How to Stream PC Games on Twitch

twitchlogo

You’ve built your gaming PC, and now you want to start streaming on Twitch. We’re here to help. (If you haven’t built yourself a streaming PC, read our Guide to Building a PC for Game Streaming.)

This quick guide should take you from a streaming novice to confident broadcaster.

For these purposes, we’re going to use free streaming software, Online Broadcasting Software (OBS). There are many other software options out there, including XSplit and NVIDIA’s ShadowPlay.

IMPORTANT: There are two different versions of OBS: Original (Windows-only), and Multiplatform (Windows/Mac/Linux), rebuilt from the ground up. This guide walks you through both versions, one at a time. First, we walk through the original, Windows-only version. Scroll down this article to find the walkthrough for OBS Multiplatform.

Original OBS (Windows-only)

Step 1: Download and Install OBS

First, download original OBS (the Windows-only version) from obsproject.com and install it. (Once again, scroll down to see instructions for Multiplatform OBS.)

Once installed, you’ll first see a screen like this:

OBS-image01

On the bottom left you’ll see boxes for “Scenes” and “Sources.”

Think of “scenes” more like “screenshots” to switch between as necessary. For example, you can have one scene for your gameplay and webcam feed, and one scene for your AFK screen that you can easily switch to if you need to go AFK.

“Sources” are your sources of information, such as your gameplay video feed, your webcam feed, or some custom text. You put together various sources as you see fit to create your scenes.

We’ll get to these momentarily. For now, let’s configure our settings.

Step 2: Open Up Settings

OBS-image02

Most settings are pretty straightforward, such as configuring your microphone source or setting hotkeys. If you’re streaming, you may just want a mute hotkey, but it’s likely you’ll stick to using voice activation/constant microphone for talking to your chat members.

The most important settings you’ll need to adjust before you start are under “Broadcast Settings.”

Step 3: Configure Broadcast Settings

OBS-image03

Select “Streaming Service” and change this to your service of choice. For this tutorial, we’re streaming to Twitch. You may choose to stream elsewhere, such as Hitbox.

Next, change the FMS URL to an appropriate server — one that’s close to you. As I live in England, I’ll choose London, UK.

To stream to any website you’ll need to fill in the Play Path/Stream Key field. Think of this as a password — don’t show this key to anyone!

To find your stream key for Twitch, log in to your account, click the arrow next to your name, and select Dashboard. Under Dashboard you’ll have Live, Editing, Activity, Stats, and Stream Key. Go to Stream Key and hit “Show Key.” Copy and paste this into the Play Path/Stream Key field.

You can also change your local recording destination here, if you want to record. Be aware that recording will potentially lower your performance, and use up HDD space quickly.

Next up, we’ll configure our video and audio settings.

Step 4: Configure Video and Audio Settings

OBS-image04

Start by going to video and changing the resolution to whatever broadcasting resolution you desire. I’m going to leave mine at 1080p.

The same applies to FPS. I’m going to leave mine at 30, but you may want 60. Twitch does not support over 60.

If you find that your stream is not performing well, you may need to adjust some combination of your resolution, FPS, or bitrate (explained below). In our testing, we’ve found that for faster-paced games, downscaling to 720p and setting the FPS to 60 may look better. For slower-paced games, no downscaling (staying at 1080p) and setting FPS to 30 may be the better choice.

The video adapter is the adapter that you play the content through, meaning if you’re playing your game through your NVIDIA GPU, leave it on your NVIDIA GPU. This is not the hardware responsible for encoding. (We’ll cover that in a second.)

The audio tab just lets you change the recording device and delay of the audio.

The next section we want to look at is “Encoding.”

Step 5: Configure Encoding Settings

This is where we’ll choose our encoder and bitrates. For this example I’m going to use QuickSync to encode with my CPU’s integrated GPU. I’m setting my bitrate to the maximum Twitch will allow (3500kbps), and set my audio bitrate to 160 kbps, the maximum audio bitrate on Twitch for AAC.

