Guide to the Best OBS Settings for Recording Gameplay in 2021

In this guide I list the minimum settings in OBS needed to record high-quality gameplay 1080p60 videos for uploading to YouTube – it takes less than 5 minutes to setup and is super easy.

I had 4 requirements for OBS recordings:

  1. Recording should have no noticeable effect on a game’s performance, e.g. making a recording shouldn’t result in meaningful loss of framerate while playing
  2. The recorded video should be high quality: good graphics clarity, no stuttering / dropped frames
  3. The recorded video should maintain the same resolution as the game at a high framerate, preferably 1080p60
  4. The recorded video should be reasonably efficient in terms of file size

Based on online guides for recording with OBS, I experimented with various detailed settings and compared the recorded videos. Many of the detailed settings that were recommended by other gamers were unnecessary. I determined the fewest settings needed to achieve the 4 requirements above, and those settings are explained in the following 3 steps.

Step 1: Set up “Game Capture” as the Source

While you can use “Display Capture” or “Window Capture” to record gameplay, “Game Capture” is the most efficient and produces video that doesn’t have stuttering / dropped frames.

“Game Capture” as the Source

Make sure to remove or disable extraneous sources, as they add load to OBS, which puts load on your CPU and/or GPU.

Step 2: Set the Settings > Output > Output Mode to “Simple”

Make the following selections:

  1. For “Recording Quality” select “High Quality, Medium File Size”. This is good enough quality video for uploading to YouTube. Keep in mind that YouTube converts any uploaded video to its own internal format, and this conversion process typically results in some loss of quality. So there is no point in selecting a higher quality option
  2. For “Recording Format” select “mp4”. While the official OBS guide for NVIDIA recommends that you use “flv” or “mkv” as the recording format, most PCs and smartphones don’t know how to play those formats without installing apps. All devices can play MP4’s natively
    • There is a valid reason to use flv or mkv – those formats still work in case there’s a system error (e.g. PC crashes) while recording, and you can use OBS to remux those formats to mp4. I haven’t had an issue with crashes, so I stick with mp4 for convenience. YMMV.
  3. For “Encoder” select “Hardware (NVENC)”. This option reduces the load on your CPU by having the NVIDIA GPU do the encoding. If you have an AMD GPU, select the AMD encoder instead.
Settings for Output Recording

Settings > Output > Output Mode

Step 3: Set the Settings > Video for “Output (Scaled) Resolution”

Make the following selections:

  1. For “Output (Scaled) Resolution” select the same resolution that you use when gaming. By default, OBS selects a lower resolution, e.g. I play games at 1920×1080 but by default the output is downscaled to 1280×720. Obviously for YouTube you want to maintain the same resolution for a good viewing experience
  2. If your system can play the game at 60 FPS with the graphics quality you want in-game, select “60” for the “Common FPS Values” so that YouTube can offer 60 FPS to viewers of your uploaded video (e.g. 1080p60)

Some guides recommend setting the “Downscale Filter” to “Lanczos” but given that we’re not downscaling our output to a lower resolution, this setting is irrelevant.

Video Output settings

Settings > Video for “Output (Scaled) Resolution”

The last thing to do is find out and/or set the Hotkey for recording (“Start Recording” and “Stop Recording”).

That’s it! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Why I Switched to OBS From NVIDIA GeForce Experience

For many years, I used NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience for recording gameplay. This recording functionality used to be known as NVIDIA ShadowPlay and more recently as NVIDIA Share.

A common problem with GeForce Experience is that the ability to record stops working, as indicated by the “red slash” through the green recording circle:

GeForce Experience Red Slash Icon

The dreaded “red slash” icon

When this happens, you won’t be able to record with GeForce Experience until you restart your PC, and at some point it may flake out again, requiring another reboot. A casual search on Google shows that many gamers are frustrated by this problem and it has persisted for years.

