If you‘re interested in recording or streaming gameplay, tutorials, presentations, or anything from your computer screen, you‘ve probably heard about Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). As its name suggests, OBS is open source software that allows you to record, edit, and stream a wide variety of audio and video content.
With its extensive features and professional-grade quality, you may wonder – is OBS really free to use? The short answer is yes, absolutely! OBS is completely free and open source software with no hidden costs or licensing fees.
In this in-depth guide, I‘ll give you a full overview of OBS and why it‘s become such a popular broadcasting tool. I‘ll cover topics like:
- What exactly OBS is and its key capabilities
- How OBS is able to be 100% free and open source
- Who uses OBS and for what purposes
- Why OBS is highly regarded even among professionals
- Benefits and downsides compared to paid streaming tools
- Controversies surrounding the OBS brand
- Tips for using OBS effectively as a beginner or expert
By the end, you‘ll understand why OBS is beloved by casual and pro streamers alike. Let‘s dive in!
What is OBS and What Can You Do With It?
OBS, or Open Broadcaster Software, is a free program that allows you to mix, record, and stream various audio and video sources into high quality broadcasts. It works seamlessly with platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook to stream your content live to viewers.
With OBS, you can capture footage from your screen, webcam, games, phone, and other video/audio input devices. You can seamlessly mix these together, add overlays, visual effects, captions, and stream it all as a professional looking broadcast.
The most common uses of OBS include:
- Streaming gameplay with reactions on Twitch
- Recording software tutorials, how-tos, vlogs on YouTube
- Producing livestreams for conferences, meetings, classes
- Mixing audio from different sources like mics, instruments
- Adding graphics, text, transitions, green screens to your videos
OBS makes it easy to mix different visual and audio elements into a polished, broadcast-ready video.
The modular OBS interface with scenes, sources, audio mixer and controls.
The interface is modular, letting you add different scenes and sources. You have fine control over audio, video, hotkeys, and output settings. OBS even supports third-party plugins to add even more functionality.
Despite this power and flexibility, the core OBS platform is completely free in every way.
How Does OBS Make Money When It‘s Free?
You might be wondering – how does OBS pay for development and support if everyone uses it for free?
The answer is that while OBS itself is free, many users choose to donate or become sponsors to help fund the project.
The open source OBS project relies on donations via platforms like Open Collective and Patreon. Sponsors like Streamlabs contribute recurring funding, while over 1,100 users support OBS with monthly donations on Patreon.
This community funding allows a small team of core OBS developers to work on improving the software full time. So OBS can remain free while still having the resources to keep innovating.
The fact that OBS is open source software also keeps costs low. Anyone can review and contribute to the code if they wish. This also speeds up development compared to proprietary software.
- OBS is 100% free – anyone can use it without paying anything
- Optional donations help fund development – users and companies donate to support OBS
- Open source model – community coding and transparency reduces costs
This allows OBS to have the best of both worlds – completely free for all users, while still having funding for rapid innovation.
Who Uses OBS and For What?
Due to its versatility and professional-grade tools, OBS has become the go-to broadcasting software for all levels of streamers.
Here are some examples of who uses OBS and how:
Twitch Streamers – The most popular choice for streaming games, IRL, or chat streams. Integrates seamlessly with Twitch.
YouTubers – Record their screen and camera with overlays for tutorials, gameplay videos, unboxings, and more.
Students – Use OBS to record zoom classes, lectures, and online lessons. Great for flipped classrooms.
Gamers – Capture smooth gameplay footage, webcams, audio commentary for highlight reels.
Professionals – An alternative to expensive live production switchers for conferences and events.
Podcasters – Mix and record Skype/Discord interviews and podcasts with ease.
Musicians – Stream performances by combining audio interfaces, mics, and instrument sources.
OBS is used by novice gamers wanting to stream their first gameplay, all the way up to professionals producing commercial broadcasts. The endless flexibility caters to both simple and complex workflows.
No matter your use case, OBS likely has the tools and reliability needed to produce a polished video.
Why is OBS So Highly Regarded?
With so many great free tools out there, what makes OBS stand out? Why do even professional streamers overwhelmingly choose OBS over paid options?
Here are some of the key reasons OBS has such a stellar reputation:
No Limits or Watermarks
Many free screen recorders have time limits, watermarks, or other restrictions. OBS has no recording limits, no watermarks, and gives you full access to every feature.
Open Source Development
The community-driven development means new features are added frequently. Bugs are fixed quickly. There is also great third-party plugin support.
You have extensive control over the interface, hotkeys, layouts, sources, settings, and more. OBS grows with your needs.
Available on All Platforms
OBS works seamlessly on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. You can use the same OBS setup across different computers.
