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Expert guide on how to correctly configure OBS Studio in 2023

The recommended OBS Studio transcoder settings vary depending on factors such as balancing quality and latency, as well as whether or not the device being used has a GPU (graphic card with dedicated H264 encoder). Please be aware that some online video providers have stricter restrictions if they use cheap, outdated or misconfigured streaming servers

What is OBS Studio ?

OBS Studio (Open Broadcaster Software Studio) is a free and open-source software for video recording and live streaming. It can be used to capture and stream video from various sources including webcams, desktop screen, games, and more. OBS Studio allows users to customize and adjust settings such as resolution, bitrate, and audio levels to optimize the video quality and stream stability. It is widely used by gamers, content creators, and online educators for live streaming on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook Live.

Targeting the highest quality with OBS Studio

If latency (live streaming latency recommendations) is not a concern for you, achieving the highest video quality requires utilizing advanced settings and configurations.
To achieve the best video quality, utilizing a CPU encoder is essential, while a GPU is required if you plan to use your streaming PC for other tasks while live streaming with OBS Studio.

For 1080p H264 streaming, utilizing 6-8 Mbps is recommended if your internet connection and video provider servers can handle it. The servers should handle it. CBR (Constant BitRate) is compatible with all streaming servers, therefore it is considered as the most secure rate control option when using x264 encoder with a wired connection.

A keyframe interval of 6 seconds is recommended (keyframe interval recommendation) to achieve broadcast-grade video quality

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Transcoder settings

To optimize CPU performance, it is recommended to set the usage to slow, as this will allow more room for the CPU to process and construct video frames, and allocate resources where they are needed the most.

OBS's High profile option for H264 encoding is the most advanced level of complexity available in the software, providing access to the latest advancements in the H264 standard.

Many streaming services do passthrough on the incoming stream, meaning that the codec settings you send to the online video provider will be what the viewers will see on the highest bitrate of the transcoding ladder. For this reason, 4.2 level should be chosen as this is the highest level supported by many HDMI stick streaming devices like some Amazon Fire TV revisions, or Google Chromecast.

Optimizing for the maximum performance on the OBS Studio computer

If you notice that your CPU usage is consistently above 75% while using OBS Studio, it is recommended to switch to a GPU/hardware encoder. These are typically labeled with the name of the GPU manufacturer or vendor. Specific settings for each GPU can be accessed within OBS. However, some options that are available for CPU encoding may not be available for GPU encoding (for example, the "speed" preset). If available, set the H264 level to 4.2 and consider enabling B-frames if latency is not a concern. If both your GPU and your online video provider support it, you can also use HEVC/H265 instead of H.264, to save bandwidth.

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended GPU settings

Optimizing for the minimum latency

To minimize delays, it is recommended to follow the opposite of the guidelines for high video quality. This includes setting a keyframe interval of 1 second, selecting the "ultrafast" option for CPU usage, using the baseline H264 profile, and disabling b-frames. Additionally, if your online video provider supports it, use SRT output rather than RTMP.

OBS Advanced Mode Output recommended Low Latency Settings

Framerate considerations

In broadcasting, it's best to maintain the original frame rate of the source video to prevent any video or transcoding artifacts. However, OBS Studio does not have a feature for detecting or preserving the source frame rate. If you're using video equipment, the frame rate may be 23.976 fps, 29.97 fps or 59.94 fps if the equipment is set for NTSC territories, or 25 or 50 fps if the equipment is set for PAL territories (there is no reason nowadays to use PAL for anything but broadcast TV). To adjust the frame rate in OBS, check the settings on your cameras or camcorders or check it on the capture card software. If your input is a computer screen, you can set the frame rate to 60 fps, which is the standard for streaming nowadays.

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Video Settings

Considerations about limited upload bandwidth

If your upload speed is less than 10 Mbps, it may be beneficial to lower both the bitrate and resolution of your video.

While resolution is an important factor in determining video quality, it is not the only one. Bits per pixel (BPP) is also an important factor in determining the quality of a video. BPP is a measure of the amount of data used to represent each pixel in a video. A high BPP means more data is used to represent each pixel and the video quality is higher.