It’s that simple to change your encoder to one of your hardware encoders in OBS.

Once again, if you find that your stream is not performing well enough, try lowering your video bitrate, or some combination of resolution, FPS, and bitrate. For example, your stream might perform much better by lowering the bitrate to 3000, 2500, or even 2000. Note that you sacrifice some image quality whenever you lower your bitrate, but that’s preferable to a choppy stream.

Step 6: Add Sources

Now that we’ve configured our settings, let’s add some sources.

Right click the sources box and click “add.” Here you can add your gameplay footage, some text, or a webcam.

For Game Capture, the game will need to be running beforehand. When you add content, you’ll get sizing options – for this tutorial I’m just going to stretch my Witcher 3 window to the whole screen:

OBS-image06

And if I click Preview, I can see my preview, shown below. (There’s no sound from my speakers because the sound stops on the game while I have it minimized.)

OBS-image07

Step 7: Start Streaming

Time to test the stream. Click “Start Streaming.” I’ve even opened up Task Manager for you here so you can take a look at the system usage:

OBS-image08

I’m able to stream at 3500kbps video on my rather meagre i5-4430 and GTX 760 with a minimal impact.

To add a webcam to this scene, right click the Sources box again and this time select “Add Video Capture Device,” select your webcam from the dropdown list, and position it accordingly. You would also go through the same process to add video from a capture card.

An extra note from me personally is that if you want to stream a game in windowed mode, capture the screen region. It’s a bit tricky to set up, but especially with some indie games and applications, using game capture doesn’t always work particularly well.

If it’s your first time streaming, I would strongly recommend you record yourself and get a friend to listen in first. It’s very difficult to make sure the microphone and game audio levels are balanced. Having an extra set of ears can help tremendously for determining if your mic is too quiet or your game is too loud.

Multiplatform OBS (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Step 1: Download and Install OBS

First, download OBS Multiplatform from obsproject.com and install it.

Once installed, you’ll first see a screen like this:

multiplatform-01

On the bottom left you’ll see boxes for “Scenes” and “Sources.”

Think of “scenes” more like “screenshots” to switch between as necessary. For example, you can have one scene for your gameplay and webcam feed, and one scene for your AFK screen that you can easily switch to if you need to go AFK.

“Sources” are your sources of information, such as your gameplay video feed, your webcam feed, or some custom text. You put together various sources as you see fit to create your scenes.

We’ll get to these momentarily. For now, let’s configure our settings.

Step 2: Open Up Settings

multiplatform-02

Most settings are pretty straightforward, such as configuring your microphone source or setting hotkeys. If you’re streaming, you may just want a mute hotkey, but it’s likely you’ll stick to using voice activation/constant microphone for talking to your chat members.

The most important settings you’ll need to adjust before you start are under “Broadcast Settings.”

Step 3: Configure Stream Settings

multiplatform-03

Select “Service” and change this to your service of choice. For this tutorial, we’re streaming to Twitch. You may choose to stream elsewhere, such as Hitbox.

Next, change the FMS URL to an appropriate server — one that’s close to you. As I live in England, I’ll choose London, UK.

To stream to any website you’ll need to fill in the Play Path/Stream Key field. Think of this as a password — don’t show this key to anyone!

To find your stream key for Twitch, log in to your account, click the arrow next to your name, and select Dashboard. Under Dashboard you’ll have Live, Editing, Activity, Stats, and Stream Key. Go to Stream Key and hit “Show Key.” Copy and paste this into the Play Path/Stream Key field.

Step 4: Configure Video/Audio Settings

multiplatform-04

Start by changing the resolution to whatever broadcasting resolution you desire. I’m going to leave mine at 1080p. The same applies to FPS – I’m going to leave mine at 30, but you may want 60. Twitch does not support over 60. Leave the renderer on Direct3D 11 unless you’re on Linux or Mac OS.

