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OBS Studio Screen Recording: Best Settings for Video

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This post is part of a series called How to Record Screencasts with Open Broadcaster Software.
OBS Quick Start: How to Screen Record for Free With Open Broadcaster Software
How to Use Sources to Create Video in Open Broadcaster Software Studio (OBS)

Open Broadcaster Software Studio, more commonly known as OBS Studio, or simply OBS, is a video streaming and recording program. It's free, open source, and fully cross-platform — Mac, Windows, and Linux.

In the last tutorial in our series on OBS for screen recording we went through a quick start method to give you a high-level overview of how the software works. Now we're ready to start digging into some more detail, starting with how to configure your video and output settings to suit screen recording. Combined with audio, video, and graphics editing software, OBS can a very powerful and flexible part of your screencast video production suite.

If you're also setting up with live video—getting the right equipment, setting it up, creating a professional-looking live stream—check out our guide on how to get set up for video streaming:

1. Balance

My experience with OBS has been that, once you get it set up, it's incredible, but that it can be a little temperamental getting to that point. I found certain combinations of settings were more likely to cause stability issues, while others were rock solid. The video has to look good, too: settings should create a balance between video image quality and file size.

The video and output settings I've arrived at, which we'll cover below, are for stable, good-quality, low-file-size video creation. Feel free to adjust them to your tastes, but please don't spend all day pulling your hair out to get the settings just-so.

To get started, open the settings panel by clicking the Settings button at the bottom right of the interface:

2. Set Video Capture Parameters

Head to the Video portion of the settings. This is where you'll set your Capture Size, Output Size, Downscaling and Frame Rate (FPS) settings.

The Base (Canvas) Resolution setting determines the area, in pixels, you wish to capture from your screen. It can either be the full size of the screen, or a smaller portion of it. Note that if you don't see the dimensions you want in the dropdown list here you can manually type in your preferred pixel dimensions with the format <width>x<height>, e.g. 1280x720.

The Output (Scaled) Resolution setting determines the resolution of your recorded video. It can either be the same as the base resolution setting, or smaller. If you set it to be smaller OBS will downscale your capture on the fly, allowing you to capture a "full HD" 1080p (1920 pixels by 1080 pixels) screen and output it to 720p (1280x720), for example.

If you do choose to downscale you'll need to be careful of which downscale filter you use. For recorded video production it's best to choose Lanzos, as this will give you the best quality. The other options are more suited to live streaming.

Finally, you'll need to set your FPS, or frames-per-second. Make sure it fits the framerate you want to edit and output your final video at. I typically use 30fps (30 frames per second is usually enough for most needs).

3. Set Video Recording Parameters

The output settings are where you determine what kind of video file you end up with. By default, your output settings will be in Simple mode and look like this:

Advanced Output Mode

We want to use some settings not available in simple mode, so use the Output Mode dropdown list at the top to select Advanced instead. This will switch the settings to a three-tabbed interface with more options to choose from.

Start by heading to the Recording tab, find the field labeled Recording Path and browse to the location you'd like your videos to save. Next, change the Recording Format from FLV to MP4. Make sure Encoder is set to (Use stream encoder), then all other options in this tab can be left at their default settings.

When using MP4 as the recording format you may see a warning about recordings being unrecoverable in the event of power interruption and the like. I typically use MP4 and haven't had any issues, but you'll need to decide if this is an issue for you and if you'd prefer another video format like MOV or MKV.

Note, although it's possible to switch the Recording Format to Custom and set all your video properties in the Recording tab, I have found this way is prone to errors. Instead, even though we're not live streaming, we set Encoder to (Use stream encoder) and set our video output properties in the Streaming tab. I've found this is the most reliable method.

4. Set Streaming Parameters for Screen Recording

Now switch into the Streaming tab and make three changes: change the Bitrate to 12000, the CPU usage to ultrafast, and make sure the x264 encoder is selected (if it is not already).

Everything else can be left at default. In my experience this setup gives a good quality of recording along with stability.

Up Next: Scenes and Sources

We now have OBS installed with all the correct settings in place for screen recording. OBS will remember these settings, so you may need to adjust them if your subsequent projects have different requirements.

In the next short tutorial we'll start looking at the core of how OBS works, and that is its system of Scenes and Sources. I'll see you there!

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