Open Broadcast Software Studio - Ready for the silver screen?

Updated: February 8, 2020

Having recently tested Kdenlive 19.08 and then taken a brief but pleasant look at OpenShot, I decided to expand my cinematic horizons and explore some additional software on the media market. One program that came into the hazy spotlight is Open Broadcast Software (OBS), a free and open-source video editor, designed primarily for video recording and live streaming.

Well, here I am, with me unfunny collection of Youtube clips, and here it is, OBS, waiting for me to test and review it. Sounds like a plan, and proceed so we shall. Once again, I'm back on Linux, in Kubuntu, but that shouldn't really make much difference. Anyway, let's begin.

Teaser

Setup & first run

Your choice of the operating system will dictate how you install OBS. I didn't have any great difficulties with the Linux version. Once the program is installed, on first run, you will see a configuration wizard, which is designed to profile your system and tweak the best settings for your work. You can optimize the application for streaming or recording, and it will probe your hardware for the desired resolution and framerate. If you have a reasonably modern and capable graphics card, you should be able to hit your screen resolution x 30 FPS without problems. In fact, you don't need more than 24 FPS for video, but some people are impressed with the soap-opera 60FPS thingie, so there's that.

First run wizard

Wizard, running

Wizard, complete

Like many media programs, especially of late, OBS comes with a dark theme, which you can switch to System in the settings. Now, System here actually means Breeze, but I was using a modified version with darker fonts, which I named Brooze, but OBS didn't pick that one up, so I had the default system theme, and this isn't really what I had in mind. But it's better than using the dark theme, for sure. And then, you can tweak a whole lot more in the settings window.

Main, no project just yet

Settings

Getting underway

OBS is decidedly less intuitive than, say, either Kdenlive or OpenShot, mostly because it's not designed to be a linear video editor. Its primary purpose is streaming or recording content into video clips, with some additional effects if you like. This can be confusing, as you may expect media player controls everywhere, but those are in short order, I'm afraid.

A typical work session will consist of you creating scenes, and then adding one or more sources to each scene. You will have live preview for your scenes, and the playback will continue indefinitely, until you either "blank" the particular source or switch to a different scene. OBS supports a vast array of inputs, including audio and video capture devices, local media, screen and window capture, and more.

Add source

Playback

Once a scene is loaded and playing, you can right-click in the preview area and make a lot of tweaks. You can change the preview, duplicate scenes, alter the color palette, add filters, and more. Of course, at this point, you actually need to know what you're doing, otherwise your work will make no sense.

Scene, right-click

You can also use the Studio mode, which lets you split your screen into two frames, with the preview on the left, and the actual output (plus any transition effects or other changes) on the right. And this is THE actual output, so if you hit record (or stream), it will be sent as the output to the desired URL or into a media file on your local disk (FLV format for me). You can then do secondary post-recording editing in something like OpenShot or other programs. OBS supports hardware encoding, so you can use your GPU for some of the more graphics-intense tasks.

Studio mode

Transform options

OBS auto-saves your work, so even if you quit the program altogether, you should be able to continue where you stopped. On the other hand, I didn't notice the existence of any undo/redo buttons, which kind of aligns with the more real-time nature of this software, designed for streaming.

Transition effects

Once you get the hang of how OBS works, you can start arranging your scenes and then adding different effects, if you like. For instance, fade, cut or luma wipe. This is somewhat similar to the title and animated title wizards in OpenShot. Then, there's the Transition button, which actually transitions between scenes, and does not seem to be related to the Quick Transitions feature just below. A bit quirky.

Transition, WIP

Luma wipe transition effect test

Transition, working

Transition between scenes

Trying to make a living ... streaming

I played with OBS for a while, and eventually got to understand its workflow. It's not trivial, but it's quite powerful. However, it requires more talent and knowledge of the whole media business than Kdenlive and OpenShot, which are more accessible to amateurs. Moreover, the real power of OBS is in streaming, as it lets you send your output directly to numerous streaming websites in a seamless manner. This can be quite useful for gamers or Youtubers or alike. OBS supports roughly a dozen different services.

Stream options

Conclusion

Open Broadcast Software (OBS) is an interesting program. It's not trivial, and it takes time getting used to. For people used to the somewhat linear, straightforward mode of work you get in a typical video editor, OBS is a mystery slash challenge, but it doesn't take too long to figure it out. Once you're past this first obstacle, it works quite all right.

I liked the real-time preview of what you're doing and the transition effects, and the option to stream to some dozen websites is also really cool. On the other hand, I'd like to be able to control the playback and sequence my actions, which isn't something that OBS offers at the moment. All in all, this program isn't for amateurs, and it does require forethought, otherwise you will be frustrated by your lack of progress. Definitely worth testing, and it seems to complement the likes of OpenShot or Kdenlive quite nicely. But don't expect to turn into a movie-making genius overnight. And so we end this article.

Cheers.

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