The Open Broadcaster Software (OBS for short) project aims to provide a totally free, open-source option for video recording and live streaming software.
If you’re a live-streamer or interested in trying streaming and you don’t have the cash to shell out for another popular option like StreamYard, OBS could be just the tool you need to get started with your streaming project.
Today, we’re going to dive into a popular feature for streamers of all sorts: Backgrounds, and see how OBS stacks up, keep reading to find out!
Here’s What you Can Do with Backgrounds in OBS
The Open Broadcaster Software project allows you to add solid colors, images, or videos to be used as backgrounds for your stream.
You can downsize your video feed to display over the backgrounds, or you can use a green screen to filter out your real-life backdrop and replace it with any custom background.
With third-party hardware and/or software, you can replace your background without a green screen, though it is not as effective.
RELATED: Options for backgrounds with StreamYard.
What Options Do You Have in OBS for Replacing your Background?
If you’re used to using software like StreamYard or other options on the market, you might be a little confused upon first trying out OBS.
The advantage of OBS is that—being open source—the possibilities are nigh-endless and limited only by the creativity of all the people using and making resources for OBS.
The downside, however, is that it may not be as immediately user-friendly as paid software tailor-made to consumers.
But while they might not be immediately apparent, you have tons of options for backgrounds in OBS, and we’re going to walk you through all of them.
A simple, no-nonsense option is to simply choose a solid color to fill your stream’s background with. For this feature, you need only hit the “+” button in the “Sources” menu and choose “add color source.”
From here, you can choose any color on the visible spectrum for your background!
Once you’ve picked your color and added the source, make sure that you set it “under” your video feed so that it acts as a proper background rather than obscuring your video feed.
You can also resize this background if you don’t want it to fit the entire screen, or use it as a backdrop to put text over.
Like many things with OBS, the possibilities are limited only by your savvy and imagination here.
Better get used to that “Sources” box, because this seems to be where all your background options come from in OBS.
Go ahead and hit that plus button again, and this time, choose “image source.”
Now, simply browse your files for the image you’d like to use as a background and select it! Just as with the color source, be sure that you move the image layer under your video feed so that it acts as a background.
Unlike StreamYard and similar platforms, OBS does not come with its own pre-packaged background images and requires you to upload your own. This of course means you can use any custom image you desire, but if you want some ideas to get started, browse the OBS forums for fellow streamers sharing user-generated content!
As you might slowly be figuring out here, the “Sources” box covers basically any kind of image or video you want to add to your stream layout. This includes the actual video feed for your stream, but you can also add additional video sources to use as animated backgrounds!
Simply press that familiar plus button, and select “video source.”
Now, you’re going to want a short (30 seconds or less is usually good), loop-able video (best if the ending of the video is the same as the beginning) for this purpose. If you have one in mind, go ahead and select it, check the “loop” box, and set your new video source layer below your main video feed.
Voila, video background!
Considering video backgrounds require a particular kind of video to work well (short length, matching ending and beginning, unobtrusive/not too flashy), you might not be sure what to use. But as with background images, ask around the OBS forums and you’re sure to get some helpful pointers and maybe even ready-to-go video backgrounds made by other users!
Can OBS Insert a Blurred Background?
The quality or blurriness of your background will depend on the resolution and quality of the image source you use.
If you want a blurry image for stylistic reasons, you can save your image at a much lower resolution than it started to get the blur effect.
If the blurriness is something you’re trying to avoid, and you’re finding that a good-looking image gets blurry when you add it as a source to OBS, you probably need a higher-resolution image.
Can I Use my Green Screen with OBS?
You absolutely can use a green screen with OBS!
Or a blue screen or another color, for that matter.
Whatever color backdrop works best for you, make sure it’s set up behind you and that you aren’t casting any sharp shadows or making any bright spots on the screen with your lights; even lighting is key.
As for actually using the green screen in OBS, it can be a little confusing if you’ve never done it before, so follow this step-by-step guide below to get started:
- Right-click on your main camera feed in the “sources” box.
- Click on the “filters” option.
- Click the “+” icon at the bottom of the “effects” area in the menu that appears.
- Click the “chroma-key” option in the effects menu.
- Rename the filter if you wish, or simply hit enter to use the default name.
- By default, the color selector for your chroma-key filter should be set to “green.” If you are using a blue screen or another color of backdrop, select the relevant option from the drop-down menu instead. If you are using a green screen, leave it set to “green.”
- Play with the sliders until your backdrop is fully filtered out.
- If your backdrop is not filling the entire screen, click your video source and then drag and drop the edges of the box that appears around it to crop out any exposed edges.
Once you’ve followed the above guide, any color, video, or image source that you’ve put under your camera feed will fill the space behind you where your backdrop was!
Do I need a Green Screen to Replace my Background?
For the most effective virtual background replacement, a green (or blue, or magenta…) screen is recommended.
However, while they aren’t nearly as effective at filtering out your background as chroma-key software and a solid color backdrop, there are several options for removing your background.
Sadly, however, we were not able to find any options that come pre-packaged in OBS for free that will remove your background without a green screen.
Options certainly exist, but they all involve paid third-party hardware or software.
A review of all the different options out there is out of the scope of this article, but what we can say for now is they’re certainly out there.
Green screens can be a pain to set up, so it’s understandable to look for other options when you want to replace your background, but the truth is this is still a relatively new technology and full of bugs, flaws, and quirks.
Even if you invested in one of the special webcams and/or software packages that allow you to virtually remove your background without a green screen, you might be disappointed in the results.
In other words, if you have the space for a proper green screen set up, we’d highly recommend going that route until virtual background technology improves a bit more.
Can you Insert your Own Background?
Absolutely! In fact, inserting your own background is all you can do, since OBS does not come pre-packaged with background images or videos for you to use.
To get the most out of the OBS experience, we recommend browsing the wiki and spending some time with the helpful community on the forums.
You might also want to check whether your computer can actually run OBS.
What Is the Optimal Resolution and Format of Images for Backgrounds?
A good rule of thumb with background images is that you want them to look good on the largest possible screen the average viewer of your stream might be using.
To accomplish this, a resolution of 1920 x 1080 is ideal, but if you go smaller than that, just be sure and keep the aspect ratio to 16:9.
Further, you might want to avoid shapes like circles or spheres in your background image/video, as if someone views your stream on a screen of a different aspect ratio than your background image, circular shapes will show the most obvious stretching effect.
Can you Put a Video as your Background?
Absolutely! We covered this in our overview of background options, but a video file is just one of many options you have when adding a “source” to be used as your background.
Just make sure the video is relatively short (30 seconds or so is generally good), and that the ending matches the beginning for effective looping.
Streaming to Multiple Platforms
This can also sometimes cause issues. We have a dedicated article about streaming to multiple platforms with OBS.