How to create gaming video/Recording game video using OBS

Recording game video using OBSEdit

In this section we'll talk about setting up and using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) to record your gameplay. OBS is by no means the only option available, but it has a low cost (free) and is very versatile. The versatility has a price though, getting all the different settings correct for your computer and the game you're playing can be challenging.

About OBSEdit

OBS is an open-source and mult-platform program created by OBS Studio, and designed to capture and record video content. It's funded though small donations (their Patreon page), but they receive larger contributions from companies which indirectly benefit from its existence, such as YouTube, Logitech, Twitch and Facebook.

Basic conceptsEdit

There are three sets of configuration settings to learn. Right out of the box most of these are set to default values, or just have placeholders. When you start the program for the first time, an Auto-configuration Wizard starts. The purpose of the wizard to to detect what hardware you have installed and configure OBS to deliver the best performance for your computer. You can skip the wizard, but we strongly recommend that you run it; you can always adjust the settings later. You can also run the wizard any time by selecting Tools→Auto-configuration Wizard from the main menu, or as an option when you create a new profile (see below). In addition to this guide, you should go through the OBS Studio Quickstart guide, and note the links for additional information such as troubleshooting.

ProfilesEdit

Profiles contain all the nuts and bolts settings having to do with the recording and output of your video. So it includes everything from the mechanism which actually captures the video to the folder where the video file is saved. The details can be technical, very technical, but the fortunately the Auto-configuration Wizard will set things up fairly well except possibly for a few tweaks.

The point of multiple profiles is that you can customize OBS for different types of games or other types of video, and save these settings to be re-used over and over. For example, suppose you have games which produce realistic high resolution graphics, and other games that use low resolution pixel graphics, and you also want to record non-game related content, say the contents of a spreadsheet you've been working on. You then might want one profile to record at high resolution, a second profile to record at low resolution, and a third profile to record at high resolution but at a lower frame rate. It's wasteful to record a low resolution game high resolution, since a high resolution recording will not increase the resolution of the original source. Similarly, it's wasteful to record a spreadsheet at high frame rate, since there's little movement or action where people would notice the difference between high and low frame rates. (There is a practical reason for limiting recording resolution and frame rate to only what is needed. The more information you records, the larger the video file size, and the longer it will take to upload to the internet. It could make the difference between an upload taking hours or just twenty minutes. Not only that, but your computer has limited resources, and since your game may already be stretching these limits, it's not a good idea to place any unnecessary burdens on it.) You might also have different profiles for streaming vs. recording. Give each profile a meaningful name, for example "HighRes", "LowRes" and "HighResLowFR", or "Record" and "Stream".

Once you have a profile that works well on your computer, you should usually only create a new one by duplicating it instead of starting from scratch. You can do this by selecting Profile→Duplicate from the main menu; this will create a copy of the currently selected profile.

When you run the Auto-configuration Wizard, it asks for usage information: streaming, recording, or virtual camera. Since you're reading the guide for recording video, we'll assume recording. You can then set the resolution and frame rate. It's probably best to record at the current screen resolution to start with and use a frame rate of 30 FPS. It's possible to record at 60 FPS, but it's probably not necessary except the most fast-paced action games. As mentioned above, you can always tweak these values and create new profiles which use different values.

At this point, the Auto-configuration Wizard will finish and produce a report of the setting it has chosen. It's a good idea to make note of these in case you want to set up a profile from scratch for some reason. Then click "Apply Settings" to save them as your default profile.

The default profile is called "Untitled" by default, but again, you should give this a meaningful name. Note that you must have at least one profile in OBS. At this point you may want to make any tweaks that don't affect video quality, for example you can change folder where video files will be saved by selecting File→Settings from the main menu, and entering the desired folder name in the Output tab. Note that these changes are only saved for the current profile; other profiles won't be affected.

ScenesEdit

Scenes allow you to combine different video sources for recording. With scenes, you can, for example, record the game and a video camera image of yourself as you play. You won't see yourself while you're playing, but it will be recorded in the video. As with profiles, you must have at least one scene in OBS. Out of the box, the only scene is "Scene", but you may want to rename it "Blank" and keep it. The Scenes tab is a dockable tab in the lower left corner by default. The +, -, ∧ and ∨ symbols allow you to add, delete and rearrange the scenes you've created.

We recommend you create a separate scene for each game, since scenes often contain game specific information such as the window name. To create a scene for a game, first create a new scene, you might give the scene the same name as the game or some abbreviated version of it. Then start filling in the video sources you'll be recording. For a simple setup, the only source will be the game itself.

If you have many scenes collected, you can organize them into scene collections. You might have one collection just for games, and another for non-game scenes. The current collection is displayed with the current profile in the OBS window title. The default collection, out of the box, is "Untitled".

