OBS vs Streamlabs OBS for Teaching Online

If you want to do more with your class presentations – for example visual effects more commonly used by ‘YouTubers’ – at some point you will come across OBS Studio and its cousin Streamlabs OBS. Streamlabs OBS is a modified version of the original, developed by Streamlabs (now owned by Logitech).

While many of the features Streamlabs brings are not beneficial for teaching, there are several changes that may make it the preferred choice – and our recommendation for anyone getting into OBS for the first time.

This article explains the key differences between the two versions to help you determine what is best for you.

Background to OBS Studio and Streamlabs OBS

OBS (Open Broadcast Software) is a free and open-source project to develop a platform of live-streaming. It is the dominant software used on platforms such as Twitch, and is mainly used for live-streaming computer games.

Streamlabs OBS is a modified version of OBS, that incorporates additional features developed by Streamlabs – mainly associated with chatbots, in-game tipping, and viewer interactions. It is also open-source and free to use, but Streamlabs includes the ability to pay for a Prime version that has additional features, mainly targeted at online game streamers.

Overall the two versions share a lot of similarities – they share substantial underlying code – most things that can be achieved with one platform can be achieved with the other. As such, which one you use will likely be largely personal preference.   

Key advantages of Streamlabs OBS

Undo / Redo

Perhaps the most glaring omission that you will discover when first using OBS is that it lacks the ability to undo actions. If you delete a slide, there is no way to bring it back. It is one of the most requested OBS features, and may at some point be incorporated into OBS, but for now, the ability to undo mistakes is only part of Streamlabs. 

Built in virtual camera

A virtual camera is how OBS/Streamlabs OBS connects to your video conferencing software – how the video appears in programs such as Zoom is that OBS creates a ‘virtual’ webcam (i.e., a video feed that acts as a webcam), which you can then select from within Zoom and other programs. 

Streamlabs includes the virtual camera as a standard feature, while currently you will need to install this as an extension for OBS. The soon to be released version 26 of OBS (currently in final testing stages – coming sometime later in fall 2020) will include a virtual camera as standard, so soon both programs will be equal on this.

Sync and backup of scenes

Another key benefit of Streamlabs OBS is that it automatically backups and syncs your ‘scenes’ (analogous to slides) across devices. This can be useful when contingency planning your class, helping to ensure that if you computer dies mid-class, you can more easily transition to another computer. 

User interface

Streamlabs have reformatted the layout of OBS, prettifying it, while making it easier to use, particularly for new users. 

Key advantages OBS Studio

Extensions support

The key disadvantage of Streamlabs OBS – although one that is unlikely to be of much difference for many educators – is the lack of extension support. OBS has a large number of extensions, allowing many different effects and modifications to the underlying software. The majority of these extensions are not compatible with Streamlabs OBS.

Whether this will be a deal-breaker or not will likely depend on whether you are already set up with OBS. If you have extensions that you like and use, you may decide that it is not worth the change. If not, this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker.

Moving from not-for-profit to for-profit software

This disadvantage of Streamlabs is more of an ideological one – while the original OBS Studio is rooted in a community of volunteers, Streamlabs OBS is a commercial company, who release their version with the aim of generating revenue through paid addons.

While both pieces of software are free (Streamlabs’ paid addons are gamer targeted, and not useful for teaching), some people prefer the completely volunteer origin of the original. 

Many of the additional Streamlabs features are unnecessary

While there are some tweaks, including undo and sync, that are quite useful, the majority of the features that Streamlabs has added or are working on have little value when teaching, and are more targeted at gaming.

Summary

Whether you decide to use OBS Studio or Streamlabs OBS, ultimately you will be able to do exactly the same thing: customize your video stream, and add advanced effects to your class. The differences between them are relatively minor.

If you are new to OBS, our recommendation is to go with Streamlabs OBS – the benefit of undo and syncing alone has convinced us to make the switch.

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