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How to start streaming on Twitch using OBS

Struggling to get settled? We're here to help you with the basics

A monitor with Twitch on it Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

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Figuring out how to prepare a great Twitch streaming setup can be daunting if you’re new to audio or video production. However, it’s never been easier to get started—we promise you’ll have a solid foundation by the time you finish reading this article. Streaming can be broken down into three major parts: hardware setup, software and connectivity setup, and audience engagement. We’ll walk you through the basics of all three using Twitch and OBS Studio.

What hardware do I need to stream?

Image of desktop PC
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The NZXT Streaming PC+ is specifically built with streamers in mind.

If you want to stream on Twitch, you need a computer, of course. Technically, any PC will suffice (Windows, macOS, or Linux), but there is a floor for smooth streaming. Streaming works by capturing a video of your screen and then feeding it to an online connection. This is a very processor-heavy task, so the better your CPU, the smoother your stream can be.

Twitch recommends at least an Intel Core i5-4670 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and DirectX10 compatibility. However, this only covers running the Twitch stream and does not include the power needed to run your game and other apps in the background. For the best experience, we recommend at least an Intel Core i5-8500 CPU, 16GB of RAM, Windows 10, and an Nvidia GTX 970 GPU or greater top balance streaming, running a 3D game, and other apps. For Apple Silicon Macs, we recommend an M1 processor or better.

Your internet connection is at least as important as your computer hardware. You cannot stream if you do not have a stable internet connection. Twitch has a table of minimum bitrates for different screen resolutions, but in short, you need 4500 Kbps or better upload speed to stream at 1080p 30fps to Twitch.

Person looks at a microphone
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Blue Yeti X is our top pick for USB microphones thanks to its wide range of features.

You also need a good microphone so you can engage with your audience. Besides your PC, this is where you want to spend the biggest chunk of your budget. For beginners, anything between $30 and $150 should be the sweet spot. The Samson Go Mic is a great portable mic that clips onto your monitor for $40, so you won’t even need a mic stand. On the other end of the price range, the Rode NT-USB microphone has crisp, clear sound and is dead-simple to use. There are many other mics to choose from, but these stand a cut above the rest for quality, ease of use, and value.

When you’re streaming, you should use headphones. Not only do they cut off the game sound from reaching your microphone, but you can also use them to monitor what your audience can hear. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’ve muted yourself.

Not all streamers want to show their faces, but for those that do, a good webcam and a little ring light is a great start. This webcam is only about $30, and it’s a 1080p webcam with good low-light performance. You also want to make sure your room’s lighting is adequate, so get lots of ambient lighting and set up a ring light around your webcam so your face pops.

For console streamers, you will also need a capture card, like the Elgato HD60 S+. These act as the intermediary between your console and your PC, capturing the console’s video output and feeding it to your PC software.

How to get your software running

Screenshot of OBS Studio in Studio Mode
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

This is OBS Studio in Studio Mode, which allows you to transition between screens.

To stream to Twitch, you need capture software and the content you plan to stream. OBS Studio is an awesome video suite that can capture your PC’s screens, process them, and then upload them to Twitch’s server. It’s also free and open-source, so anybody can use it. Streamlabs and XSplit are other popular choices, but we’ll be covering OBS in this article.

First, make sure you’ve connected everything to your PC: webcam, microphone, capture card (if using a console), and headphones. Next, open up your content (let’s say it’s a game) and minimize it. Finally, open up OBS Studio and connect it to your Twitch account. Now you have all the inputs and outputs you’ll need for your stream.

1. Set up your inputs

Screenshot of Window Capture popup in OBS Studio
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

We recommend running games in borderless windowed and selecting the window in OBS Studio to ensure that it'll always capture the right content.

All of your inputs will be found under Sources. Just click on the plus sign to add them. You’ll want to capture a specific window rather than your entire screen so select Game Capture or Window Capture and create a new capture. Choose the window that corresponds to your game. You should see your game in the preview window in OBS.

You can change the size of your windows in your stream by clicking and dragging it in the preview box. You want your game to take up the whole screen, but here it’s half-sized for demonstration purposes.

Screenshot of OBS Studio
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

On the left, you can see the game window does not take up the full screen. You can resize it in this window for the stream.

If you want to set up a webcam, do the same as for the game source but select Video Capture Device as your input.

Next, add Audio Input Capture for your microphone. The Default option usually works, but just in case, select the name of your microphone input (mine says Microphone USB Audio CODEC, but depending on what microphone you are using it will say something different). If you want to change it, double click Audio Capture in the Sources box.

Screenshot of right click on Audio Properties cog
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

Advanced Audio Properties allows you to set whether the audio will output to your stream, your headphones, or both. You can also tweak the volume of the audio.

Make sure that you can hear yourself talk. Go to your operating system’s sound settings, make sure your microphone is the correct selected input, OBS has permission to use it, and check that the input volume is maxed out.

In OBS, click the cog wheel next to Audio Input Capture and go to Advanced Audio Properties. Make sure Audio Monitoring is set to Monitor and Output; this means you will be able to hear the inputs, and the output means this audio will be heard in the stream itself.

Screenshot of OBS Studio, with volume knob circled
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

Always double-check the right inputs are set, and that the volume is set to an appropriate level.

You want to make sure that you enable Monitor and Output for both your microphone and your Desktop Audio. Mute your webcam’s microphone input if it shows up. At this point, you may not hear the audio coming from your game, but as long as Desktop Audio is set to Monitor and Output with the operating system volume and OBS volume maxed out, it should be outputting once you’re active on the game window.

2. Open your Twitch stream on a separate monitor or device

Screenshot of stream on Twitch
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

Always check your stream from you content dashboard and from an audience view to ensure everything is set up properly and take care of problems before your viewers are here.

You'll want to make sure everything is in working order. So on a second monitor or another device like a laptop, open Twitch so you can monitor your chat from the Stream Manager tab on the Creator Dashboard. Here, you can send messages to your chat, see what activity is happening, decide whether you want to accept raids or not, and more.

3. Start recording and go live on Twitch

Side by side of Twitch stream and OBS preview
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

On the left is the streamer dashboard, which has a "live" banner when you're streaming. On the right, you can see a highlighted "stop streaming" button, which will start and stop the stream.

Press the Start Streaming button. You are now live. Double check everything is working and watch your own stream. Make sure the audio is on for everything. Now, you have to play and entertain your viewers. Have fun!

Some tips to improve your Twitch stream

Helmet wears headphones
Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

The most important part of streaming is to have fun and experiment!

Twitch is not just about playing games. It’s about building connections. Chat with your audience, even if it’s just one person. Play the games you enjoy talking about. Comment on everything you’re thinking about as you play. Ask your audience questions and opinions. Most of all, have fun.

It’s a great idea to record your streams and upload them to YouTube for the people who might have missed you live. Not everyone who would enjoy your content will be available to watch the stream. To draw attention to yourself, highlight your funniest or craziest moments, too.

Remember to always follow Twitch’s codes of conduct, as well. Pay attention to their rules around using copyrighted material, and don’t use language deemed inappropriate. Otherwise, you risk getting suspended or banned.

Be safe. Twitch can feel like a cozy, intimate space to many, and it’s easy to forget there are some nasty people out there. Keep information about yourself as limited as possible. Your real name, address, phone number, personal email, logins, all of these should stay off your stream, always. Look up best privacy practices on social engineering if you want to learn more about how to keep yourself safe.

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