t currently amassing the same numbers that YouTubers or their non-IRL streaming counterparts are seeing; they likely never will. The gimmick of it all, however, allows smaller creators to find a foothold. It provides viewers with content they aren’t going to find anywhere else. It’s still relatively undiscovered territory, but that only means there’s still plenty of room for creators to grow along with the genre itself.