How to create long screen recordings using OBS Studio

Most screen recording tools allow you to record for up to two and sometimes even four hours, but they often end up crashing without saving all the data. This is where open source OBS Studio comes in.

Image: OBS Studio

There are many tools for screen recording. Some are even now included in your favorite operating system: QuickTime Player for macOS and Xbox Game Bar on Windows 10, for example. Still, the Xbox Game Bar only allows for up to four hours of recording. QuickTime Player allows more (the limit is in theory the space available on the storage device) but it is sometimes difficult to make it work correctly, depending on the configuration, especially for the audio part.

After doing several tests and asking communities about it, I have found that the best tool for making long screen recordings is OBS Studio.

What is OBS Studio?

OBS Studio is open source software that works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux (most distributions). It is sponsored by YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook as it is used heavily by those who create shared video / streaming content on these platforms.

The main features of the tool are:

  • High-performance real-time video and audio capture and mixing
  • Audio mixer including filters, such as noise cancellation, etc.
  • Support for VST plug-ins
  • Live broadcast on a wide range of streaming platforms

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Install OBS Studio on Windows

On the main website page, select Windows. The download starts immediately (Figure A).

Figure A

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Selecting Windows Download from the OBS Studio Main Page

Select where to download the file, then double-click it once downloaded to run the installer (Number B).

Number B

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Launching the OBS Studio installer

Click Next, then click Next again to accept the GNU General Public License, then choose the folder where the software will be installed (Figure C).

Figure C

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Selecting the installation folder and launching the installation

Now click on Install. When the installation is complete, click Finish to launch the software.

OBS Studio first performance

At the first launch of the software, it runs an Auto-configuration wizard aiming to optimize the software for the computer hardware and the Internet connection, but also for your needs.

It starts by asking you what type of use you will have for the tool (Number D).

Number D

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Displaying the automatic configuration wizard

As you can see, you need to specify whether you will primarily use the tool for streaming, for recording, or for using the virtual camera. Since we want to do video recording, we choose to optimize the recording tool. Once you have made your choice, click Next to bring up the screen shown in Figure E.

Figure E

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Configuring video settings from the automatic configuration wizard

You can now choose the resolution you want and the number of frames per second. For longer recordings and to save resources, we chose 30 FPS. When more quality is needed, 60 would be a good choice.

Once done, you will be prompted to click on Apply Settings (Figure F).

Figure F

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Viewing the results of the automatic configuration wizard and accepting it

OBS Studio is now ready to use and displays its main window (Number G).

Number G

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Viewing the OBS Studio main window

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Screen recording

The first thing that is mandatory is to select the source of the data you want to save.

In the Sources panel, select + to add a source (Number H).

Number H

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Viewing recording sources

It is possible to choose between several sources, such as for example only an audio input / output or a browser.

We’re going to go for the wider choice and choose Window Capture, which captures just about anything we might want to record onscreen (Number I). Click the + button, then choose Window Capture.

Number I

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Creating a new window capture

OBS Studio now displays one of the windows that opens on the computer (in our example, a browser) and offers several options (Figure J).

Figure J

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Choose the window to capture

With the Window Capture options, it is possible to choose any window open on the computer: a browser window, an instant messaging application window, etc.

Change the options as needed, then click OK.

The tool is ready to record. You can now click Start Recording in the control panel (Number K).

Number K

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Control panel display

Once recording begins, you can even perform other activities on the computer, as long as it’s not in the captured window. You can continue to read emails while recording what’s happening in a web conference window, for example.

Conclusion

OBS Studio has a lot more tools and options that we haven’t shown in this guide because the goal was to do screen recording. Many other options are available for streaming or using OBS as a virtual camera.

In our testing, we successfully recorded a single video that was over five hours long, without noticing any performance issues. The only limitation here would be the remaining space on the hard drive where the video is saved.

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