Single PC Streaming: Tips for Better Performance and Quality

Streaming is easy to do but can be hard to do well. There are a lot of knobs and buttons and they all impact performance and quality in different ways. Streaming with a single PC setup compounds these issues.

Recently a fellow member of the Over 30 Clan had some pretty drastic performance issues which we resolved implementing some of the tips and settings we will be covering in this blog.

Before we begin, here is a before and after comparison of Tre playing Overwatch.

Before Improvements

After Improvements

Tre’s Single PC Specs

CPU: i7-9700K
RAM: VENGEANCE® RGB PRO 64GB (4 x 16GB) DDR4 DRAM 3200MHz C16
MOBO: MSI Z390-A PRO
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti – 11GB GDDR6 – ASUS ROG STRIX
MONITOR: Dell S2716DG (1440P, 144 Hz)

Tip #1: Run OBS in Administrator Mode

Impact: High Impact to both Quality and Performance. Mainly frame skipping and stream lagging.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this step. This single step will probably be the highest improvement to your stream quality. The idea is simple, normally, your gaming PC, prioritizes gaming, when you play a game its goal is to give you the best experience, this can lead to increased load on your CPU and GPU and due to prioritization of resources only allows OBS to take advantage of the remaining power.

Running OBS as an administrator will prioritize OBS over your game, your FPS might suffer a bit during high motion/action game play, but your stream will continue to be smooth.

When launching OBS simply right click and select “Run as Administrator”.

Tip #2: Disable Preview Window in OBS While Streaming

Impact: Low to Medium Impact to Performance.

This one is very simple, in the space above the preview window in OBS simply right click and select performance mode. This will save your CPU and GPU from having to display your stream in a second monitor saving additional resources for OBS to use for encoding etc.

Tip #3: Use the Highest Bitrate Available for the Platform.

Impact: Medium to High Impact to Quality.

Each streaming platform has different rules but Twitch has a 6000kbps Bitrate cap for non-partnered streams. Going over this can result in Twitch restricting your stream or other actions. You should however use every last ounce of bitrate allowed to maximize the quality. Bitrate is the amount of data your PC uploads to Twitch servers every second. If you encode with a super high quality setting and then only send 1000kbps to the twitch servers your stream will look very bad.

Bitrate is also dependent on your internet upload speed. If you have an upload speed of 20mbps then a 6000kbps (6mbps) Bitrate would consume 30% of your available upload speed. Also having a high quality stream with a low bitrate will negatively impact the quality of your stream however the reverse is NOT true. If you encode using a really poor quality setting a higher bitrate will NOT increase the overall quality of your stream.

Tip #4: Use an Nvidia GPU and use NVENC (new)

Impact: High Impact to Quality reducing artifacts and lost pixels to displayed stream.

If you are building a new PC for a single PC streaming rig. It is almost necessary to build using an Nvidia GPU. The reason is the supported NVIDIA GPU’s, ones using Turing Architecture have a dedicated chip on the GPU for encoding. NVIDIA has also released NVENC which allows OBS to leverage this dedicated encoding chip for encoding videos to Twitch. This reduces the performance impact of playing games AND encoding to twitch simultaneously, drastically. Cards featuring RTX perform better however ALL cards that support NVENC will see a huge performance improvement using the NVENC (new) setting in OBS.

NVENC (new) improves the frame efficiency between receiving the video and encoding when compared to the original NVENC setting. This will improve performance for non-RTX Graphics cards that support NVENC and improve both Quality and Performance for RTX Cards.

Tip #5: Use Max Quality Setting for Encoding using NVENC (new)

Impact: High Impact to Quality

I don’t know your specific hardware but it is important to at first try Max Quality setting for the encoding preset under the Output tab of OBS. If after implementing all the changes and improvements, you are still struggling to produce a quality stream that lags or drops frames, you may then adjust and test at a lower setting but I would definitely give Max Quality a solid test first.

Tip #6: (optional) Lower Output Resolution for High Motion Games.

Impact: High Impact to Quality reducing artifacts and lost pixels to displayed stream.

This one is purely optional. It is quite possible with the settings above that your 1080p stream will look fantastic. If however if your stream is smooth but a bit pixelated this can be caused by the 6000kbps max Bitrate not being enough to send the 1080p encodings to twitch without loosing some quality in the process. You can improve pixilation and artifacting by lowering your output resolution to something smaller, this will make it easier to encode and lower the bitrate needed to send all the encoding bits to twitch meaning you will loose less quality over a smaller bitrate.

This is done by navigating to Video and reducing the Output (scaled) Resolution to something lower then 1080p. If you want slightly increase quality over 720p you can opt to go for a resolution in the 1400×800 range. Some professional full time streamers do this trick with great success. Make sure your downscale filter is Bicubic and your common FPS value is 60.

Tip #7: Color Settings

Impact: Medium impact to Quality suitable for streams that appear washed out or dull.

If your stream is a bit washed out and not as vibrant as you would like, it could a very simple adjustment. By default the Video Color Format is a partial color range. This can cause poor estimation of colors and dull the stream image making it look washed out.

Navigate to the Advanced Tab and under the Video Heading is the Color Format. Select NV12, 601 Color Space and Full Color Range.

Updated*

After careful review of the color settings I do want to point out a few things. (1) color is actually quite complicated, it depends on many factors your content color settings, capture cards and (2) the viewers device, web browser, twitch application etc everything matters in this pipeline and must be accounted for to get true color representation.

The best video I have found that explains this very technical concept in detail is here: EpoxVox aka the stream professor. Check it out.

After careful review and testing, and if you happen to have the same setup running NVENC for encoding using a single PC. Here is what I would recommend. NV12, 709 Color Space and Partial YUV Color Range for HD (720p) and Higher resolution streams.

NV12 is more universally accepted for content playback devices like web browsers, twitch app etc. 709 Color Space is specifically designed for HD content and Partial YUV Color Range also know as legal range is more widely standard color format for these players and devices also.

Tip #8: Use Static Overlays

Impact: High impact to Performance and Quality reducing stuttering and dropped frames.

You would surprised the impact of fancy overlays can do to your stream. Where possible use only static designs and leave the high motion stuff for alerts, donations etc. Keep it simple to reduce the amount of work OBS has to do to encode your video to twitch.

Results might vary but if you are seeing performance dips or dropped frames when you have a high motion overlay on screen, this could be the root cause of your issues. You audience will prefer a static stream that is high quality to a pixelated, laggy mess with beautiful motion graphics and overlays.

Conclusion

That’s it, some tips that most overlook that have a pretty large impact to both the performance and quality of your twitch stream. Hopefully you found something useful here and have seen an improvement in your stream.

3 thoughts on “Single PC Streaming: Tips for Better Performance and Quality

Add yours

    1. NVENC unfortunately will not work since this is an Nvidia technology. I am not 100% sure what equivalent technology stream labs may or may not have for AMD. All the other settings, including running in administrator mode, color settings etc should still apply.

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