What is Live Streaming?
Similarly to the way television content is broadcast over the terrestrial airwaves and cable wires to our living rooms, audio and video content can also be delivered over the internet by professionals and amateurs alike.
This technology is currently very accessible. If you own an Apple or Android phone it’s likely you have the ability to live stream right in your pocket right now! You could lean up a phone on a stack of books on your kitchen table and sing songs to anyone out there that might want to listen! How lucky are they?
That sounds awesome and easy! Why complicate it?
It is awesome and it is easy. The built-in camera and microphone in your phone are all most people ever need. Actually, most people don’t even need them!
You’re not most people though. You go hard.
OBS or Open Broadcaster Software
OBS is a free and open-source software package designed to manage live streams and recordings. This software works as a mixer of sorts.
Imagine an audio mixer at the back of a concert hall. All the microphones and lights on the stage feed back to a big control board where they are all mixed together and summed into a stereo (left and right) mix that is then output to a pair or more of speakers.
On your computer, you have many different sources of media. You may have several cameras set up at different angles. You probably have at least one microphone. You might want to share what you’re doing on your computer display itself, and maybe you’ve got a slideshow, video, or PowerPoint presentation that you’d like to share.
All of these sources can be isolated and mixed with OBS, and the resulting transmission can then be delivered to stream publishers such as Facebook, Twitch, and Youtube.
You can download OBS for Mac, Linux, and Windows at https://obsproject.com/
Head over to the site and grab the package for Macintosh. The following instructions are for a Mac, but the installation is similar across all of the operating systems.
Once the package is downloaded, click on it to open the disk image.
After opening the disk image, drag the OBS.app icon over to the Applications shortcut
Next, hit CMD-Spacebar to bring up the Spotlight search and begin typing “OBS” and Spotlight should find the application for you.
Next, you will be prompted to accept the risk of installing an app that’s been downloaded from the internet. Macs show this notification for all apps that are not signed and delivered from the Apple App Store. (Windows has similar security controls though the dialog boxes may look slightly different)
If you are comfortable proceeding click the “Open” button.
The OBS application will open and you’ll be presented with a default workspace. Don’t let this overwhelm you. It ain’t no thing.
The first thing that I’m going to recommend is turning off “Studio Mode”.
Studio Mode is great, and we’ll get into it, but for now, let’s just make sure the Studio Mode button is deselected.
With studio mode turned off, you should see one big black preview window, and 4 modules at the bottom of the application. Scenes, Sources, Audio Mixer, and Controls.
We’ll talk about all of these, but for now, we’re going to spend some time in the “Settings” section.
Click on the Settings button near the right edge of the application to open the Settings menu.
I like to set the following settings. In the General menu, scroll down to “System Tray” and enable the System Tray.
This puts a little OBS icon up in your menubar that you can reference later to show and hide the OBS application from your desktop.
Let’s skip the stream configuration for now. We’ll circle back to this at the end.
These settings are important. The set the maximum bitrate of the video that we’re going to send out to our streaming platform. Facebook recommends using a Video Bitrate of 4000 Kbps with an Audio Bitrate of 128. You can tweak these settings for your situation. We have tested video bitrates of between 1500 Kbps and 4000 Kbps with good success.
Here you can set audio-specific settings. You may want to disable certain devices. It’s likely you can leave everything here default.
The video settings are very important. This is where we set the video resolution for our stream. Facebook live streaming is in 720p resolution, so I set the Video resolution to 1280x720 with a frame rate of 30 FPS. You may need to tweak this depending on your needs.
You can play with the more advanced settings in these menus but for our purposes, this will do just fine.
Sources in OBS are all of the bits of media that you want to collect for your broadcast.
Think back to our example of the concert stage.
Imagine we’re at a rock concert. It’s a standard 4 piece band. We have a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a singer. We’re can assume that we need the following sources.
1 microphone for the singer.
1 microphone for the backup singer (guitarist)
1 microphone for the guitar amp
5 microphones for the drums
1 line input for the bass
1 tight camera angle for each band member
1 wide camera angle for the whole band
We also have a sponsor for the event, and that sponsor wants their logo to be included as part of the broadcast.
All of these things, both audio and video - could be considered “sources” in OBS.
