I leverage an Elgato Stream Deck as part of my day-to-day work and leisure processes. I was originally intrigued with the idea of using a physical device to handle tasks and macros to help simplify and automate the things I do – such as setting up applications in series, controlling my camera settings for video calls, and giving me visual queues related to my system and audio setup. Many folks end up asking me – what exactly do you do with this thing and is it worth buying?
In this post, I’ll provide an introduction to the Stream Deck, what I specifically do with my device, and how I have organized the buttons and profiles.
Yep, It’s A Fancy Macro Device
Let’s take one step back and talk about macros. A macro in this context refers to a script that performs a series of tasks. Macros are usually brief in nature, such as “open my Chrome browser, move it to the left monitor, and set it to a specific size.” Most of my experience with macros comes from using software such as AutoHotkey, AutoIt, or Macro Recorder for business tasks and video games. These programs often sit in the system tray and are invoked by a function key or automated trigger.
The Elgato Stream Deck is a physical interface designed with numerous buttons that represent various tasks and macros. Installing the Stream Deck software provides a method for configuring the desired tasks and determining what the buttons do and how they appear. Thus, the Stream Deck is both software that let’s me define the things I want done and a physical piece of hardware that gives a slick user interface to make the things happen.
I keep mine tucked behind the keyboard on the same side as my mouse. The Stream Deck looks like a tiny, propped up keyboard with 15 LED programmable buttons that connects over USB. There are different models available that feature more buttons, if desired.
Making The Stream Deck Do Things
While the Stream Deck is primarily aimed at folks who livestream on YouTube or Twitch, I’ve found that it can do a lot of handy tasks that make my work much simpler. This is especially true in an age where all of my business is conducted remotely.
In this section, I’ll showcase a few examples.
Start of the Day
One of my most heavily used macros is used to kick off my day:
- The macro starts by launching Microsoft Teams, performs an update check, and then moves the application window to my main (right) screen and minimizes it.
- Next, Slack is opened to a specific organization with the application window moved to the secondary (left) screen.
- Finally, VS Code is fired up on the main screen and minimized. If there’s an update to VS Code, that automatically gets installed and the application is reloaded.
I have another macro that performs a similar workflow, except it launches all of my required camera software: Sony Remote and Streamlabs OBS. These applications are moved and minimized to preferable screen placements.
Easy Mute Button
Another handy macro is a “big red mute button” courtesy of the AudioMute plugin. This provides a method for muting my microphone at the hardware level instead of trusting in Zoom / Teams / Chime doing it, or being worried about someone unmuting me when I’m coughing or sneezing.
The assigned button is configured to glow bright red with LIVE when I have a hot mic and a dark blue color with MUTE when it’s muted. I like using red to catch my attention – it’s like a big “hey, you, I’m a live microphone!” warning. ?
Video Scenes with Streamlabs OBS
I use Streamlabs OBS to enforce control over my video input, specifically from my Sony alpha mirrorless camera that acts as my primary webcam. This gives me vast amounts of configurability over aperture, ISO, framerate, and color palette. Streamlabs OBS uses the concept of scenes to describe these various video configurations. The Virtual Webcam feature allows the video feed to be consumed by any conference app, such as Zoom.
I have a button on the Stream Deck bound to each scene with a similar color scheme to the microphone mute: red is LIVE while dark blue is OFF.
Again, this makes it simple to change anything I want.
These are the scenes I have configured:
- I use two scenes named Full and Full (mirrored) for regular and mirrored (horizontally flipped) full screen video. This is handy for when a conference application decides to goober with the video feed.
- An Away scene that tells people that I’m away. I don’t use this one frequently, but it is nice to have something like “getting coffee” or “back in 5 minutes” in some situations. Plus, people find it novel. It can also provide an extra layer of protection for situations in which a conference admin decides to enable my video.
- A few buttons play animations that I created in Adobe After Effects. The one that I find people enjoy the most is a “quick tip” animation that punctuates a whimsical or legit tip being offered. The animations are stored in Streamlabs OBS as sources.
Thus, Streamlabs OBS does all of the heavy lifting to make sure my video feed looks the way I want. The Stream Deck then controls the Streamlabs OBS scenes and sources and provides visual feedback as to which scene is live. It’s way simpler than tabbing back and forth between applications.
Cleanly Organizing Everything
The Stream Deck can be configured with profiles. Each profile defines what all of the buttons do at a given time. The Stream Deck software even gives a clean visualization of what the buttons look like when setting up a profile. This greatly extends the functionality of the device, especially for my little 15 button version.
I use a hierarchy of profiles:
- The Menu profile is default. I’ve mapped buttons to the other profiles (below), along with settings for brightness, a sleep function to turn off the display, and the macro to launch all of my video applications.
- The Work profile contains all of my work buttons. This includes my Teams / Slack / VS Code launcher, TightVNC, and a few other handy applications and macros. There’s also a button to return to the Menu profile.
- I have two other profiles for when I record YouTube videos or stream on Twitch. Similar idea here: each profile has buttons mapped to macros and video settings relevant for that situation along with a button to return to the Menu profile.
- Finally, a System profile is configured with macros designed to alter the state of my computer system. This is mainly centered around input devices, screen resolution, a few frequently used folders, and sending text to an application in focus.
There you have it! In this post, I provided you with a brief introduction of the Stream Deck, what I specifically do with my device, and how I have all of the functionality organized. I’m definitely a fan of the Elgato Stream Deck as a “fancy” macro device. The software has been rock solid and I’m sure there is so much more I can do to extend the functionality of my setup.
Is this worth the money? Sure. If you have a little creativity and funds to throw at the Stream Deck I would advise snagging one. I keep finding new things to do and automate with mine, which is admittedly super fun to do. ?