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How to set up your PC for streaming to Twitch/Hitbox/etc.

I've been meaning to put this guide together for a while now, and hopefully it covers 80-95% of the normal stream configuration. I'll be adding to it by request, so if there's anything missing or not clear, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to get you what you need.

First, the majority of streamers these days are running either XSplit, or OpenBroadCaster (often referred to as OBS). Because the latter is free, it's the one I use, and for the purpose of this guide, it's the one that I'll be documenting the process on.

Installation

You can download OBS at the following link: https://obsproject.com/ <-- You should also donate to help support the project. These guys are awesome.

The installation is very straight forward, so I won't post any screenshots or details here-- simply double click, hit next, agree to the terms, and let the installation run.

Once the installation completes, RIGHT CLICK the icon and Run As Administrator-- and this is because some of the capture methods, specifically the "Game Capture" which we'll cover later, sometimes requires OBS to be running as an Administrator on your machine. After you open OBS, you should see a screen similar to this: 

Adding a Webcam

The first thing we'll add is your webcam. This assumes that your webcam is already connected and any required drivers for it are installed before you attempt to add at in OBS. 

Right click in the white space below the word "Sources" and select "Video Capture Device", as indicated below, and name it something appropriate (like "Webcam"). Keeping the Sources named accurately will help later when adding/removing things from your overall stream display. This will make sense a little later once you've seen it in action. 

On the next screen at the very top, you'll see a drop down menu that should display your webcam. In the event that it doesn't, select it, find your webcam, and select it. If your webcam is NOT listed at all in the drop down menu, there's a good chance it's not currently being recognized on your PC (not just from within OBS), in which case you'll need to make sure it's connected, and possibly reinstall any required software it needs. 

For the basic webcam configuration, you can leave most of the options there as the default. If you so desire, you can change the resolution to better fit the capabilities of your webcam, but that's up to you. In my case, I'll leave ALL the defaults selected and click "OK". This is what my screen looks like:

Now you should be back on the main screen, with the single Source "Webcam" added under the global "Scene". This doesn't need to make a ton of sense just yet-- we'll clarify once we have a few more of the pieces in place that help to use as examples. 

To test to make sure your webcam source is working, leave it checked, and hit the "Preview Stream" button. If you're really, REALLY lucky, the webcam will display an INCREDIBLY GOOD LOOKING NY GIANTS / NY YANKEES FAN, as shown:

And there you have it, the webcam is now operational on your stream. To get a feel for how you would size and position the webcam's captured video, click on "Edit Scene" and a red box should appear around the full screen webcam video in the top pane. Click and drag any of the corners to resize it as desired, and click in the center and drag it to relocate. 

NOTE: Most streamers keep their webcams somewhat small and to the side for their main "Gaming Scene". Again, we'll cover the Scenes in more depth later. 

Adding an Overlay/Image

Now if you're just starting out, chances are you don't have a really well done, artsy looking overlay image to help enhance the quality and aesthetics of your stream. That's fine, if you don't and you have no image you'd like to be displayed or embedded, you can skip this section and come back to it when you do. 

Go back to the whitespace below "Sources" and right click-- selecting "Add --> Image". 

Just like with the webcam, you'll have to give it a name (and again, keep it accurate!), and then click OK. From there, you'll simply browse to your image file, and select it.

 

Click OK, and you'll be back at the main screen. To test that the image is added, select "Preview Stream" again, and you should now have your resized and repositioned webcam, and your image (in its original size). With an overlay, you'll need to reposition a couple of things to make sure that it doesn't block too much of your screen/game, that your webcam fits in its appropriate location, etc. Keep this in mind. 

Adding your Game

Okay, so now that you've got the basics of what a "Source" is and how to add one, let's go through the same steps but select "Game Capture". 

NOTE: Some games and some PCs have a hard time with "Game Capture" and may result in a black screen. This can be due to the need for OBS to be running as an administrator. If this happens to you and running OBS as an admin does not resolve your problem, you may have to use the Window Capture option, which is very similar in its configuration. 

