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How to Use OBS

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Have you ever seen behind the scenes of big broadcasts like a sports game or cable news show? The ones with a wall of TVs and guys in headsets shouting things like “Cut to camera 3!”? Well you can be that person with the help of OBS.

What is OBS?

Open Broadcast Software, or OBS, is a free and open-source program that lets you bring together audio and video from multiple sources to record and stream. It can look a little overwhelming the first time you open it up, but once you have the basics down it’s very intuitive to set up and use. If you haven’t downloaded the program yet, do that, install it, and let’s get started.

Overview of OBS Interface

First things first, right-click the shortcut on your desktop and set OBS to run as administrator. When streaming or recording your computer will have several programs and processes competing for your CPU, this will tell your computer to allocate its resources to OBS first to make sure you have the best quality your computer can provide.

Now that we’ve got that done, let’s open the software and take a quick look at the interface.

  1. Toolbar: This is where you’ll find settings, docks, and the like.
  2. Preview Window: This will show you what your stream/recording will look like. You’ll also be able to move things around in this window to tweak placements.
  3. Scene: Scenes contain all your sources and are what you’ll switch between while you’re broadcasting and recording.
  4. Source: This is where you’ll add your webcam, microphone, gameplay, and whatever else you’d like to include in each. You’ll also be able to group those sources and add filters to them.
  5. Audio Mixer: You’ll see your audio sources here and be able to adjust the levels of them in real-time.
  6. Scene Transitions: There will be a couple of options here that will let you go from one scene to another without having to do a hard cut and will be much less jarring to your viewers.
  7. Controls: This will be your control center. You’ll go live, record, and be able to adjust your settings here.

How to Set Up OBS

In this post, I’ll walk you through several aspects of how to set up OBS, including:

Basic OBS Set Up

Before you can start streaming and recording, you will need to do a couple things in settings. Here’s how:

All your settings conveniently found in “Settings”

Step 1: Go to “Tools” → “Settings” or click on “Settings” in the lower-left corner.

Step 2: Go to “Stream” and log into your streaming service of choice.

Step 3: Click “Video” and make sure your “Base (Canvas) Resolution” is set to 1920 x 1080 and your “Output (Scaled) Resolution” is 1280 x 720. Your output resolution may change, but most of the video sources you’ll be adding will be 1080 by default, so having your Base Resolution set to 1080 will make your life easier.

If you plan to record with OBS, the recordings will be saved to your “Video” folder. If you’d like to change that you can go to “Output” → “Recording” → and change the “Recording Path”. There are a lot more settings, but we’re going to let a newer feature take care of that for us.

Step 4: Go to Tools → Auto Configurations Wizard and run that. This will test what your internet and computer can handle and give you a nice baseline to go off of, so follow the prompts and let that wizard cast his spell. Now that that’s done, let’s get into the fun stuff.

OBS Gameplay Set Up

Now I’ll walk you though how to set up a quick gameplay scene using the “Scene” box and the “Source” box. You’ll need two things for sure, gameplay and a microphone, but we’ll also add a webcam and an overlay.

Step 1: Click on the “+” button in “Scenes” to add a new scene. Go ahead and name it whatever you like, I’m going to name mine “Gameplay”.

Step 2: Go to “Sources” and add your gameplay. One thing to note is that the order of your sources does matter, so if you have your webcam source below your gameplay source you won’t be able to see your webcam.

Step 3: Click on the “+” in sources and then “Game Capture” if you’re playing a game on the same computer that you’re running OBS or “Video Capture Device” if you’re using a capture card.

Step 4: Name it, then a new box will appear with a drop-down menu of available devices and options for that source. There are a couple options you can change, but the default is fine.

OBS Webcam Set Up

Whether you’re using a webcam connected directly or using a capture card, like an Elgato CamLink, you’ll need to add the webcam in the same way you added the gameplay.

Step 1: Click on the “+” in sources, then “Video Capture Device”, choose your webcam from the drop-down, and this time we will want to make sure a few of the options are correct.

Show the world your pretty smile!

Step 2: If your webcam looks squashed or stretched you’ll want to check the resolution. First, change the “Resolution/FPS Type” from “Default” to “Custom” and then change “Resolution” to match your webcam. Just about any webcam you purchase these days is going to be 1920 x 1080, but if that doesn’t look right check your webcam’s specs and adjust it to that.

Step Three: The last setting to check is “Color Range”. Try both “Partial” and “Full” as sometimes the “Default” setting will be a little washed out. Click on the corner of your webcam and size it down a bit, you don’t need to worry about getting this size exact until your overlay is added.

OBS Overlay Set Up

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using an overlay created in Stream Elements. This one has a webcam frame and a rotating metrics bar already sized and placed to be where we want it. Here’s how:

3 easy steps and your overlay will be ready to go

Step 1: Click the “+” under “Sources”, but this time we’ll select “Browser.”

Step 2: Under “URL” you’ll paste in the overlay’s URL from Stream Elements.

Step 3: Since all the assets are placed where we want them to be, change the “Width” to 1920 and “Height” to 1080.

We just gotta bump that webcam up a little.

Now that you have all visual pieces of this puzzle in place we can tweak and finalize it.

Step 4: You have two sources that are full screen, the Overlay and the Gameplay, so click the padlock icon next to each one so that we don’t accidentally move them.

Step 5: Click on the webcam and position one corner in the corner of the overlay’s webcam frame and then resize it down to the same size as the frame.

OBS Mic Set Up

The last thing you’ll need to set up with OBS is your Mic. To do this, you’ll need to complete the following:

I’m using a USB interface, but your microphone will be there. As long as it’s plugged in.

Step 1: Click on the “+” and then “Audio Input Device” and choose your microphone from the dropdown. You won’t see anything in the preview window, but you’ll notice down in the audio mixer that your microphone has been added and the overall volume can be adjusted.

Step 2: If you’d like to add filters to any of the sources just right click that source and go to “Filters”. One thing to note is that if you add another scene, a “Just Chatting” scene for example, any source you’ve added already, like your webcam, will be available with all the settings and filters you’ve applied to it.

Don’t tell Eljayem_ that I leave my Viewer Count up

Step 3: If you’re streaming you can add some more useful tools by going to “View” → “Docks” and choose things like your stream’s chat and activity feed so you can keep an eye on everything.

Conclusion

And there you go! You’re ready to get streaming or start recording! If you want to learn more, you can read my article about how to add filters to your webcam. And don’t forget to check back for more tips, tricks, and how-tos for OBS and all your streaming needs.

You’ll be a star in no time!

About the Author

Nick

Nick is a Graphic Designer, Photographer, Bar Tender, and Variety Streamer over on Twitch. When he's not explaining why you can't substitute vodka for gin in a signature cocktail to patrons just this side of being cut off; you can find him tweaking his overlay, being a pillow for his girlfriend, staring at one of his cats, or trying to "get gud" at a game at BrennivinAndCigarettes.

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