How to Stream 101 – Getting started with OBS

So, you want to start a career as a Twitch streamer. While the nuances of becoming a popular Twitch personality are complicated, getting started is surprisingly easy. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll become famous, we can guarantee that this simple guide will get you up and streaming with a small time and monetary investment.

Things You’ll Need

#1 – A Streaming Computer

While we would like to recommend a specific computer build to help you get started, in reality your streaming requirements will completely depend on what you are planning to stream. If all you want to do is stream emulators or low-impact sprite games, then any computer capable of running high quality internet videos without slowing down should work. If you want to stream more modern games, remember that your computer is going to be capturing, rendering, and uploading your video feed as you play. So if you are already having trouble with slowdown, or if you are forced to run your game at minimum specs, you probably won’t be able to stream it. Things get even more complicated if you want to stream using capture cards and consoles, but we will cover that in another article. In short, your computer is going to need to be powerful, relative to the game you want to play.

#2 – A Twitch Account (or similar streaming service account)

This probably should go without saying, but to stream on any platform you need an account on that platform. Since Twitch is the biggest streaming service out there right now, this guide will be geared toward getting you started there.

#3 – Streaming Software

We have two personal recommendations when it comes to streaming software. If you want to drop some money on your stream, XSplit is the way to go. If, however, you want to get started with zero monetary investment, then we recommend Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). The rest of this guide will be geared toward using OBS, though the basics apply to generally any software.

Setting the Scene

Before you begin broadcasting you have to set up the “scene” for your broadcast. This determines what will be shown on your stream. Gameplay, webcam footage, backgrounds, even your audio has to be set up in the scene.

The most important element is the gameplay itself. First, the game needs to be open. Second, you’ll want to add a new source. In OBS you can do this by right clicking the sources list and choosing to add a game capture. You can also add window captures if you want to say, stream a tutorial, or even add still images for backgrounds.

After selecting a game capture, select the game from the application drop down menu and click OK. You can basically ignore all the other options for now. This will send you back to the OBS main menu and your game of choice should show up in the scene. By pressing the “edit scene” button, you can now position, stretch, crop, and otherwise alter the game window as you see fit, just like you would in any photo editor. Note that if your game is running in full screen, the OBS window may appear black if it’s minimized. While it should stream normally, we recommend playing in windowed mode just so you can check up on OBS while playing.

Anything else you want to add to the scene is essentially done in the same way. Right click on the sources box and choose what you want to add, configure it, and then adjust it on the scene. To add a webcam, for example, you’d choose to add a video capture device. External capture cards are added in the same fashion. To add a background or watermark, choose to add an image. Move these elements around your scene as you like until it looks just the way you want.

Finally, you are going to want to be sure your audio is set up correctly. A lot of this can be done by playing with the audio levels inside whatever game you are playing. You can also reduce the audio level that OBS broadcasts by adjusting the slider next to the speaker icon.

You’ll also want to set up your mic. If you have only one microphone, then you are probably fine. However, if you have a separate mic, such as a headset mic, that you want to use instead of, say, your built in mic or webcam mic, then you will want to go into settings and choose the correct device in the dropdown box next to “microphone”. We personally recommend using a mic separate from all other devices while streaming, along with using a headset. It will go a long way toward increasing your audio quality.

Setting the Stream

Once you have your scene looking like you want, you’ll want to head on over to Twitch and set things up there. Once you have logged in, click on your username and head to your dashboard. You’ll need to hook up OBS to your Twitch account. To do this, click on the Stream Key tab, click Show Key and then copy the code. Then, in OBS, go to Settings, Broadcast Settings, and then from the Streaming Service drop-down menu select Twitch. Copy the streaming key into the appropriate field.

That’s really all you have to do. However, to be sure everything is working, preview your stream in Twitch’s Dashboard. Whenever you are ready to start, just click Start Streaming on OBS and BOOM, you are now live. Before you go live, however, you should probably enter a title/description of the game you are playing, and spruce up your page a bit, but this is all very self-explanatory.

Helpful Tips

Now that you have finished the technical set-up, keep these few pieces of advice in mind.

  1. Stream on a schedule – Knowing when you are streaming will help your fans find you and continue to come back.
  2. Market your stream – Whenever you go live, send out a tweet, post on Facebook, and otherwise let people know that your stream is up. This will allow people who aren’t frequent Twitch users to find you.
  3. Try to play relevant games – While you don’t have to always stream the newest games out there, streaming relevant games certainly helps to get you a subscriber boost. Games stay hot on Twitch for several weeks after release, so keep that in mind.
  4. Don’t run against major events – Frankly, if EVO is streaming, no one is going to watch your Street Fighter V stream. In fact, to better rope in an audience, stream relevant games just BEFORE major events. Fans will be looking for something to watch before the event starts.

Have any streaming tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments.