The best way to capture, compress, record and stream video and audio on your personal computer.

Want to capture your video game play on your PC? Stream it too?

Before I give you the best solution, we need to get some basic stuff covered before proceeding. So lets start.

Stages of Video and Audio Capture

There are four phases in capturing video and audio running on your personal computer:

  1. Capturing – grabbing the GPU framebuffer memory and audio
  2. Compression – encoding the graphic and audio data into a smaller format for faster transfer and smaller data storage
  3. Recording – storing the graphic and audio data on persistent media
  4. Streaming – transferring the captured screen and audio output over the Internet

The compression (encoding) stage is optional. Data that is not compressed is stored raw and results in very large files. If you are going to share the content over distribution services like Youtube and Twitch, it is impractical to transfer it in a raw state. You will definitely want to convert the raw file into something like MPEG 4 for faster uploading and downloading.

These four steps can be accomplished using hardware capturing devices or through use of software. In this article, I am only going to talk about the software side of things.

Microsoft Windows Software For Video and Audio Capture

Special screen recording software can used on your Windows PC. There are many programs available to do this such as:

  • Microsoft Game DVR
  • Techsmith SnagIt
  • Fraps
  • Nvidia ShadowPlay
  • MSI Afterburner

Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. After trying most of these, I never found a really good solution for what I was striving for. Each had its own set of problems and in most part, they continue to be specialized tools I reach for from time to time. However, I found something better that is more of an all-in-one swiss army knife that does it all.

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)

Save yourself grief by using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS).

Its free, and works pretty darn well. I had heard a lot of stuff about OBS. Many people complained that it was too complicated (they still do). OBS was given a total rewrite and is now OBS Studio. I really don’t know why people are complaining. I find it works just fine. With anything new, you have to invest some time in it. In my case, it was less than 15 minutes!

Recently, I needed a general utility to capture my PC game play. After trying many of those applications mentioned above, I ran into too many problems. So I took a look again at OBS and was pleased to see that they did a code rewrite, now called OBS Studio.

I downloaded it and it couldn’t have been easier to install. After launching, I smiled immediately when I saw the “Start Recording” button. I knew right then and there that this was going to solve all my problems. I hit the Start Recording button and nothing worked at first. I scratched my head (without reading the manual) and saw a Sources box. I clicked the “+” button and surprise! There are preset “Game Capture” and “Display Capture” settings. Now I knew from using some of those software recording applications I listed earlier that a few had problems with recording the full screen. So I chose Game Capture because most of the high end games take over the entire screen.

I then clicked on the Settings button because I figured there had to be some way to setup my audio and video correctly and specify where I would like all of this stored. Guess what? It was trivial to setup. It took me less than 5 minutes to configure and get it up and running.

Here’s my screen shots.

Audio settings:

Video settings:

Output settings:

Note: Set the output to MP4. Don’t use FLV.

I now just press the Start Recording button and Stop it when I am done. I then go to the File | Show Recordings and Windows Explorer is brought up. I double click on the MP4 to bring up Windows media player for playback and review. If I need to use the recording, I can import the MPEG4 file into Adobe Premiere Pro for further work.

See, the beauty behind this is, you don’t need to use a hardware capture device like Elgato or AVerMedia running on your computer to capture PC game play. Previously, I was using my AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable to capture my PC play. I hated having to run HDMI cable from the device to my monitor and USB cable from a hub to it as well. My desk looked like an octopus with wires strewn all over it. I never could fix the problem of not being able to record audio with the captured video file. Well now that problem has been solved.

OBS Studio may look a little complicated if you are new to all of this. But go give it a try. I’m glad I did.

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