Before we go through these steps, make sure you have LAUNCHED THE GAME YOU WANT TO CAPTURE first. The game needs to be running for it to show up in the menu you'll see in just a minute. 

Using the same steps as we have before, right click in the white space below "Sources" and this time select Game Capture. On this screen you'll once again find a drop down menu, and within it, it'll show the currently running applications on your computer. Find your game listed, but before you click okay, take note of the following two options:

  • Stretch image to screen
  • Ignore aspect ratio 

If you run your game, specifically CSGO, in a 4:3 resolution and you want to make sure that the stream is full screen, you'll need to check these two boxes. The first one does as it sounds, and the second one ignores the ratio of 4:3 and will stretch it to make it 16:9, if that's what you're streaming at. We'll cover this a bit later, but it's something to note now. Once completed, click OK. 

When you first hit the "Preview Stream" button, it'll show you the webcam, it'll show you the image you've added, but it'll likely show only a black screen until you tab back into your game. If it says "Cannot find window" in the bottom left of the OBS main screen, first try relaunching the game, then make sure you are running OBS as an administrator. 

Layering the Sources 

If you've followed along so far, you'll have the following as your main screen:

The important thing to understand is that each one of those Sources is essentially a layer-- and that when two Sources occupy the same space on your screen, the one ABOVE the other will be displayed. You can think of this like having your mousepad on your table, and then putting a picture on it, and then covering the picture with your hand. If you want the picture to be seen, you have to put it on top of your hand. Weird analogy, but hopefully that gets the thought across. 

For your webcam and image to display ON TOP OF your game, you'll want to move your game DOWN (or the image/webcam UP). To do this, simply right click on the Source and go to "Order" to make the desired adjustment. 

OBS Scenes

What we've configured so far is a basic set up to allow you to have your webcam, an overlay, and your game streamed to the world. These Sources, as we've configured, fall into the default "Scene". Scenes are essentially a collection of Sources. If you've ever watched a high quality streamer who goes from their in-game perspective to something like a "Changing Screens" or "Be Right Back" display, they are changing from their main Scene to an alternate, which has a different image as one of the Sources. 

This is NOT required for you to get online and get streaming, but it's something I wanted to mention so you have a better understanding of some additional things you can build out once you get more comfortable with OBS to deliver a higher quality streaming experience to your viewers. 

Configuring OBS Settings - Preparing for Broadcast!

You have what you want to show the world ready-- so now we'll step through the settings within OBS that you need to configure to get the stream out to the world. 

From the top menu of the main OBS screen, select Settings and choose Settings. The first category you'll be taken into is "General", and there's really nothing special here. Review the options if you'd like, but we'll move quickly along to the Encoding category. 

Encoding

Encoding is one that gets discussed a lot, as it's the area where you will set the bandwidth you are planning to use for your stream, and has major impacts on the quality of the stream, your overall network performance, and what kind of connectivity your viewers will need to have in order to watch you without constantly buffering (yes, this is both a streamer and stream viewer thing). The info I'm providing here is well researched, and most of it comes from the developers of OBS themselves, so please consider this a reliable source or information. 

For the new streamer, leaving x264 as the encoder is recommended. If you have certain hardware capable of the other options, I'll have posts on things like QuickSync (an Intel technology) that can help ease the burden of streaming from your PC, while maintaining stream quality.  

Leave CBR and CBR padding as set by default. The audio settings are generally fine as default as well, though sometimes streamers will increase the bitrate of their audio to sound a little better. I find this to be negligible, but that's my personal opinion. 

Now for the important part, the Max Bitrate, and Buffer Size. Your max bitrate should be NO MORE than 80% of your upload bandwidth, or 3500, whichever is LOWER. The higher your resolution (we'll see that in a minute), the more bandwidth it requires, and vice versa. 