As an open source project, OBS has a vibrant community of volunteer coders, content creators, and power users helping shape the software.
OBS sees frequent updates with new features and optimizations. The open source model means rapid iteration.
When combined with the fact that OBS is completely free, it beats out even paid solutions costing hundreds of dollars per year. The community support also means issues get addressed quickly.
Key Benefits of Using OBS
Let‘s explore some of the core benefits that make OBS a favorite for novice and expert broadcasters alike:
No Limits on Recordings – Capture to your heart‘s content without watermarks, time limits, or other restrictions. OBS is only limited by your computer‘s storage space.
Mix Multiple Sources – Combine audio and video feeds from different cameras, capture cards, screens, games, and audio interfaces into a single sleek production.
Cross-Platform Support – With identical performance on Windows, Mac, and Linux, you can have consistency across all your machines. No more compatibility headaches!
Modular Interface – OBS lets you start simple and add more modules and capabilities as your productions needs grow. You‘re in full control over your layout and workflow.
Built-in Live Streaming – Stream your broadcast to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live, and more without any extra configuration needed.
Active Development – The open source community behind OBS keeps pumping out updates, bug fixes, and fresh features on a regular basis.
Free and Open Source – You get full access to a professional grade streaming suite without any subscription fees or licensing costs.
For both amateurs and seasoned broadcasters, OBS provides an unbeatable package – combining power, quality, customization, and community support with an unbeatable price of free.
Comparing OBS to Premium Alternatives
I‘ve sung plenty of praises for OBS so far. But there are also some paid alternatives that you may want to consider:
XSplit Broadcaster – More focused on gaming features like overlays and integrations. Starts at $60/year.
Wirecast – Advanced live video switcher from Telestream aimed at professionals. Costs $780.
vMix – Made for professional video production and supports advanced workflows. Starts at $60.
Lightstream – Web-based mixer that‘s easy to use. Has free trial but paid subscriptions start at $12/month.
Streamlabs Desktop – Streamlabs offers free Core version or paid Prime with more features.
For most basic to intermediate streaming needs, OBS has all the tools you‘ll need for free. However, in certain niche cases, it can make sense to pay for capabilities like:
- Advanced live production workflows
- Web-based remote access and collaboration
- Built-in content like stock graphics, transitions
- Tech support and advanced troubleshooting
But for simply mixing a few video and audio feeds, OBS is more than up to the task. Unless you have very specific needs, OBS can deliver professional quality broadcasts at zero cost.
Controversies Surrounding OBS
OBS has found itself in some controversies recently, particularly with Streamlabs.
Streamlabs is a company that offers tools for live streaming, however their products created confusion with OBS:
- Branding and aesthetics extremely similar to OBS
- Unclear differentiation between Streamlabs and OBS
- Usage of OBS branding/imagery without permission
- Accused of stealing code from OBS due to similarities
These practices resulted in tensions boiling over in late 2021. After public pressure, Streamlabs took steps to rebrand itself to "Streamlabs Desktop" and reduce confusion with OBS. However, OBS maintains Streamlabs has not done enough to differentiate the brands.
The dispute highlights that although OBS is open source, its brand and trademarks are still independently owned. Companies are expected not to piggyback too heavily on the brand recognition OBS has built up over the years through its own work.
Tips for Using OBS Like a Pro
If you‘re eager to start recording and live streaming with OBS, here are my top tips:
Start Simple – Add just one video source and get comfortable. No need to dive into the deep end first.
Learn Hotkeys – Hotkeys boost your productivity and make recording/streaming feel seamless.
Customize Your Layout – Tailor OBS to match your workflow for max efficiency.
Fine Tune Settings – Adjust parameters like resolution, frame rates and bitrates for optimal quality and performance.
Preload Media – Import your backgrounds, overlays, intros ahead of time for smooth broadcasts.
Monitor Performance – Keep an eye on CPU/GPU usage, dropped frames and lags to catch issues early.
Test, Test, Test – Do ample testing before going live to work out any kinks in your workflow.
Have Fun! Don‘t worry about perfection – just focus on creating videos you enjoy!
I hope this guide has helped explain what makes OBS such a powerful, beloved broadcasting tool for video creators and streamers. Despite matching paid solutions costing hundreds of dollars per year, OBS provides all the same recording, mixing, and streaming capabilities 100% free.
The open source community keeps OBS constantly improving with new features and fixes. For most basic to advanced use cases, OBS has all the flexibility you need at no cost. This combination of quality, customization and community support explains why OBS remains the top choice for content creators at any level.
So whether you just want to record tutorials for YouTube or stream professional eSports tournaments on Twitch – don‘t overlook OBS for all your broadcasting needs!