A pivotal corner of the streaming market, Open Broadcaster Software is a completely free program that allows anyone to dive into the world of streaming. With many variations out there (OBS Studio, OBS.Live, Streamlabs OBS) it provides an open library that can be utilized for developers to provide extensions and alternatives to consumers. We will be focusing on OBS Studio for today and will cover more variations in the future.

Starting up a stream is a task that is easy to understand but hard to master. After installing OBS, you could link up to a streaming site, a microphone, a camera, and press Start Streaming!

In this article, we’re going to guide you through OBS Studio so you can make changes to your stream and tweak the finer points to get the best possible product you can.

Main Screen

The front facing view of OBS Studio

Every time that you load up OBS Studio, this is the image that you will be greeted with. This is your main hub for streaming. I will note that this is the default setup to the hub. You can customize the look, positions, and what is on display. For this article, let’s discuss the default features as numbered.

1. Stream Preview

This is the display window for your stream and your live workspace. Within this window you will be able to drag, rotate, create, and resize any source (see below) that you want on your stream.

2. Stats

A vital area for your stream, these are the nuts and bolts that keep it together. Each statistic is as follows:

  • CPU Usage – How much CPU OBS is currently using. Flashy graphics, intensive games, and elaborate displays can drive this higher, causing you to drop frames.
  • Disk Space Available – The amount of space the hard drive that OBS is installed on has currently.
  • Memory Usage – The amount of RAM being used by OBS
  • FPS – The current amount of FPS (set in settings) that is being displayed
  • Average Time to render frame – This is the time that it takes to show one frame of your stream. Not a huge stat that you should be watching unless it starts getting higher, like around 20ms. This may cause missed frames.
  • Frames Missed due to Rendering Lag – This relates to your GPU, especially with running NVENC. If the load gets to be too much on your GPU, this will cause missed frames. If you find that you’re getting higher numbers in this area, limit your FPS inside your games or enabling Vsync.
  • Skipped Frames due to Encoding Lag – This relates to your CPU, especially with running x264. If your CPU is maxing out, it usually means that it can’t handle the current load being placed upon it. Reducing settings or open programs can help alleviate this problem.

3. Scenes and Sources

The building blocks to your stream. These areas are where you are going to place everything from displays to cameras and anything in between. I find a fun analogy to relate these two is a play. Scenes are the backgrounds and acts to the play. Sources are the props and actors. In the image below, I have a Scene called “Game” and in this scene:

Your Scenes and Sources

I have a few sources in this scene. Besides the custom ones like Scar Count and Stuffed Animal, I have basic ones that you’ll find with almost every streamer. I have the Brio / 920 which are two web cams I use on my stream. I have Right / Middle Mon, which are monitor displays. At the bottom, I have Current Game which captures the current game that I am playing. Adding sources and scenes are simple. By right clicking or pressing the + button at the bottom:

Easy right click or + options!

You can add sources like Audio, Display, Images, Media, even Text on the screen. It allows you to personalize how you want your stream to be and gives you all the tools to do so.

4. Audio Mixer

Complete control of your audio. The blue slider underneath the source controls the dB / percentage of the source.

5. Scene Transitions

Scene transitions are what displays when you change from scene to scene There are simple built in ones like Fade or Blur but you can design your own to go with your brand with Stingers.

6. Controls

The buttons that control all! Each button is simple enough to understand except two.

  • Start Replay Buffer – OBS recently built this into their program as a way to capture clips. It stores a small amount of memory to backlog your stream and capture a predefined time when the button is pressed (can be set in Settings). This is a great way to capture your own clips during gameplay or even set up an instant replay button!
  • Studio Mode – A great tool to make changes on the fly! This button will open a second preview window and allow you to load scenes up without anyone seeing what you are doing. Great for making changes to a stream before transitioning it live!

Settings

That is the face of OBS explained. To really get to the meat and bones of the program, you dive into the Settings. This is where you’ll set up the quality of audio, visual, and all the extras you can handle. For purposes of this article, I won’t cover EVERY check box, as some are self-explanatory. I’ll cover the ones that might confuse the average to new user and give some tips on how to improve.

In General, you set basic options like language, OBS looks, views, and everything else that is preferred when OBS is running. Go through these settings and setup the program how you like it. In Stream, you’ll setup your streaming service and the server that you’ll be using. It will ask you to log in for more security and ease of use.

Output is where I am going to be explaining a bunch of fancy terms but this is where your stream is born. There are a lot of fancy terms to digest here. You could keep it in Simple mode if you would like but I suggest turning the Output Mode to Advanced so you can tweak everything about your stream.

Encoder – This is how your stream will be encoded. This used to depend primarily on your CPU (x264) but with the advances of OBS NVENC, you can now have your GPU encode the stream. This takes a lot of stress off your CPU. If you know that your CPU is a little older or find that it struggles during stream, switch to NVENC and see how it holds up.

Rescale Output – You can rescale your stream to a different resolution

Rate Control – This is a HUGE subject that can have its own article. I would keep this at CBR (Constant Bitrate) as that is the best for streaming. For more in depth explanations for all of these, I suggest https://slhck.info/video/2017/03/01/rate-control.html

Bitrate – First step to do here is get your Upload rate. I suggest going to Google, typing Speed Test, and using their speed test to get it. I’ve found it the most accurate. Once you have that number, you can determine how high your bitrate can be. Bitrate will greatly affect the quality of your stream. With a lower bitrate, you can still stream slower moving games that require little pixel action. With first person shooters and faster moving games like racing, you’ll need all the Bitrate you can get. Take that Upload speed and use half of it for your upload. You could go all the way up to 75% but other programs like Discord might fight for some back.

There are maximum bitrates that can be used on certain sites as well. For Mixer, it is 10000. For Twitch, Partners can achieve 6000 maximum but Twitch suggests 3500. For YouTube, it is an astounding 51000 but no one wants that.

Keyframe Interval – Keyframes are those optimal frames that display the picture perfectly clear. This is the interval of keyframes per second. Optimally, I set this at 2, as does a ton of other streamers. Keeping this at 0 lets OBS determine the number but OBS might make a mistake and set it too high at times.

Preset (Nvenc only) – The quality control of the stream. This is how OBS will handle pixels and anything displayed in OBS. Setting this at Max Quality will produce the best picture but is also harder on your machine. I would start at Max and see how your machine handles it. You can always go down to Quality or even Performance if need be.

Profile – The priority that your system sets for OBS. High is where I keep mine so that OBS is always top of the list in resource usage.

CPU Usage Preset (x264 only) – Just like the Preset for Nvenc but with the CPU.

In the Video tab, you’ll notice a handful of options. With Base Resolution, set it to your main monitor’s resolution. With Output, you can downscale the stream to run smoother on your PC. I highly suggest this. With Downscale filters, go with the highest your machine can handle. The higher this is, the better picture that will be produced.

Hotkeys can be a WONDER

In Hotkeys, you can set up specific button combos to run settings, change scenes, or even hide sources. Hotkeys is an excellent tool that will come in handy the more you have customized your stream. This is why the StreamDeck is so popular!

With that, you are now an OBS pro! I hope this guide helped with setting up OBS Studio and getting your streams off the ground. Any questions can be posted below to be answered. Have a great stream!