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How to Record with OBS (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

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How to Record with OBS (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

Many content creators turn to Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), a free screen recorder for podcasts, live streaming, and vlogging. Although you can access OBS for free, many find it intimidating to set up. 

We’ll show you how to use it, the best OBS recording settings, and whether or not it’s worth upgrading to a premium product instead when you want to record your podcast.

A Brief Overview of OBS Studio

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio is open-source software that records and streams video and audio on your computer. Compatible with most video and audio sources, OBS easily integrates with popular streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch, which makes it appealing to podcasters, vloggers, and live-streamers. First-time users often get confused, so we’ll walk you through how to install OBS and get started.

How to Install OBS Studio

OBS Studio works with all of the major operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. To Get OBS for your system, follow the steps below: 

Step 1: Visit the OBS Studio website.

Step 2: Select your OS (Windows, macOS, or Linux) to download the installation setup.

Step 3: Open the installer.

Step 4: Complete the installation. You'll have the option to add plugins to your installation. Only add plugins you know you need. You can always install additional plugins later.

Sections of the OBS Screen Recorder 

The OBS recorder can be a bit intimidating at first, especially for beginners. If you're not familiar with waveforms or some recording terms, the software's interface might seem confusing. 

To begin to understand how to record with OBS, break down the interface into six separate parts for simplicity's sake: 

  • The Preview Window: Once finished recording, you can see what your recorded video will look like in this section of the screen. Use the preview window to try different settings out to see which works best with the equipment you have for your broadcast or recording. 
  • The Scenes Section: Scenes will show inputs from different sources, including live stream, an image, or another type of input source.  
  • Audio and Video Sources: This section shows you any audio or video device used for capturing content. Once you have everything set up, here, you can see your mic, webcam, and other sources.
  • Audio Mixer: You can use the audio mixer to adjust the settings for your audio recordings. (We'll explain how to select the best OBS settings for recording audio later on in the OBS tutorial.) 
  • Scene Transitions: With scene transitions, you can add fun animations that will play while switching between scenes in your recording or stream. 
  • Controls: Here, you'll find basic operating functions to start or stop recording, select the output mode, and adjust your recording settings. 

Setting Up OBS Studio

After you've downloaded OBS Studio and gotten familiar with its interface, you'll want to begin setting everything up. Though adjusting the OBS recording settings can get a bit complicated, this OBS studio tutorial will walk you through making adjustments so you can easily capture quality content for your podcast, vlog, or stream.

The OBS Studio Auto-Configuration Wizard

After installation, you'll have the option to run an auto-configuration wizard that will set the OBS recording settings to defaults based on factors like your system's graphics card. 

While we don't recommend using the auto wizard, you can use this option if extremely pressed for time and need to start recording or streaming right away. 

You can always go back to adjust any settings to improve the quality of your recording later on.

How to Add a Webcam to OBS Studio

If recording video, the first source you'll want to add is your webcam. To add a webcam to the OBS recorder, follow the below steps:

Step 1: In the Sources section, click the + symbol. 

Step 2: Choose Video Capture Device.

Step 3: Give your video input device a nickname so it's easily identifiable and click the OK button.

Step 4: Select your video device from the drop-down menu that appears.

If you're not using a webcam or using more than one input source for your select video capture device, the OBS recorder also supports these other source types: 

  • Game Capture: Use this source to capture a specific game if you're streaming gaming. 
  • Browser: Choosing this source will let you live stream or record anything in your browser window through OBS. 
  • Display Capture: To display everything appearing on your monitor, choose this source. 
  • Media: This source type is for sharing media files you upload directly to your stream or recording. Support file formats include aac, mp3, wav, mp4, mov, avi, gif, and more. 
  • Images: Add almost any image format to your video with this input source. 

How to Set up Microphones in OBS Studio

Before adjusting the OBS recording settings for the audio, add your microphone as one of your audio input sources. Add a mic using the process below: 

Step 1: Under the Controls section, select Settings.

Step 2: Choose the Audio tab from the Settings menu. 

Step 3: In this menu, indicate the speakers, headphones, mics, and other audio devices you're using with your system. 

Step 4: Select if you want to enable push to talk or push to mute for any of the audio devices you're using to record.

H3: How to Adjust Output Settings in OBS

Changing the bitrate, resolution, and frame rate is necessary for a high-quality finished product.  After you've connected your hardware, you should adjust output settings to control the quality of your recording or stream. 

Why Bitrate, Resolution, and Frame Rate Are Important

Selecting the right resolution, bitrate, and frame rate for your video output will affect how your audience can experience your content. Choosing to have these things as high as possible might give you great quality. However, your viewers may experience buffering if they don't have a good system or high-speed internet connection. Understand and choose the right frame rate and other settings for the best end result. 

How to Set Resolution, Frame Rate, and Bitrate in OBS

You can find a balance between high-quality streaming that’s also accessible. Set the resolution, frame rate, and bitrate recording settings using these steps: 

Step 1: Access the settings window from the "Controls" section of the OBS recorder. 

