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OBS Quick Start: How to Screen Record for Free With Open Broadcaster Software

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This post is part of a series called How to Record Screencasts with Open Broadcaster Software.
OBS Studio Screen Recording: Best Settings for Video

Open Broadcaster Software Studio, more commonly known as OBS, is a video streaming and recording program. It's free, open source, and fully cross-platform — Mac, Windows and Linux. When combined with solid audio and video editing software it is a powerful and flexible screencast video production tool.

In this tutorial we'll install OBS and go through an abridged, quick-start method to begin screen recording. We go into greater depth with the next tutorials in this series.

OBS Versus Screen Recording Alternatives

For screen capture for tutorials and recording other types of video presentations, two popular paid applications are Camtasia and Screenflow. These are all-in-one solutions that provide tools for both recording and editing (though not live streaming, which OBS does). There are plenty of options, and we have a couple of articles to help you choose:

Another excellent option is to separate the screen recording stage from audio recording and video editing, using dedicated software for each stage. If you already have a video editing program, why buy another? Use OBS for the recording, and you're good to roll. This is the approach we're following here.

In this series of short tutorials we show you how to setup OBS for screen recording and take advantage of some of the key features. There are many ways you can use OBS, but for the purposes of this series I'll be taking you through the method I use as part of my own video production process.

1. Download and Install OBS

Download OBS from https://obsproject.com/download and install according to the instructions for your OS.

When you launch OBS you should see something like this (with a different look depending on your operating system):

Open Broadcaster 18 interface
The OBS interface

2. Screen Recording Quick Setup

OBS uses a system of Scenes and Sources, which we'll go into more detail on in a subsequent tutorial. These two features work together to neatly manage your video, audio, and other production assets. When you first launch OBS you'll see there is already a scene added in by default, which you can find in the bottom left corner of the interface.

Scenes and sources in Open Broadcaster
Scenes and sources in Open Broadcaster: currently on the default Scene.

Before you can start recording you'll also need to add a source inside this scene. With the default Scene selected (it will be highlighted) click the + button at the bottom of the panel labelled Sources, then select Screen Capture on Linux or Display Capture on Mac and Windows.

Source selection
Select Screen Capture (Linux) or Display Capture.

Click OK on the box that pops up.

Confirm your choice
Looking good

Click OK on the next popup as well.

Set the screen dimensions
Still good. Note the inception going on, that's totally normal!

Now click the Settings button at the bottom right of the interface. 

Choose the Output tab and take note of the Recording Path field. This is the destination of your computer where your recorded video will be saved.

Set the destination for your recording
Choose the destination for your video

3. Start Recording

When you're ready to start recording click the Start Recording button at the bottom right.

Click Start Recording to begin
Ready to go!

When you're done click Stop Recording and a video will be written to the folder specified in your settings.

Done
All done.

Coming Up Next: Customize Your OBS

So that's the basic, quick-start method for screen recording, but there's still more to do to get the most out of OBS. Now that you're up and running, in the next tutorial we change the Video and Output settings for better recordings in OBS. See you there!

More OBS and Screencasting 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.

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