It’s likely your broadcast will not be this complex but it could be, and if it were OBS has you covered.
Note that when we start up the app for the first time, there are no sources defined. Let’s add one. Click on the + icon in the Sources module at the bottom of the OBS application to add a new source.
Let’s start by adding our webcam as a source. A webcam or video camera would be considered a “Video Capture Device”, so lets select that from the menu of available source types.
I’m going to name the source “Webcam” so that it’s easily identifiable later and click OK.
Next, you’ll be able to select which of the available Video Capture Devices you want to select as your source. In my case, I have 2 cameras available. The FaceTime HD Camera that’s built-in to my Mac and an external Logitech C920. I’m going to use the C920. You can use whatever is appropriate for your environment!
Note that I have my resolution Preset set to 1280x720. This is the optimal resolution for streaming to Facebook.
Now that our source has been added, you’ll notice that our webcam feed shows up in the display window and now we have a webcam in our sources. Fantastic.
Notice that the new video feed has a red box around it with some points. This is so that we can resize it to our liking. I just want my webcam to be a little window in the corner of the screen, so I’m going to drag those little red points and move the video over into the bottom right corner of the screen.
Let’s add another source. Consider a situation in which you want to create a software tutorial Livestream. Maybe you’re teaching an application like photoshop or DaVinci resolve. In that case, you would definitely want to be able to share the contents of your computer display with your viewers. Many instructional videos and seminars follow this format.
To add your display as a source, click on the + button in the Sources module again. This time select “Display Capture Device” from the dropdown menu.
I’m going to name this source “Desktop” and select OK.
Next, you’ll see the Properties dialog for your desktop. Here you can select which display device you want to broadcast in the case that you have multiple monitors. You’re also given the option to crop the display. I leave the crop at none.
You may notice that the display window only shows a little corner of your display and now your webcam video is gone. Don’t panic. We’ll fix it.
Use the points around the red box in the display window to resize the desktop down to fit completely on the screen.
Great. Now our desktop fills the entire preview window. To bring the video back on top, just drag the desktop source down below the webcam.
Now we’ve got a usable feed! Let’s do one more thing though.
You may notice that in the “Audio Mixer” module, I’ve been assigned a default audio device called “Mic/Aux”. That’s the built-in microphone on my Mac and it doesn’t sound very good at all.
I’ve got a better microphone and I’d rather use that - so let’s add one more source.
In the Sources menu, click on the + icon, and this time select “Audio Input Capture” as the device type.
I’m going to name this one “Desk Mic” and hit OK
In the properties window that pops up for the new Desk Mic, I’m going to select my audio interface as the device. Your environment is likely different, so select what’s appropriate for you. There’s nothing wrong with using the built-in mic that you have. If you have something better though, you can definitely get better quality.
Here we are. Now we have our basic sources set up for our first “Scene”.
The audio mixer is, as it sounds - a mixer for your audio devices.
In the example above my system was preconfigured with my built-in microphone named “Mic/Aux”. I decided, that since I have a better mic I’d rather use that.
Now take a look at the “Audio Mixer” module next to the “Sources” module at the bottom of the application. You can see that we have 2 devices in there. There’s one fader for the “Mic/Aux” input, and there’s another fader for the “Desk Mic” that we just added.
Let’s think about what’s going on here for a second. I’ve got two microphones being picked up at the same time. That’s probably not going to sound very good at all! Before I forget, let's take that Mic/Aux fader and turn it all the way down. We don’t want to use that.
Imagine the ways in which this could be useful. Perhaps you’re recording a podcast with 4 people and each one of those people has their own microphone. You can add each of those microphones as individual sources in OBS and then use this mixer to adjust the volume of each.
Scenes are nothing more than collections of all the things we just set up. You might want lots of scenes. Imagine you’re recording a public service announcement and you have 2 camera sources at different angles. You’re going to need a way to transition between those two different sets of sources.
We started with the default scened named “Scene” and customized it so that we could deliver a software learning type broadcast.
For the sake of example, let’s pretend that I don’t always want my webcam video to be in the bottom right of the feed. Maybe at times that gets in the way of some of the material I want to present.
No worries, let's just make a new scene and move that video over to the other side.
