I get asked this a fair bit, but before we continue, I need to specify that my settings are because I have different requirements than your average user:
- These settings are inappropriate for streaming
- They are for recording
- See #1 again, followed by #2.
I apologize if you’re a streamer who ended up here because of Google (HA, that’s unlikely, but possible), these settings are not for you; however, if you’re looking to record content and do it in a high quality, these settings should help, but, we’re going to talk about why I chose my settings so that you can have some better understanding of how to set OBS up to meet your requirements. It’s highly unlikely you’ll really want to duplicate my settings for most games unless you’re into the same sort of games I am – because being able to record those games is where these requirements came from.
Later parts of this will assume you’re using Windows. If you’re not using Windows, you probably already know where most of the things I’m talking about are located, so, adjust accordingly.
Bit-Rate: 10,000-15,000 Kbps
Now, you may be wondering: is that it? Yeah, actually, that’s really about it, but in order to explain why I came to that range, you have to realize that I don’t just play just the titles that’ve come up on the site. It should be obvious, of course, but I’m actually into a wide variety of things including flight simulators and so forth.
Even in a far more arcade title like Project Wingman, it should be a given that targets can be incredibly small and hard to identify – hence why markers assist assist players in informing them where enemies are, even though they might only be a pixel or so big at 1080. In a title which isn’t so much an arcade flight experience, but instead, a true blue study simulator or a sim which pushes away from being ultra-lite or game-y can easily present targets which are little more than dots on your screen.
And for me, those dots are important. They can be a crucial amount of information, therefore, if the bitrate is too low, it’s far too easy for for one of these dots to get missed entirely. Hence, we have the start of our range: 10,000 Kbps. For most titles where you aren’t having to pick out literally pixels, this usually will get the job done and be plenty crispy with detail. For most FPS titles, this will give you incredibly good quality, but, that’s not quite enough. We need to go higher.
Pay attention to the upper right part of the above after engaging the first target: you should see multiple planes in the extreme distance. One of them is even going in on an attack run against another! In this particular recording, I was using 12,000 Kbps.
Now, that being said, I need to point something out: we’re still pretty well on the low end here. If I load up the video editing software I use, it has a setting for a maximum bitrate that starts out at 80,000 – I’m assuming Kbps but I’ve never finaggled with that setting as it’s unnecessary for any of my edits where the source material typically will rise up to a max of 15,000 Kbps when I am recording something like DCS and absolutely need to be sure that pixels, clouds, and so forth, clearly are visible and not consumed by the bitrate being too low.
Now, there is a second advantage to having a high bitrate that I haven’t really gone over yet, and that is that the higher the bitrate, the better your video will look in situations where there’s a lot of change going on in your recording. In twitchy FPS games and flight sims, this is where we often see the advantage: you could be staring at the earth for a minute in a flight simulator, then pull up and suddenly be confronted with nothing other than blue sky.
With low bitrates, you’ll see visible chunks of pixels that take a greater amount of time to change to what they should have been displaying. I’m no expert on systems of compression, but I imagine it boils down to: don’t change what you don’t have to, ergo, in scenes where there are low amounts of change, lower bit rates do better. This is most visible with games like Devil May Cry where the player character and the enemy they might be targeting are typically the only things moving that significantly in the scene: the background remains largely static, and therefore, doesn’t need a large bitrate to buff out those chunks of pixels. In fact, for games as old as Devil May Cry 3 with how I run it at 1280×960, I can drop down to around 5,000 Kbps and there’s very little loss in quality that could actually distort or alter the impact of the recording.
None of my other settings particularly matter. It should be obvious that a higher resolution will require a higher bitrate to adequately be displayed. My settings are for 1080p: 1920×1080 at 60 FPS, so you should adjust your bitrate according to your own demands and the nature of your setup.
Instead, the other things that matter are mostly hardware and software related. In the hardware realm, I have a capture card, but it is only used for recording consoles. That said, playing and recording off the same machine is one of the more stressful things to put on a machine during its operating hours – so if you’re looking to get into recording content, or even just streaming, I really recommend you have not one, but two PCs. Let one of them handle the recording and the other handle the playing. It’s more opportunity for something to go wrong, sure, but like a gatling gun, it spreads the wear across the multiple devices (or barrels) used in the process, effectively increasing the mean time between failures if perhaps complicating the actual process of trouble-shooting those errors.