Step 2: Select the video tab from the menu on the left of the screen. From here, you can set the frame rate and the base and output resolutions. 

Step 3: Click on the Output tab in the menu to the left. Set the video bitrate to the level you want. You can also change the encoder between CPU and GPU by selecting one from the drop-down menu.

The Best OBS Settings for Recording

Experiment with the settings while learning how to record with OBS. Because so much depends on system specs and internet speeds, it's hard to say the best OBS settings for recording. Start with some standard settings when trying to figure out what works best for capturing your content.

H3: The Best Audio Settings for OBS Recording

For audio recording in OBS Studio, pay attention to the sample rate and the channel. You can adjust both using these steps:

Step 1: Access the Settings via the Controls section. 

Step 2: From the menu on the left, select the Audio tab. 

Step 3: Choose Audio Settings.

Step 4: Locate Sample Rate and Channels in this menu. Sample Rate should be set at the standard rate of 441 kHz and Channels should be Stereo. We recommend keeping these at the standard selections. If you have any doubts about this, check out the recommended audio settings for the streaming service you're using.

Video Settings for the Best OBS Recording 

To change the video settings for your OBS recording, use these steps:

Step 1: Access the Settings via the Controls section. 

Step 2: From the menu on the left, select the Output tab. 

Step 3: Change the Output Mode to Advanced 

Step 4: In the Advanced menu, choose the Recording tab. 

Step 5: Choose these settings from the dropdowns for the sections on the recording tab: 

  • Type: Standard 
  • Recording Path: Select the folder on your computer  where you'd like your recording to be saved
  • Encoder: NVIDIA NVENC H.264 
  • Rate Control: CBR
  • Bitrate: 16000 Kbps 
  • Keyframe Interval: 2
  • Preset: Max Quality 
  • Profile: High 
  • GPU:
  • Max B-frames: 2

Step 6: From the menu on the left, select the Video tab

Step 7: Choose these settings from the dropdowns for the sections on the Video tab:

  • Base (Canvas) Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Output (Scaled) Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Downscale Filter: Lanczos (Sharpened scaling, 36 samples)
  • Common FPS Values: 60

How to Record Desktop Video & Audio on OBS

If you don't want to use a webcam with OBS studio to record video and audio, you can stream and record what's on your screen instead. Start recording your screen after using these steps: 

Step 1: Add a new Scene in the Scene section

Step 2: Click the "+" symbol in the Source section to add a source. 

Step 3: Choose Game Capture or Browser from the source types 

Step 4: Click Start Recording in the Controls section.

How to Use OBS to Record Audio on a Mac 

Though OBS Studio is compatible with macOS, you'll still have to follow a couple of extra steps if you want to record desktop audio using the software. This is because macOS is not designed with a feature for recording audio internally. 

Use these steps to use OSB to record audio with a Mac:

Step 1:  Download and install, and configure a third-party tool for recording audio. There are a lot of great third-party programs out there that are free. 

Step 2: Click on Settings in the Controls section 

Step 3: From the menu on the left, select the Audio tab. 

Step 4: Click the dropdown for a Mic/Auxiliary Audio option you aren't using.

Step 5: Add a new Scene in the Scene section

Step 6: Click the "+" symbol in the Source section.

Step 7: Select Audio Input Capture

Step 8: Name your audio source 

Step 9: Select the device you installed and configured in step 1.

How to Record Your Screen with OBS Studio

Capturing everything on your screen is a little different than recording a browser window on your screen. To record everything appearing on your screen from corner to corner, complete these steps:

Step 1: Add a new Scene in the Scene section

Step 2: Click the "+" symbol in the Source section to add a source. 

Step 3: Choose Display Capture as the source type

Step 4: Click Start Recording in the Controls section.

How to Stream Live with OBS Studio

OBS Studio is used by many live streamers because of its cost (it’s free!) and because of its capability with many different streaming platforms. Use these steps to connect OBS to your platform of choice to start streaming: 

Step 1: Access the Settings via the Controls section.

Step 2: Select the Stream tab from the menu on the left. 

Step 3: Choose the streaming service you're using from the drop-down menu. Popular platforms including Facebook Live, Twitch, and YouTube can be selected from the list. You can also select a custom service if you know the server information. 

Step 4: Enter your Stream Key in the field that asks for it.

An OBS Studio Alternative 

OBS Studio is a piece of open-source software that’s maintained and developed using mostly donations. As they say, “you get what you pay for”, and in this case, free loses a lot in quality.

OBS does not have a clean or intuitive interface, which sometimes makes using the program confusing. Sure, you won’t pay anything but OBS lacks streamlined and automated features that other screen recording software provides. 

If you want intuitive and easy-to-use, check out the Riverside.fm remote video recording program. You’ll pay a low monthly fee but you’ll benefit from better features and usability. 

Riverside.fm records desktop video and audio with just a couple of clicks. Instead of having to navigate a bunch of settings menus and make adjustments, you can start recording right away.  Plus, advanced controls like Producer Mode give you over your recordings makes it more than worth the cost. Try Riverside for free to start recording and see the difference for yourself.

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