OBS and NDI – A Powerful Toolset for DIY Video Production and Streaming

Video content is compelling.


Fortunately, it’s never been easier to produce your own video content.


Lots of tools let you composite all kinds of media from various sources. You may already have tried tools that users to edit video and render output to a saved file. But what if you want to mix several sources into a single video and stream it real time like we see on news broadcasts, sports events and many other live shows?


Watch the presentation below and/or read on to learn about my favorite combination of open-source and freemium tools.  These are tools which I’ve found to be extremely powerful and useful to create and record video content in real-time.

Play Video about Intro Slide for Video Tool Presentation


Learn More


Open Broadcaster Software / OBS Studio


OBS Studio let’s you mix and composite arbitrary video, audio and other sources into a single feed.
You can easily create a video stream real time that mixes multiple webcams, images, screen-scrapes and other media types.
On top of that, you can add filters like chroma-key/green-screen – just like weather news casters – and superimpose yourself in front of a background presentation or video.  For example, a friend of mine has used chroma-key to overlay a video of his face as he described a custom animated robot simulation and showed related software Visual Studio Code in the background…
Cool Stuff!

OBS-VirtualCam plug-in

This plug-in to OBS allows you to expose an output stream from OBS Studio as a ‘standard webcam’ input for Zoom / Skype / etc…
A year ago this functionality was only possible through the VirtualCam plug-in.  But I think it may have been absorbed into the mainline project by now…

NewTek NDI

Note that OBS is highly interoperable with NDI protocol streams and (freemium) tools.
NDI is extremely powerful – it easily lets you stream and mix without loss between an arbitrary number of sources and sinks. For the technical minded – it uses a pub-sub model. Because it’s open source, there are many 3rd party sources / options…
NDI Tools allow feeding an iPhone camera stream as a source into OBS Studio. Hence, you can use a mobile phone as a wireless camera – and mix that video with other content from your laptop. Although the native NewTek apps may not support Android, there were several 3rd party camera apps in Google Play that could output NDI streams.
Anyhow, NDI still has value without a mobile camera app.
For example, as a frequent solo producer/presenter, I find it handy to use more than one laptop.  I’ll often have one laptop configured for presentation/ demonstration, and use OBS on that laptop to screen-scrape to an NDI stream output to my local ethernet.  Then I’ll use a second laptop with OBS as a ‘production control panel’.  That way, it’s easy to ‘swivel chair between laptops’ – to toggle between the ‘production room laptop’ and the ‘what to demonstrate’ laptop.  When you have to both present and produce at the same time, this trick makes it easier to keep the ‘production studio controls’ separate in your mind from the ‘stuff you’re trying to demonstrate.’
Another trick is to output an NDI stream from OBS on one laptop, then use an NDI Tools “Studio Monitor” app on another laptop. This let’s you easily keep an eye on the stream after compositing – you can quickly verify that you’ve selected the intended screen, without having to focus on the detailed options and switches in the OBS control panel.
To dig into the NDI ecosystem, I recommend these key items:

1. Download NDI Tools  and Focus on these

        • NDI Studio Monitor (client subscribes to any NDI stream on network)
        • NDI Test Pattern Generator (publisher outputs test patterns to an NDI stream)
        • NDI HX Capture (screen scrape laptop to NDI stream)

2. Read about NewTek’s NDI applications

And If you’re into how things work under the covers, 

One caution relates to streaming multiple 1080p /30 fps level sources via NDI across your network or especially wi-fi. I first tried something like 2 or 3 iphone streams across wi-fi, and the network couldn’t keep up. Troubleshooting is difficult when that happens – often it just doesn’t work when it should – so you scratch your head and wonder about status.  Then you realize that there is a reason that NewTek sells NDI hardware accelerators for commercial production.  Anyhow, I’ve found that i5 and i7 based laptops can do remarkably well if you keep the number of video sources relatively low, and set Windows power management to prevent CPU throttling.

TL;DR -> How To 

If you’d just like stepwise setup instructions, try this article from cined. That’s the article that helped get me started. Then do a quick search for OBS Tutorial and you’ll be off to the races.

The BackStory 

My exploration with DIY video production started years ago, by mixing recordings of my daughters high school marching band and concert bands. In those days I quickly jumped from crude entry level tools to an extremely capable package called Vegas Pro. In the early days, I had to offload or even digitize video from camcorders. Eventually, video came off the cameras in some digital video format. By the time my daughters graduated, I had produced full concert videos captured simultaneously by 8 and 10 different cameras and just as many audio sources. Those videos became were cool keepsakes, but required considerable effort to produce…
Somehow, my video habit sat idle as my daughters graduated from college and moved out of the house.
But then, along came COVID-19.
Overnight, a favorite club of mine called DPRG had to shift from in-person meetings to virtual meetings. We still wanted to share our robot projects and related questions, lessons learned, brainstorming and story-telling. OBS Studio quickly surfaced and took root after a little research and experimentation. Then the NDI protocol and related tools from NewTek surfaced, and it quickly became evident that anybody could pretty easily create and composite relatively sophisticated video streams and recordings – real-time, with inexpensive computers and software.  One thing led to another – and that is how the content for this page came together.’