Introduction: Screen Capture for Instructors With OBS

In this tutorial, I will go over the popular screen capture software OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and will create something similar to what is seen above. This software is extremely popular with video gamers and streamers due to its ability to create "scenes" and to easily flip through different screen set ups (see above). Although the majority of users don't use this tool for education or instructional purposes, instructors and educators can benefit greatly due to OBS's free price tag and flexibility.

This tutorial will be done from the perspective of a MAC user. Although OBS serves both PC and MAC users, there may be subtle differences between the two platforms so keep that in mind if you are using a PC.

Step 1: Download and Install OBS

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Download OBS from:

Install OBS like you would any other software application.

Step 2: Open and Familiarize Yourself With OBS

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When you first open OBS, you will probably see an infinity mirror phenomenon like the one above. This is just OBS capturing your Desktop which is capturing itself ad infinitum. Try to ignore this and familiarize yourself with the panels on the bottom labeled "Scenes", "Sources", and "Mixer". This is where we will do 90% of our work. On your first opening, you should only have one scene and one source (Display Capture). Don't worry about these just yet. First we need to set up our settings before we start customizing and recording.

*If the infinity mirror phenomenon gives you a headache or is too annoying, click "Display Capture" under "Sources" and then click the minus sign to delete the source.

Step 3: Set Your Output Settings

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Click the "Settings" button on the bottom right and then click "Output" in the new popup window. In this window, we are concerned with the "Recording Path", "Recording Quality", and "Recording Format" settings. Set them to the parameters below.

Recording Path: Click "Browse" andselect a folder that you are comfortable having large amounts of data. My path is set to a "Movies" folder in my user directory.

Recording Quality: Indistinguishable Quality, Large file size

Recording Format: mp4

Step 4: Set Your Audio Settings

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In the same "Settings" window click the "Audio" tab and double check your "Desktop Audio Device" and "Mic/Auxiliary Audio Device" information.

Desktop Audio Device: This should be set at "Default" for PC users or "Disabled" for MAC users.

MAC users will not be able to capture Desktop audio (audio coming from applications like your browser or a media player) due to hardware restrictions. This is only possible through a virtual audio device like Soundflower

Mic/Auxiliary Audio Device: This should be set at "Default" or "Built-in" if you are using a mic that isn't external to your computer. If you are using an external mic, click the dropdown menu and select your device.

Step 5: Set Your Video Settings

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In the same "Settings" window, click the "Video" tab. In this tab, we are concerned with the "Base Resolution", "Output Resolution" and "Common FPS Values".

Output Resolution: Match with your "Base Resolution". If your "Base Resolution" is higher than 2K, downsize to 1920x1080 or 1280x720

Common FPS Values: 30 fps

Finally, click "Ok" to confirm your settings changes.

*Note that the more you increase your resolution and frame rate, the higher the workload on your computer. If you decide you need 60fps at 2K resolution, be prepared for reduced performance.

Step 6: Set Up Scene 1

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By default, OBS already has a scene named "Scene" with one "Display Capture" source. If you haven't already, delete the "Display Capture" source by selecting it and then clicking the minus sign at the bottom. Next, right-click "Scene" and rename it to "Scene 1".

Now we have an empty scene named "Scene 1" like the one above and we are ready to start customizing.

Step 7: Scene 1 - Create a Window Capture

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Click the plus sign under "Sources" and select "Window Capture". Select the window you would like to capture and click "Ok". You can now drag and manipulate your capture in the OBS preview window. Arrange the new capture to your liking by positioning it and/or scaling it by clicking in the middle of the capture or using the red anchors.

Step 8: Scene 1 - Create a Video Capture Device

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This step only applies to those with video cameras (built-in or external).

Click the plus sign below "Sources" and select "Video Capture Device". Select your appropriate device via the "Device" drop-down and select a "Resolution" of 640X480. Click "Ok".

Just like our window capture, the video capture can be positioned or scaled to your liking. Generally, try to keep your video capture in the corners when it is combined with other windows or media.

Now you have a fully functioning scene with both a window capture and a video capture device!

Step 9: Create Scene 2

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Click the plus sign under "Scenes" and name your new scene "Scene 2". Notice that when you click "Scene 2" your OBS goes black. This is because we haven't added any sources to the scene.

Step 10: Scene 2 - Add Video Capture Device

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Just like we did with Scene 1, we will add a "Video Capture Device" to Scene 2 by clicking the plus sign under "Sources" and selecting "Video Capture Device". Select the same device, but for the resolution, aim for something higher like 1280X720. This scene will feature just your face so don't be shy!

Step 11: Record Your Video

Before you click "Start Recording", it's important to remember that you will need to click between scenes while you are recording in order to flip between views. In this setup, the viewers will not see you interact with OBS at all and will only see the scenes that you set up! This prevents the "fiddling" that a lot of instructors end up capturing while they are lecturing or demonstrating.

When you are done recording, click "Stop Recording" inside of OBS and navigate to where you told OBS to save your videos. You should be able to create something similar to the video shown above. You can now take your video and edit/upload to a service like YouTube or Vimeo.


Swansong (author)2017-03-16

That seems like a useful tool :)