SourcesEdit

A Source is a single video source which you can combine with others to create a scene. There are many types of sources such as games, other programs, video capture devices, and the overall display. To add a game as a source, first start the game, then get to the first screen in full screen mode. Some games can be played in a window, and this can be captured as well, but typically the game prefers to have the full screen. Click the + in the Scenes tab to create the scene, and select Game Capture as the scene type.

Click "Create new" in the dialog that pops up. (The radio buttons here are a bit unusual in that the selected option is shown by an empty circle.) Then fill in the name of the source; you may want to include both the name of the game and the word "game" in the source name to signify that it's a Game Capture, that way you can distinguish between window capture and full screen capture. These are alternate ways of capturing the game display, but the Game Capture type is designed just for that and will probably produce the best results. There are a few games which work better using a (borderless) window instead of the full screen, so for these you may want to set the source as a window capture. Note that you can use a single source in multiple scenes, which might not be that useful for the game itself, but it could be very useful for a video capture device where you're capturing yourself as you play. That scene would not change from game to game so being able to re-use it would be very helpful. At the bottom of the dialog is a Make Source Visible check box, and you'll probably want that checked so you can preview the game display in OBS. Press OK to bring up the Properties dialog.

The Properties dialog contains additional settings you can modify without having to recreate the scene from scratch. For Mode, the default is "Capture any fullscreen application", but we recommend setting it "Capture specific window", and then getting the name of the window from the pull-down control that appears. The default will work, but it's probably safer to be specific about the window name in case you have another full-screen program running (not that that's recommended). At this point you should see a preview of the game display in the properties window. You're probably safe to leave the rest of the settings on the default values. Click OK and you should see the game display in the OBS preview window. You can now add other sources to the scene if desired and save when you're done.

TestingEdit

Once you have a profile created, a scene for a game created, and the game added as a source, it's time to test the setup. First, you should be able to see the game display (along with any other sources you've added) in the OBS preview. But this is only the first part of the test. Close any programs besides the game and OBS, then press the "Start Recording" button in the lower right Controls tab. Switch to the game, and start playing for a few minutes. The main thing is to test whether camera movement and moving objects record smoothly. So move the camera around if possible, and try to get a person or other moving object on screen before stopping the recording. At this point exit the game and exit OBS. Locate the newly create video file and open it with a video player; your video editor should be fine for this but having another option is nice as well. Play the video and look for choppiness in camera movement and in the moving object. Choppiness is an indication that OBS isn't recording all the frames and you'll need to tweak the settings to try to resolve the issue. You should also open the file in your video editor to make sure there are no issues there.

Performance issuesEdit

Unfortunately, using the default settings for everything may not produce the best, or even acceptable, results. The first possible issue is that your computer simply does not have the processing power to handle both the game and OBS running separately. However, the OBS footprint is relatively small, so if the game runs acceptably without OBS then problems are most likely because the game and OBS aren't working well together. Note that it may be the case that the game appears to be running well while you're recording it, but when you review the recording you can tell there are issues. A typical symptom is jumpy movements signalling that OBS not recording changes to the screen as fast as the game is making them, so the effective frame rate is dropping below the the threshold needed for your eyes to see motion rather than a series of still images. Much of the following discussion applies only to Windows, though the concepts involved may be useful for other operating systems.

There are two types of resources you need to consider. First the CPU does most of the ordinary calculations needed for the game. The GPU performs the graphics processing, so it does the work of laying out the landscape on the screen, applying textures, etc. Most modern games rely heavily on the GPU, and this is needed by OBS as well. (OBS uses the GPU to process the scene and encode the result into the selected file format.) So if there is a conflict then the bottleneck is probably in the GPU. Besides the game and OBS, your operating system also uses resources, so there are actually three entities competing for the same resources, and unless they share nicely, problems are inevitable. Fortunately the operating system's load on the GPU is small, and it would normally not be the source of the problem unless the CPU is the bottleneck. We're assuming here that you don't have any other programs running other than your game and OBS; if you have a browser or a second game running then obviously the performance of OBS will be impacted.

Using Task ManagerEdit

One way to get a peek into how your computer's resources are being used is to open Task Manager. Start the game, then press Ctrl-Alt-Del to open Task Manager. Task Manager lists resource usage in five categories: CPU, Memory, Disk, Network, GPU. One thing to keep in mind here is that Task Manager uses its own share of resources when it's running, but we're going to assume that that share is relatively small compared to everything else. If GPU is the bottleneck, then the total GPU usage will be near 100%. Click the top of the column to sort tasks according to GPU use, and the game will probably be at the top. The GPU itself generally has different engines within it specialized for different tasks, and your computer may actually have more than one GPU, so it may not be a matter of overall usage but how the various tasks are being shared.

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