I firmly recommend if you get a capture card that you get an actual internal capture card. USB devices have never worked for myself, and when other people have used them who are close to me, these devices have often come with a large amount of issues, either because they simply don’t work, or again, they simply don’t work, if they were going to work, they won’t with your PC because… They’re not getting enough power, the USB slot isn’t good enough, or hell, the device might not actually even recognize that it is plugged into a slot which should meet its requirements because you’re already using up too much bandwidth with the USBs.
Yeah, just, trust me, they’re more hassle than they’re worth. That said, be careful as certain 4k capable devices can also eat up the PCIe bandwidth on your motherboard. If you’re looking to get a capture card, you really should do some research both into the capture card you’re looking at itself and your specific rig to see if they’re compatible.
Next up is HDCP: if you’re recording off of a console and the device isn’t a Nintendo Switch, you will undoubtedly run into some issues because of HDCP. HDCP is copyright protection, or basically, an anti-piracy measure which gets in the way of anyone who’s actually using a capture card for it’s intended purposes.
And, seriously, these companies actually think they can “protect” their products (or more specifically, their profit margins). They can’t. You can’t stop a pirate, and you sure as hell can’t stop fair use, either, though they‘ll damn well try.
I would’ve ‘stolen’ (that is, taken a clip for fair use) from one of the old anti-piracy clips we all know and love, but instead, let’s illustrate the impotence of exclusivity and stick it to Bezos while I use this to prove a point: companies like Bandai block recording on a lot of Gundam games and a few of their other titles on PS4. If you were wanting to actually record them, you’d need a device which strips HDCP from the source before it’s routed into your capture card.
Now, if you’ve never ran into “Gameplay recording is blocked” on the PS4, count your graces that you don’t have the sort of palette for video games which runs you into this, but that certainly shouldn’t stop anyone with the means and resources to go beyond the PS4’s internal recording capabilities:
If you’re wondering what the means are, though, in my usage, it’s an HDfury Integral 2. You can get similar devices from HDFury’s website, hdfury.com – and in general, these devices are great. Unfortunately, their English speaking customer support is not as good as it used to be when I originally purchased my old HDMI splitter, but their products make up for it by being both quality and enduring. In fact, the extra little bit of text that’s showing up in the above is really just the Integral 2 spitting out information about the source it’s splitting. That goes away after a short period of time, so don’t worry: it’s not there all the time and lasts for about one to two minutes after booting up the source.
Finally, there’s one other trick in my book: for almost every single webm that is hosted on the site, they were recorded while I was listening to audio from outside the game, typically music through Winamp, but occasionally I also record while I’m playing with friends. Since they don’t want to be internet celebrity’s for their outbursts, and I don’t want to go making any of my friends famous – or infamous – either, I use software called Virtual Audio Cable. You can get it here and this is definitely one of those things that I recommend most any hobbyist or power user of a computer have.
In fact, if you’ve read my Doom Eternal review, you may know that I have beef with DE for assuming it has a direct monopoly on the sound device which it plays on.
Virtual Audio Cable is the best way to bypass that. The methodology is simple: after installing Virtual Audio Cable, in your playback devices, set CABLE Input as your default audio device. This will route all your standard through the VAC – and now you can’t hear anything in Windows. Now, go to your recording devices and find CABLE Output. Right click and go to Properties, then move over to the Listen tab. Tick ‘Listen to this device,’ and select from the drop-down your preferred playback device.
From here, as long as your other programs allow you to select which audio device you use – for example, Discord and Teamspeak both allow you to select your output device, or any suitably decent media player like Winamp, go and select the audio device that you use with these programs normally rather than your Windows default device. This will allow you to listen to your friends or your music without actually having them stop you from recording – or having to mute them in order to get your recording done.
And that about wraps things up as far as all the setup I use to record.
P.S., some of you may be wondering why I chose that particular clip from the series Invincible, and the reason is largely because I had it lying around for an article I was going to do regarding Genshin and the major issues of contention I have with it (namely, the lolis). I’m not really sure I even want to write that, so to stop it from going to waste (because it’s an excellent scene that jabs at people who deserve it), I used it here to illustrate that people can and will engage in behavior companies who own said media will likely consider ‘piracy’ regardless of whether or not that was mine or anyone else’s intention, their real definition of ‘piracy’ being any opportunity to see their content outside of their specific services, but regardless, they are powerless to stop any user who has familiarity with what their computer is capable of as a device – and really, the sky is the limit.