Instead of recreating all our sources from scratch, we can just copy our existing scene by right-clicking on the title and then selecting “Duplicate”.
I’m just going to name this new scene “Left Side” and hit OK.
Now, with the “Left Side” scene selected in the Scenes module - I’m simply going to drag my camera video over to the left side of the frame.
Ok. Cool. Now we have our settings set and our sources all set up and 2 scenes we can use to deliver our material to the hoards of our screaming fans.
Now we’re all set up to send our stream into the world. There's just one more step between us and the adoration of our screaming fans. We’re going to set up a Facebook Live post to publish to. I’ll use Facebook Live for this example. You’ll find Youtube Live and Twitch are very similar.
First, log in to Facebook from your web browser, and start a new post. At the bottom right of your new post, click on the ‘more’ icon (...)
Select “Live Video” from the menu of available options.
This will bring you to the Facebook LIve Producer page.
The first thing we need to do on this page is set the privacy of our post to “Only Me”. This way we can test our stream as our viewers will see it before we actually open it up to the world. You may also want to open it up to a trusted set of friends or colleagues to help you test before an important broadcast.
With our privacy set - we can now link OBS to Facebook Live. To do that we’ll need what’s called a Stream Key. To get your stream key, select “Stream Keys” from the dropdown box.
This will reveal the unique key for your Facebook Live video stream. Copy this key to your clipboard, and then we’ll jump back over into OBS to link the two systems together.
Open up the settings panel in OBS again, and this time fire up the “Stream” settings menu.
Select Facebook Live as the service and copy your key into the “Stream Key” input box. You can paste the key with <CMD>/<CTRL> + V. Click OK to save your settings.
Great. Now we have OBS and Facebook Live configured to communicate with each other. The one last step is to click the “Start Streaming” button and review your video on the Facebook Publisher screen. Your OBS feed should be mirrored to a little window in the bottom right corner of the Facebook Publisher window. If your satisfied that your stream is coming through, you can hit the “Go Live Now” button and your Live Feed will be posted to your Facebook wall.
Remember, that in one of the earlier steps we set the privacy of this post to “Only Me”. This means that once your video goes live - only you will be able to see it on your Facebook page. You can use this as an opportunity to triple check your settings before opening it up with the world. You can use another browser tab or your phone to look at your Facebook Wall. Your live stream will be your newest post.
If you would like to stop here, you can click on the “Only Me” button on the Facebook Live Publisher window and open up your feed as wide an audience as is appropriate for your project!
… There’s one more thing I want to show you though.
One of the first things we did after opening up OBS was to turn off the “Studio Mode” button. This was to simplify the interface so that I could help you understand the core concepts of the Open Broadcaster Software. Now that you probably have a good idea about what’s going on, let’s turn it back on and make some use of it.
Open up your OBS window, and click the “Studio Mode” button. Your preview feed will be split into two sides, preview and program.
The side on the right, the Program side - is the feed that you are sending to Facebook. That’s what people on the other end are seeing.
In our example, we have 2 scenes. One has our webcam on the right side of our desktop and the other on the left. Imagine though, that you have many scenes that you want to cycle through throughout your broadcast.
You’ll notice that when I click on the “Left Side” scene in OBS now, it only activates in the left - preview side of OBS. This is a staging area. This side of the application is not being streamed to Facebook. The point here is that you are able to cycle through your scenes and preview them live alongside your currently running program feed. This way you can queue up a transition between scenes so that it comes across seamlessly to your viewers. When you’re satisfied and you want the Preview window to overtake the Program window and be sent to your stream - simply click the “Transition” button.
Now we’ve switched scenes and our viewers are watching the feed with the webcam on the left side of the screen! That’s all there is to it!
Be mindful that if you are sharing your screen on your feed your viewers can see everything you do! It might be a good time to disable your notifications and shut down your instant messengers! If you have a second display - it would be a good idea to keep your OBS window on that.
This article gets you up and running with OBS and Facebook Live. We’ve explored the interface of OBS, set it’s general settings so they are optimized for Facebook, set up some sources, grouped them into scenes. We then broadcast our live stream and seamlessly transitioned between scenes to adjust the position of our webcam against our desktop.
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You might also be interested in this article about how I get stuff done.