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How to Improve Webcam Video Picture Quality With OBS Studio (Settings, Exposure, LUTs)

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OBS Studio is a great free and open-source tool for broadcasting, recording and streaming. Here we'll look at how you can adjust your webcam to get the best possible video results.

Getting Started

Check for External Factors

It's definitely worth tweaking your settings in any software you use, but remember that what your camera is seeing is only as good as the environment you're filming in. Changing window light or the wrong kind of artificial light will alter how your video looks, so it's important to think about those external factors in addition to your software settings.

Check Your Hardware and Settings

Before we jump into the details, I'll mention our quick-start guide to live broadcasting with OBS. If you are new to OBS this post has handy instructions on the basics.

Add Your Webcam as a Source

Let's get started. Add your webcam as a source and then right-click and choose Properties.

webcam properties
Add your camera as a source and go to its properties

1. Webcam Properties: Resolution and Frame Rate

At the moment everything is set to default and you might notice your webcam looking softer than it should and also cropped.

default settings
Default settings

If you change Resolution/FPS from Default to Custom you can set things like the resolution and frame rate yourself.

Change camera resolution
Change camera resolution and FPS

If I set the resolution to 1920 x 1080 you can see the image is sharper and no longer cropped.

Change camera resolution and FPS
Change camera resolution and FPS

Frame Rate is set to Match Output FPS by default but you have a number of options. Ideally you want the highest your PC can handle.

Once you’re happy with your settings, hit Configure Video and this will bring up your camera’s properties and settings. What you’ll have available to you might depend on your camera, but you'll also have access to things like brightness, contrast, sharpness and so on.

2. Webcam Properties: Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Colour

You’ll notice below I’ve got two tabbed options: Video Proc Amp and Camera Control.

Camera control
Camera control

In Camera Control you’ll see that the options my camera doesn’t have are greyed out, so there’s nothing I can adjust with those, but you may have access to some or all of these depending on your camera. Exposure has Auto ticked. It’s usually best to untick auto so that your camera isn’t constantly adjusting while you’re streaming or recording. Again, this only works well if you have controlled lighting conditions or add supplemental lighting the environment you’re filming in. If the light is consistent then you won’t need auto, and you can turn it off.

Ideally you want your image nice and bright but without being over-exposed. If it’s over exposed then not only might it be worse to view, but it could also cause frames to drop as it struggles with the light. As you adjust the exposure, keep checking your preview to make sure there’s no flicker or stutter there.

Video Proc Amp
Video Proc Amp

In Video Proc Amp make adjustments and keep an eye on the preview window. The trick is to keep your external factors (lighting, position etc) the same. Keep all these parameters the same  then you’ll get a consistently better-quality result.

white balance
White balance—left: cool, middle: warm, right: balanced

The auto white balance was ticked as default, but it's best to turn that off as it tends to favour being overly warm, which can in turn make your image look overly saturated. If you’re filming near a window this will definitely affect your picture, as the quality of the light will change through the day and your camera will constantly be adjusting to balance it. Ideally you should be trying to get a neutral skin tone, but there may be a specific reason you want to make it warmer or cooler, so adjust to suit.

Exposure vs Brightness vs Gain

The key difference between Exposure and Brightness is that increasing exposure is telling your camera to let in more light but increasing brightness adds lightness artificially, in the software. If the exposure is too high your highlights will blow out but there’ll still be contrast in the image, whereas if you pull up the brightness to full it artificially lightens everything and makes it flat.

Gain is the sensitivity of your camera to light, like ISO. Turning up the gain will brighten your image but just like with a still photograph, the trade off is added grain, or "noise."

brightness
Brightness all the way up

After Webcam Settings Adjustments

Make small adjustments to your settings until your picture looks right.

Balanced webcam settings
Balanced webcam settings

3. Add a LUT or Colour Filter

You can add a filter or look-up table (LUT) to your image just like you would to alter colours with pre-recorded footage. Right-click on your webcam Source again and choose Filters.

Underneath Effect Filters, click the cross and you’ll see the options for adding filters.
Underneath Effect Filters, click the cross and you’ll see the options for adding filters.

Underneath Effect Filters, click the + button and you’ll see the options for adding filters.

Apply LUT
Apply LUT

 I'll add a LUT as an example. It’ll ask you to name the LUT and then you’ll see this screen:

Click browse to choose a LUT
Click browse to choose a LUT

You can load in your own LUT or use one of the OBS defaults, click Browse to open the default folder and choose one or navigate to where you’ve saved your own.

OBS standard LUTs
OBS standard LUTs

The LUTs can be in either PNG or Cube file formats, and as is the nature with LUTs, you should be able to use any that you have for other software, in OBS.

I’ve selected grayscale so you can see the effect:

greyscale effect
greyscale effect

You can use the Amount bar to reduce the effect of the LUT.

There are LUTs available to give your image a simple adjustment (colour, contrast and so on) or you can get LUTs and filters that colour grade. There are some cool LUTs included with OBS so if your broadcast or recording is a little quirky you could get away with something a bit more extreme, for example this red isolation LUT picks out the red and warmer tones:

It’s a very Sin City or Film Noir look.

Before and After

Just to recap, I changed the resolution and framerate in the webcam properties, then increased the exposure, turned up the gain a little, fixed the white balance and turned off all of the 'auto' settings.

Before and after
Before and after

Remember to test your settings with a practice stream or recording first, as everything might look great but have a stutter or flicker—it's all about balancing the best settings—we go into this in more detail in the article below.

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