If you find that your stream is not performing well, you may need to adjust some combination of your resolution, FPS, or bitrate (explained below). In our testing, we’ve found that for faster-paced games, downscaling to 720p and setting the FPS to 60 may look better. For slower-paced games, no downscaling (staying at 1080p) and setting FPS to 30 may be the better choice.

The video adapter is the adapter that plays the content you’re streaming, meaning if you’re playing your game through your NVIDIA GPU, leave it on your NVIDIA GPU. This is not the hardware responsible for encoding. (We’ll cover that in a second.)

Step 5: Configure Output Settings

multiplatform-05

multiplatform-06

This is where we’ll choose our encoder and bitrates. For this example I’m going to use Quick Sync, set my bitrate to the maximum Twitch will allow (3500kbps), and set my audio to AAC 160 kbps. To change the encoder, you’ll need to change the “Output Mode” to Advanced.

Under “Output,” you can also change your local recording destination and file type. That’s up to you and rests on whether you want to record to your PC while you stream or not.

It’s that simple to change your encoder to one of your hardware encoders in OBS. Note that NVIDIA’s encoder NVENC/ShadowPlay is only supported on the Windows-only client — not the Multiplatform version shown here.

Once again, if you find that your stream is not performing well enough, try lowering your video bitrate, or some combination of resolution, FPS, and bitrate. For example, your stream might perform much better by lowering the bitrate to 3000, 2500, or even 2000. Note that you sacrifice some image quality whenever you lower your bitrate, but that’s preferable to a choppy stream.

Step 6: Add Sources

Now that we’ve configured our settings, let’s add some sources.

On the main OBS screen, right click the sources box and click “add.” Here you can add your gameplay footage, some text, or a webcam.

For Game Capture, the game will need to be running beforehand.

multiplatform-07

And if I click Preview, I can see my preview – there’s no sound from my speakers because the sound stops on the game while I have it minimized.

multiplatform-08

And if I click “Start Streaming” – I’ve even opened up Task Manager for you here so you can take a look at the system usage:

multiplatform-09

I’m able to stream at my 3500kbps video with 160kbps audio on my rather meagre i5 4430 and GTX 760 with a minimal impact.

To add a webcam to this scene, right click sources again and this time select “Add Video Capture Device.” Select your webcam from the dropdown list, and positioning it accordingly. You would also go through the same process to add video from a capture card.

An extra note from me personally is that if you want to stream a game in windowed mode, capture the screen region. It’s a bit tricky to set up, but especially with indie games and some applications, using game capture doesn’t always work particularly well.

If it’s your first time streaming, I would strongly recommend you record yourself and get a friend to listen in. It’s very difficult to make sure the microphone and game audio levels are balanced. Having an extra set of ears to tell you if your mic is quiet or your game is loud can help tremendously.

That’s it!

Hopefully, this tutorial will help you get set up with OBS, and we hope you have fun streaming!

  • lolicatgrill

    AMD GPU users that support VCE (GCN cards), there’s a build of OBS that supports VCE (AMD’s codec from its gaming evolved software)

    https://obsproject.com/forum/threads/obs-branch-with-amd-vce-support.13996/

    It works on 16.1 Crimson, I’m not sure why it says it doesn’t support it in the link though

    • Matthew Zehner

      Thanks for the information!

  • Richard Stanway

    OBS dev here. Couple of small points – while Intel QSV is great for offloading video encoding, at the low bitrates that streaming uses, the quality is much worse than using x264. Same with NVENC. Using x264 if your CPU is strong enough will give much better quality. Intel QSV and NVENC are also a bit trickier to set up and / or unstable if you don’t have the right driver configuration / OS.

    “Be aware that recording will potentially lower your performance” – the recording is basically a dump of network data to disk so there’s very little performance impact and the file will only be as big as you set your bitrate.

    • Matthew Zehner

      Thanks for letting us know!