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OBS: How to get started

As you decide to start livestreaming, you need a program that transfers your content to the host. One of the more commonly used software is developed by Open Broadcaster Software, which is called "OBS" for short. We are going to have a look at the settings and options.

Before we dig into the actual setup, lets first understand the software itself. Back in the day, you had a very limited variety of livestreaming software. At first, the very basic software was just with a webcam and maybe a little text on-screen as well. As gameplay content started to hit the market, these livestreaming tools and software started to become more complex and advanced. The better and previously most commonly used software was annual subscription based and is quite expensive to use.

A small group of developers decided to go against the whole industry and build an Open Source livestreaming platform, which quickly took over market shares and later on became the market dominant. Today, OBS is still amongst the most commonly used broadcasting software and is highly recommended to non-advance users.

To get your hands on the software, go to Open Broadcaster Software ( and click the download button that matches your OS (Mac, Linux or Windows).

The software

When you open the software for the very first time, you should see a window like this.

Open Broadcaster Software - Default Window

To give a brief overview starting from the very left top. The very first thing you see is the software name, version number and then your currently selected profile and scene. Right below we have the main menu, where you gain access to the different areas of OBS. Then you see a big black square, which will be your preview window as you start putting in visual stuff.

After that we have Scenes, which is a grouped overview of different setups. These overviews have independent sources, which is the actual things to be shown in the selected scene. The mixer is your audio sources in the selected scene where some audio sources can be applied as "default on all sources".

Scene transitions are how it switches between these scenes and how long it takes to do so. Second to last we have various buttons to start/stop the stream or a local recording. Go into Studio mode (not explained in this article) and a shortcut to your settings and exit the software.

Last is an overview of how long you have been livestreaming or recording, the overall CPU usage and your fps ("Frames per second").

Your settings

Before you start playing around with your Scenes and Sources, let us configure the settings to make sure we have the right canvas size and color depth. Simply click the "Settings" button in the bottom right or under the "Files" menu in the top left.

The first tab we see it General, which is where you select your desired language and how the software should act in general.

The important tabs, for now, is Video. This is where you select the base canvas size for your stream. The size is important because it sizes the actual length and height. If your canvas size is 1920x1080 and you then change it to 1280x720, everything will be out of proportions. If you do it the other way around, your sources will suddenly cover less of the canvas. The most common canvas size is 1920x1080 and then scaled to 1280x720.

The scaled resolution is what the host will receive, even if the original size is larger. OBS will make the video in the canvas, downscale to the scaled resolution and then send it out to the selected host.

Once your canvas size is selected, click Apply in the bottom right. Now go to the tab "Advanced". Here we only want to check 4 boxes. Process Priority should be "Normal" or "Above Normal" to ensure the stream is prioritized by your system. Your Color Format should either be NV12 or RGB (If you do not understand the difference, select RGB). To give more color fill, set YUV Color Space to 709 and YUV Color Range to Partial.

The last tab, Audio, is where you select default and overall devices such as Microphone and Speaker/Headset. These devices will always be on all scenes, no matter how your setup goes, because it is a "global setting".

Streaming & Recording

Lets quickly have a look at the Stream, Output and audio tabs before you start looking into the Scenes and Sources.

In the Stream tab you can select a pre-defined service to broadcast to. If your service is on the list and has been selected, make sure to use the service that suits your location the best (if location based). If the service is not on the list, change the Stream Type to "Custom Streaming Server" and it allows you to fill in your own variables.

Output is where you decide the quality and actual renderings of the livestream or recording. You are by default in the "Simple" mode, which is great for the lesser familiar person.

Using the simple mode, choose a bitrate that is within the recommended bitrate by your service and within your upload speed. 1000 bitrate is about 1.1 Mbps upload (to simplify and counter buffer-size etc.). If you have a 5Mbsp download and 2.4Mbps upload connection, try not to go above a 2000 bitrate, as you need the internet to do things besides uploading your stream. We highly recommend a 4Mbps upload and 2500 bitrate or higher to have a visually acceptable output.

This should not limit you if your internet connection is slower as long as you can have a minimum bitrate of 1000 and 1.5Mbps upload speed.

The encoder is what hardware it selected to render your output, which can have a big impact on your hardware usage requirements. Playing big CPU-loaded games can shut down your stream if also rendering with the CPU. To simply understand the difference, "x264" is using your CPU and "NVENC H.264" is hardware. Notice, "NVENC" is only an option if using a Nvidia graphics card, as NVENC is an encoding chip on their graphics cards. This chip has close to no buffer and requires close to nothing extra from your overall graphics card performance.

The content

Now that we have done a lot of settings, let us have a look at the visual setup. This will be a quick intro to each element as another article will cover it more in-depth. Each Scene has Sources, where the Source is the actual content to show or use. Once a Source has been specified, you can easily use that same Source on other Scenes with the same filters and options. Like adding your Webcam to Scene 1, adding it to Scene 2 is easily done and just needs a little location and sizing.

Released on November 22nd, 2018
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