Open Broadcaster Software Studio (OBS Studio, or often just OBS) is an open-source program that is a fast way to get into live video streaming. Plus OBS Studio is free.
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 easily 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?
Now that you know what OBS Studio is and what it's used for, now let's go over some facts. Live streams are more popular than ever, both for 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.
- By the end of last year, live streaming was expected to account for over 80% of all internet traffic. The lockdown experience showed the power of unedited, interactive, and natural product placement via live streaming.
- 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 2022 to find out more.
How to Create Live Video for Free With Open Broadcaster Software Studio
Install OBS and Set the Stream Details
Let's start by setting up Open Broadcaster Software Studio. First, download OBS and install it.
When you open OBS for the first time, it will ask you whether your priority is streaming or recording.
Choose streaming, and you’ll then see a second option:
You can leave it on the suggested options unless you know for certain that you want 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 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:
- Go into your Facebook account.
- Choose Videos and then Publishing Tools.
- Hit the +Live button.
- This will give you your stream key.
Don’t worry too much about what settings you’ve chosen because you can always go back and change them later within the software.
Add Video to Your Stream
Once we're done setting up Open Broadcaster Software, 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 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.
You might have multiple audio inputs, e.g. 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.
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.
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 offers a useful article on the best encoder settings for your stream if you’d like to learn more.
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 practices 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 into the 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 Live Streaming and Open Broadcaster Software Studio Resources
Learn how to make live videos and pick up tricks to improve your live streaming in these OBS software tutorials:
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.
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner wrote the text version of this lesson. This page was updated with contributions from Janila Castañeda, a staff writer with Envato Tuts+. It was edited by Jackson Couse and republished on 3 August 2022.