When comparing two videos with the same resolution, the one with a higher BPP will generally have a better quality. For example, two videos with the same resolution, one with a BPP of 0.1 and another with a BPP of 0.2, the latter would be considered to be of higher quality.

Additionally, depending on the intended use of the video, a higher BPP might be needed to retain the quality of certain details, such as text or fine lines, in the video. Furthermore, a video with a high BPP but low resolution may look better than a video with a low BPP but high resolution.

To calculate the bits per pixel (BPP) in video transcoding, you will need to know the bitrate of the video and the resolution of the video.

The formula to calculate BPP is:

BPP = Bitrate / (Resolution.width x Resolution.height x Frame rate)


Bitrate is the number of bits per second used to encode the video
Resolution.width is the width of the video in pixels
Resolution.height is the height of the video in pixels
Frame rate is the number of frames per second in the video

Let's see an example:

I have a limited upload bandwidth of 5 Mbps, what is the Bitrate Per Pixel for a 4 Mbps 1920x1080 video at 30 fps compared to a 4 Mbps 1280x720 video at 30 fps
The bitrate per pixel for a 1920x1080 video at 4 Mbps and 30 fps is approximately 0.00208 bpp (bits per pixel). The bitrate per pixel for a 1280x720 video at 4 Mbps and 30 fps is approximately 0.003125 bpp. So the bitrate per pixel for the 1920x1080 video is lower than the bitrate per pixel for the 1280x720 video.

It's recommended to use 1280x720 resolution for 4Mbps as the BPP will be 50% higher

Considerations about audio

When transcoding audio, it will always utilize your computer's CPU, including when muxing to RTMP or SRT, which can affect the CPU usage in OBS. While audio transcoding is not typically demanding on the CPU, it is recommended to use a higher bitrate to avoid any audio artifacts that may be noticeable to viewers. However, if your internet upload bandwidth is limited, you may need to reduce the bitrate to avoid overloading your network.

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Audio Settings

Considerations about streaming and recording simultaneously

If you want to have a recorded version of your live stream available after the event, it's recommended to do both recording locally and using high-quality transcoder settings. This will ensure that the video and audio are transcoded only once and outputted twice (file and stream) and will minimize the impact on your CPU usage.

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Recording Settings

Considerations about unreliable connections

"YouTube HLS" is a recommended stream output option for unstable connections as it is an HTTP-based standard that is more resilient to network variations.

This works not only on YouTube but also on other online video providers that allow for "Pull Source" streaming (iReplay.TV does). This means it is possible to have a private live stream on YouTube that can be accessed and streamed publicly or privately to your audience by your online video provider.

Additionally, OBS offers advanced settings that allow you to intentionally increase the delay to better handle network fluctuations. You can adjust the delay to your preference, ideally in multiples of the keyframe interval (e.g. 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, etc. for a recommended keyframe interval of 6 seconds).

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Buffer Delay Settings

Why do I have dropped frames in OBS Studio?

There are several reasons why dropped frames may occur in OBS Studio, to check in this order:
  1. Outdated or corrupted OBS Studio: If you are using an outdated or corrupted version of OBS Studio, it can cause dropped frames.
  2. Insufficient computer resources: If your computer does not have enough RAM or processing power to handle the demands of OBS Studio, it can lead to dropped frames. Switch to GPU if you are using CPU
  3. Network connectivity: If your internet connection is slow or unstable, it can cause OBS Studio to drop frames while streaming or recording. Start with a low resolution (480p), low bitrate (1 Mbps) then increase progressively and consider HLS publishing rather than RTMP or SRT
  4. Overheating: If your computer or GPU is overheating, it can cause dropped frames.
  5. Malware or Virus: Sometimes malware or virus can cause dropped frames.
  6. Third-party software conflicts: Sometimes, other software running on your computer may conflict with OBS Studio and cause dropped frames.

OBS Advanced Mode Output Recommended Dropped Frames

What is a transcoding ladder?

A transcoding ladder is a series of different versions of a video, each at a different resolution and bitrate. The different versions are created to accommodate different network speeds and device capabilities so that viewers can choose the version that will play best on their device. Transcoding ladders are commonly used for streaming video content over the internet. Your online video provider is usually taking care of the transcoding ladder.

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