What is Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)?

what is obs for livestreaming?

Open Broadcaster Software also referred to as OBS is a free open source software suite that is used for recording and live streaming. OBS is used to capture and record your screen while also capturing audio. Notably popular with Twitch streamers, this software eliminates the need for an internal capture card that can be fairly expensive.

OBS was released in September 2012 and continues to receives updates regularly to improve user experience. OBS and OBS Studio were created and are maintained by Jim. The open source project is continuously improved and developed by OBS Studio Contributors.

How to Get Started

The first thing you will need to get started with OBS if you plan on live streaming is a computer that can handle streaming in the first place because an older computer may not handle this task easily and could cause crashes or stream failures. Download OBS here to test it out. Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

You need a solid computer to do this because along with whatever you are streaming your computer will also be capturing, rendering, and uploading video and data simultaneously.

Next up is the streaming platform. OBS can stream to many different platforms such as Twitch, Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, but since it is mainly used for Twitch streaming that is what this guide will be geared toward.


The first thing to do when you enter the settings in OBS is to move to the stream tab in the settings menu. From here you want to select your preferred streaming service. For this one we are going to select Twitch and input your stream key that can be found in the dashboard on your Twitch page.

From there navigate to the channel tab and your stream key will be displayed hidden at the top. Copy the characters from there and paste them into OBS where appropriate. Below is a video on how to find your Twitch stream key.

Once done with this you will have successfully linked OBS and Twitch so your streams on OBS output to Twitch.


A scene in OBS is what shows up on the screen. This includes everything from whatever you are streaming on Twitch or Youtube, backgrounds, audio, and webcam footage. An interesting scene can draw many viewers to your channel so make it personal to you and fun to look at. Scenes are chosen and set in the bottom left of OBS.

To get started with scenes first you need to select your main screen that you want to capture such as your screen itself or a webcam. This is what your viewers will mainly be seeing. To do this you need to go to the bottom left OBS where it says “scene” and “sources” because this is where you select the scene and the output you want to have shown on screen. This is important because if you have multiple displays you will want to select the one you wish to display.

OBS in use ^

If you wish to create your own scene in photoshop and import it into OBS you can, but there are also many websites such as nerdordie.com where you can purchase different overlays, alerts, and backgrounds from various creators. Below is a more in depth video on how to set scenes in OBS.

Common Questions/FAQs

Is OBS Completely Free?

Yes, OBS is a completely free to use for anyone.

The quality on my stream or recording is bad! How can I fix it?

The easiest way to fix a poor quality stream or recording is to use the auto configuration wizard within OBS to ensure that the most basic settings are suited to meet your computers requirements. Another way to switch stream quality is to use the simple output mode and not the advanced output mode.

My Scenes are not Displaying

If your scenes are not displaying there could be a few different reasons. One of the main reasons being that if you have multiple scenes they may not be layered correctly. The main scene you wish to display needs to be dragged to the very top of the list of scenes is to make sure they will show up first.

OBS vs. Streamlabs OBS

Screenshot: Streamlabs website

Streamlabs OBS is a mix of Streamlabs and OBS because it features all the great add-ons Streamlabs has to offer such as chat windows and a dashboard.

Streamlabs makes it simple to track your donations and followers all done on the website. Streamlabs makes it very easy to import pre made themes into your stream. It also allows you to track donations and subscribers with ease for announcements and engaging with your audience when you’re live.

Essentially OBS is a more bare bones version of Streamlabs. There is no right option, it is all preference in what you want for your stream.

One thing you should know about the two is that most online tutorials are geared toward OBS because it has been around longer than Streamlabs. Many users also report that they receive better computer performance when using OBS, but your mileage may vary although Streamlabs is more CPU intensive.

Streamlabs is still being constantly tweaked and may be subject to various bugs and glitches. Streamlabs however does seem to be more user friendly and will hold your hand while setting up your stream. OBS on the other hand is more difficult to use at first and users will often have to refer to online tutorials to get everything going for their first stream.

If you are looking to get into streaming and can’t decide between OBS and Streamlabs I recommend trying both out for your first couple of streams to decide which one you prefer because at the end of the day it all comes down to what you like.

Special thanks to Tanner Boriack for the cover photo. Follow @tannerboriack on Instagram.

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