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Live video streaming: low budget studio with OBS

During the COVID-19 (Corona) pandemic of 2020 and the associated lockdown, social life largely came to a halt. Restaurants, bars, and caf├ęs are closed and the need for ‘social distancing’ makes it impossible to hold events. Creative alternatives are being sought, many activities are moving online. Live video streaming is more popular than ever, webcams are sold out everywhere.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Live Switcher
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Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Live Switcher

Live video streaming during COVID-19

Applications for video calling, such as Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp, are popular for mutual communication between family and friends. However, live streaming of events requires a lot more research and improvisation.

For a small venue, I am trying to find out how to set up a simple “studio” for live video streaming with available resources.

Live Video Streaming: Low Budget Studio met OBS - De Foute DJ
Live Video Streaming: Low Budget Studio met OBS – De Foute DJ

The goal: live video streaming

The music venue has been closed for a while and the situation is not expected to change for the time being. In order to develop some fun activities for the employees (all volunteers) and the outside world, we want to carry out a number of events online, such as:

  • Live acts, such as singer-songwriters
  • The popular Pub Quiz
  • And of course also DJs

All this within the restrictions and regulations that apply, so without the public and with all measures such as keeping a distance of one and a half meters, washing hands and the like.

Corona COVID-19 advice from RIVM
Corona COVID-19 advice from RIVM

The challenge: low budget

Setting up a well-functioning studio is not difficult when you have a mountain of money to buy equipment. In this case, the challenge is to tie together items that are already present and preferably not to make new investments (for the time being).

What do we have:

  • An internet connection, gigabit network switch, cables, various WiFi access points
  • iPad, iPhone, Office PCs (Windows 10) and displays
  • Time, patience, creativity, and most of all motivation to get started

What we don’t have:

  • Budget
  • USB webcams
  • Some streaming experience
  • Experts who can get us started

But with Google, YouTube and a bit of perseverance, we have come a long way.

OBS Studio: made for live video streaming

After an afternoon of searching with Googe and YouTube, there seems to be only one obvious choice when it comes to video streaming software: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), better known today as OBS Studio.

live video streaming: OBS studio website
live video streaming: OBS studio website

The advantages of OBS Studio:

  • Free to download, open-source
  • Multi-platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
  • Suitable for both live streaming and recording
  • Can be used as a simple live video switcher
  • Expandable with plugins, including an NDI plugin (see below)
  • You can stream to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and many other streaming platforms

It is a very extensive and flexible package. A big advantage is also its popularity, so there are countless tutorials and manuals for it on the web and on YouTube.

NDI: Network Device Interface

The second major software component turns out to be the NDI (Network Device Interface) protocol developed by NewTek. This protocol allows devices (and applications) to transmit and receive real-time video streams over a network in high quality. Coincidentally, there is an NDI plugin for OBS Studio and a free NDI camera app for iOS.

This way you can use iPads and iPhones as high-quality streaming cameras and link them to OBS. Also, with this protocol, you can use the NDI output of OBS Studio on one computer as NDI source for OBS Studio on another. This is useful if you want to do streaming and recording on a separate computer, for example.

A second computer for streaming and recording

Encoding video to a stream can take a lot of processing power from the processor. If you also want to record the video locally, you can use a second computer for these two tasks. On the first computer, you only do the image direction. You can then transfer the video from the control computer to the second computer via a HDMI video grabber, or even easier via the network. the NDI protocol. You could, for example, also use this same NDI video stream on a separate screen (eg a laptop) as a monitor on the studio floor.

To be continued

With the setup described here we have already streamed a number of times, and every time there is a bit of fine-tuning here and there. In the next blog, we will take a closer look at the software, the settings, give some tips & tricks and share some experiences.

In the meantime, you can read more related articles, such as how to make your own “tally lights” for the Blackmagic Design ATEM video switcher, or how to control this switcher automatically with an ESP32. Are you looking for a cheap HDMI video grabber for your low-budget OBS Studio setup? Then read this blog.

Live Video Streaming: Low Budget Studio with OBS
Live Video Streaming: Low Budget Studio with OBS

EZCAP287 USB3.0 1080P Live Broadcast Video Capture Box for OBS
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EZCAP287 USB3.0 1080P Live Broadcast Video Capture Box for OBS