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OBS Quick Start: How to Create Live Video for Free With Open Broadcaster Software Studio

Open Broadcaster Software Studio (OBS Studio, or often just OBS) is an open-source program that is a fast and free way to get into live video streaming.

Streaming Software

When you live stream you need either a software or hardware encoder to convert your audio and video into a format that can be used across the internet. Unsurprisingly, a hardware encoder is a physical thing that you plug into your computer, and a software encoder is a program that you can run that does the same thing, like OBS. There are advantages to both, but if you're getting started it's hard to pick a better option than OBS.

Starting from a small project, OBS gained collaborators, and eventually sponsors, to help develop the program into what it is today: the people's choice of live-streaming software. As well as allowing you to quickly and easy get into live streaming or recording, OBS gives you some simple and effective tools to make your video look more professional, like easy ways to manage multiple sources, transitions, and filters for your audio and video.

Why Live Stream?

Live streams are more popular than ever, both watching and creating content. Here are some stats from TechJury who looked at how live streaming was making an impact:

  • More than one in five Facebook videos are Live, and are watched longer than pre-recorded videos by up to three times.
  • This year, live streaming is expected to account for over 80% of all internet traffic; that number might even increase as many of us experience lockdown and turn to the internet for work, connection and entertainment.
  • 80% of people prefer live video to a blog when it comes to brands they love.

These are just a few compelling reasons to try live streaming, but you can read Live Streaming Statistics Every Marketer Should Keep In Mind In 2020 to find out more.

1. Install OBS and Set Stream Details

First, download OBS and install.

When you open OBS for the first time, it will ask you whether your priority is streaming or recording.

auto configure wizardauto configure wizardauto configure wizard

Choose streaming – you’ll then see a second option:

wizard with video settingswizard with video settingswizard with video settings

You can leave it on the suggested options unless you know for certain what you want is something different than the default.

The rate of Frames Per Second (FPS) will depend on the camera you’re using and what features it has. More FPS will give you a sharper image; fewer will be softer.

The next option asks you to choose the service you’ll want to stream to, with several of the most popular options like YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch and so on. You can connect your account(s) at this time too.

You will need to put in a stream key to continue. A stream key is a code used to identify the source of streaming so that you can stream to that particular website. You’ll get this from the website you’re connecting to. So, for example if you’re looking to stream over Facebook Live: 

  1. go into your Facebook account
  2. then into Videos
  3. and then Publishing Tools
  4. hit the +Live button
  5. this will give you your stream key
stream keystream keystream key

Don’t worry too much about what settings you’ve chosen, you can always go back and change them manually later within the software.

2. Add Video to Your Stream

Now you can add your video sources. For example, for a gaming stream, two sources might be game-play video and a live video camera on the gamer. Right click on the Sources panel at the bottom of the screen and hover over Add to see a list of choices.

add video settingsadd video settingsadd video settings

3. Add Audio to Your Stream

OBS will automatically set to your default audio device and microphone. If you have more than one option and you want to choose these yourself, you can do this under File > Settings > Audio. If you’re a macOS user, you’ll need this extra app.

audio settingsaudio settingsaudio settings

You might have multiple audio inputs, like if you’re streaming a game on Twitch and want to keep its audio, but also have your mic live. The great thing about OBS is it has an audio mixer, so it’s really easy to add multiple sources (they’re under the list as previously explained with video sources). You can use the mixer to quickly control them as needed. The levels for each one you add will also appear in the Audio Mixer at the bottom.

Advanced audio propertiesAdvanced audio propertiesAdvanced audio properties

4. Test, Test, Test

With any broadcast you should always make sure everything runs smoothly before you go live, so remember to test your settings in advance of any live streaming you want to do.

If you go to File > Settings > Output you can choose exactly how your stream will output, and how it will record, so that you have a good copy of your stream for future use.

output optionsoutput optionsoutput options

If you select Simple for your output, OBS will work out the best settings for your broadcast based on what you have. You might want to increase the bitrate for the audio and video though, to increase the quality of the stream. If you do increase it, be sure that your internet connection can handle it – good practice is that your connection speed should be at least double your bitrate. Dacast have a useful article on the best encoder settings for your stream if you’d like to learn more.

5. Live Streaming Best Practices

You’re all set up and ready to go with your live stream on Open Broadcaster Software Studio, so to finish up, here are a few best practice tips to help you have the best result possible!

  • Have backups of your essential equipment so that if the worst happens and something fails, you can quickly resume your broadcast.
  • Remember to look at the camera and not the monitor (where possible). We’ve all seen those videos where someone is looking up or off to the side and it’s a little jarring. Try to look directly to camera.
  • Prepare, and keep it simple. Keep some notes handy in case you get stuck or there’s a delay of some kind. Try not to waffle and get straight to the point – audiences can have short attention spans.

More Help With Live Streaming and Open Broadcaster Software Studio

If you also want to present live on camera along with recording your screen, try our course on video conferencing to discover the right camera, lighting and other equipment to use—and how to set it all up.

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