The Buffer Size by default will map 1:1 to your Max Bitrate, and that is recommended to leave as it is. If you want higher quality, you CAN consider raising the buffer size, but this is a setting that can cause issues with buffering on the viewers end, as the buffer for them gets full, over and over. 

Broadcast Settings

Assuming you are planning to stream to the world at large, in this section you'll need to drop the menu down to select your streaming service. Twitch is obviously the biggest player in this space, but OBS supports a large number of others. For popularity's sake, I'll write this specifically to Twitch, but the majority of the configuration is the same regardless of who the hosting company is. 

These options are mostly self explanatory, so I'll bullet out only the important ones.

  • Mode: Live Stream
  • Streaming Service: Select Twitch from the drop down menu
  • FMS URL: Choose the location CLOSEST TO YOU to minimize network latency 
    • Sometimes you'll need to change this server if a particular location is having issues. Not super common, but it does happen from time to time.
  • Stream Key: This is the key provided by Twitch that associates this broadcast with YOUR user account. Login to Twitch and go to this URL (http://www.twitch.tv/broadcast/dashboard/streamkey) to retrieve your key, and then copy/paste it in this field. 
  • Auto-Reconnect: Leave checked

You may have noticed that when you selected Twitch from the drop down menu, you got blasted in the face with angry red text:

These are recommendations that we will follow when we get to the appropriate sections, so we can safely ignore those for now. 

Video

The first thing you should validate is that your GPU is listed in the Video Adapter field. Sometimes if you have an on board video option, it may show up as the preferred option, and you'll need to change this if it does. 

The resolution you want to stream at will depend on how much raw horsepower you have in your computer, as well as how much bandwidth you can give up to the streaming lords. The majority of streamers, using a relatively new monitor, will leave the "Custom" radio option selected with the 1920x1080 HD resolution configured. 

From there, they will "downscale" to 720P as shown in the screenshot below, with 30FPS, and the Lanczos filter, for the best balance between quality and performance. If you think your hardware can handle more, you can try the native, FULL HD resolution, as well as 60FPS. If your PC cannot handle this, you will be super laggy, and OBS will display panic-mode red text in the bottom left, letting you know that your CPU cannot handle the load you're throwing at it. 

Make sure all of your settings are applied, and click OK. 

Audio/Hotkeys

Not a lot happens in either of these two categories the majority of the time. You may want to configure Hotkeys to start and stop your stream, enable "Push to talk" instead of allowing OBS to freely capture your voice, etc. I don't personally use anything crazy there (aside from a Hotkey to end the stream), but I encourage you to spend a minute looking through the options to see if there's a convenience you'd like to take advantage of. 

Advanced

For advanced, there are a few things we'll need to change that Twitch prefers, as was suggested to us earlier. Most of the settings will remain as default, but the changes we'll need to make are to 

  • Encoding Profile - Set this to "main"
  • Keyframe Interval - Set this to "2"

The other setting that is commonly changed is the x264 CPU Preset, as highlighted in the image below. The "slower" you make this setting, the higher the resulting quality, but the more intensive it is on your processor-- and the difference between each setting is NOTICEABLY different in terms of the CPU cycles it uses. 

That's it!

Skipping QuickSync and the Microphone Noise gate, you're fully set up to being your streaming journey. There are obviously a lot things to learn and some additional things you can do, but I'd suggest starting with what is outlined here and testing things out, using the "Preview Stream" to get the layouts just right, and then streaming live to your desired website a few times to get a feel for the impact to your PC and your gaming experience, as well as the overall quality of the stream, and make any adjustments from there. 

Once you're ready to go, hit the "Start Stream", and off you go. I hope your channel is successful (but only if mine is first, because I still don't have a Sub button).

If you have any questions or comments, thoughts, insults, or otherwise, please leave a comment here on this thread-- and thanks for viewing! If you want to come check out my personal stream, which is always greatly appreciated, you can find me at http://www.twitch.tv/RyuCS

If you found this helpful, consider hitting the Donate button below. Donations of ANY SIZE are greatly appreciated.

-Ryu

RyuHow to, Streaming