In April 2020, I tried many of the recommended fixes posted in forum and blog articles from the past 4 years but none of them worked. After experimenting with different versions of the NVIDIA driver and of GeForce Experience, I concluded that the issue is not with the driver but rather with specific versions of GeForce Experience. The only way I could get recording to work:

  1. Uninstall the current (buggy) version of GeForce Experience
  2. Reinstall the prior version or last version where there was no issue with recording of GeForce Experience (you can derive the download URL on NVIDIA’s site by using the version number)

However, this workaround is short-lived, because GeForce Experience automatically updates itself (and you can’t prevent it from doing so), and once GeForce Experience is updated to the current version with the buggy code for recording, you’re screwed again.

Now that I’m using OBS, I don’t ever have to deal with these GeForce Experience recording issues again 😀.

Posted in Guide, Technical Help, Video
10 comments on “Guide to the Best OBS Settings for Recording Gameplay in 2021
  1. Benny Soo says:

    Ed! Nice to see you post again! This is Benny, (Seventh) from Rift… long time reader :) I would love to have you join my discord to keep in touch! It is my gamer community one:

    • Hi Benny,

      It’s been a long time. We met like 5 or 7 years ago? Maybe longer. Time flies.

      I’ll check out the Discord sometime.

      Hope you’re doing well in these crazy times.

  2. Benny Soo says:

    Same yea it has been probably 7 or more… basically at the start of when you began this website. Things have been good, have a kiddo now so my hardcore gaming has changed a lot lol.

  3. gclintj says:

    Hello taugrim,
    Was going to pm you and I see this post.Thanks.
    I am having trouble making my YT video as clear as yours, even though my PC is capable of recording very clear videos, and I’ve tried using different configurations.

    I have two questions about your post:
    1. I see you have your logo on your videos. Do you put it there when recording, or use a video editor later? Would you please provide details about your video editor settings?
    2. For “Encoder”, I read some articles about “Hardware (NVENC)” will produce videos files at the same quality with higher bitrates, compared to software encoders, increasing its chance to be compressed by YT and lowering its quality. Do you have an opinion for it?


  4. Sysion says:

    Wow, can’t believe I stumbled across this randomly. Glad to see you still navigating the MMOsphere! For some reason your name has always stuck out to me, I remember spending quite a lot of time dueling you in Meridian back at Rift launch on my Chlorolock when you were refining your Rift/Pal build.

    Not really much else to say, just that finding this website sent me on a huge nostalgia trip to the better days of MMOs.

    • Hey, thanks for saying hi. I think I recognize your name, which says a lot since it’s been 9 years. Did you go by “Sysion” on your Chlorolock?

      Speaking of MMOs, I picked up Elder Scrolls Online about 3 and a half weeks ago. I hated ESO when I briefly tried it back in 2014. The game is really really good now. It’s a big grindy to get endgame geared, but there is so much build and gear diversity and the combat is very skill-based.

      ESO looks like the best designed MMORPG I’ve played in the past 10 years, and that’s saying a lot.

      • Sysion says:

        Whoops, this got buried in one of my email’s sub folders.

        Phew, 9 years! That’s crazy to think about. Has it really been that long?

        Yeah, that was her name way back when!

        I tried to get back into ESO… almost 2 years ago now I guess? I found I liked the gameplay of it, but yeah, the grind was a little too much for me at the time.

        I’m currently holding out (a small sliver) of hope for Ashes of Creation, otherwise I haven’t really been back into MMOs too much since the downfall of Archeage.

      • I’ll now over 3 months into ESO, and I’m loving it. So much to do, PVP is a blast, and I even enjoy the PVE content (Maelstrom Arena, trying to complete 4-man dungeons solo, etc).

  5. jonni blaze says:

    WoW – checking Taugrim’s YT channel to see if you have made any recent appearances – but – no – you have not.
    Started clicking around on your content and found this site.

    If you have not been keeping up – there have been some new tank lines added to WoT in the last couple of years.
    If it’s not too much of a burden – your WoT-YT fans would love to hear from you (Taugrim) – even if it’s just to say hi –
    and to let us know what you have been up to – and that you are hopefully – doing well.

    ALL the Best

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