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How do you record Zoom meetings using OBS?

Open Broadcaster Software is becoming an essential way for companies to improve the look and feel of their Zoom meetings. The software also makes it easy to stream meetings live.

One of Zoom's most popular features is its native video recording. Zoom users can record meetings to either their PC or to the Zoom cloud. You can even get separate files for gallery view and full-sized speaker view if you record to the Zoom cloud. Yet, many people are using other options, such as Open Broadcaster Software, or OBS, to record video meetings.

Why use another piece of software when Zoom provides recording? There are several small benefits. For example, OBS supports recording into different video formats. But the main reason why you may want to learn how to record Zoom meetings using OBS is that the software can help companies get a step ahead on their video production.

OBS is the software of choice for many, if not most, of today's online streamers. This free software lets you create "scenes," using your webcam feed along with any other videos or images you elect to include. The result is then pushed live to your streaming platform of choice, like YouTube or Twitch, and/or to a recording. The original use case for OBS was simple: It lets gamers overlay their webcam image on a corner of their video game during their online streams. Viewers can see the game at full size, as well as the real-time reactions of streamers, as they play.

OBS becoming a full-featured editor

Over time, OBS added countless features and capabilities as users sought to enhance their streams and stand out. Today, it is practically a full-featured live video editor. Just about anything I can do in post-production with traditional video editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, I can now do live in OBS. We all know what Premiere Pro can do; it's basically Photoshop for video. Just as Photoshop enables users to manipulate an image, Premiere Pro enables them to manipulate a video. An experienced editor using Premiere Pro can do just about anything with a recorded file. Traditional editing software can be expensive, however, and it requires a recorded video file. OBS is free and enables users to edit their live feeds.

What does that mean? Instead of recording on Zoom and importing that recording into Premiere Pro for production, users can employ OBS to do everything in one shot. Any backgrounds, title bars, flyover graphics, transitions or other video effects typically applied after the fact with editing software can be set up in OBS and applied during the recording itself.

For example, I have used OBS to record a Zoom meeting when producing a video podcast. On my primary monitor, I programmed OBS with a few simple scenes that all had the same softly moving blue background. My secondary monitor displayed my Zoom meeting running live with two presenters. OBS enabled me to easily capture sections from my secondary monitor -- running Zoom -- and overlay them into the OBS scenes.

OBS control Zoom meetings
OBS enables you to edit and control Zoom meetings in real time.

Using this technique, I took the two Zoom speaker windows and overlaid them on my blue background. I could position and size them any way I wanted. For this podcast, I used three separate scenes. One scene positioned the two speakers at the same size when they were talking back and forth. The other two scenes each had a larger window for the active speaker.

During our recording session, I used OBS to use a fade transition to switch among the three scenes in OBS as the speakers talked. The result was a fully produced video podcast with nice transitions between different views and little to no need for post-production editing. The speakers saw nothing of this and simply conducted their Zoom conversation normally without any distractions.

How to record Zoom meetings in OBS

Before I could crop and position the Zoom windows in OBS, as mentioned above, I had to capture Zoom in OBS. There are a few ways to do this, but here are the quick steps to the method I use to record Zoom meetings in OBS.

1. Click the + button at the bottom of the Sources dock in OBS to create a new source.

OBS control Zoom meetings
OBS enables you to edit and control Zoom meetings in real time.

2. Choose Display Capture.

Recoding Zoom in OBS step 2

3. Set the new source to capture the PC's second display.

Recording Zoom in OBS step 3

4. Move the Zoom window over to the PC's second display.

Now, Zoom exists as a source in OBS. Anything that happens in the Zoom window also happens on this source in your OBS screen. You can crop, resize, add filters and control the Zoom meeting in any way you choose.

You can also make multiple copies of the meeting and control them all differently, which enables you to have one source for each speaker in Zoom. You can then position them as you please over your background source of choice and already have a more produced and watchable video. From there, you can take it to the next level by creating multiple scenes, pop-up effects, transitions and other advanced OBS techniques.

Support for live and prerecorded meetings

These capabilities notwithstanding, when learning how to record Zoom meetings using OBS, perhaps the biggest advantage is how easy it is to stream live. Once your scenes are set up and you are comfortable with switching among them during the session, OBS lets you stream just as easily as you can record. Rather than hit Start Recording, select Start Streaming -- after configuring OBS to connect to your YouTube or other streaming service account.

In fact, I produce several video podcasts that sometimes are live and sometimes prerecorded, depending on my clients' needs for that particular podcast. From a production standpoint, I set up OBS the same way regardless. When the session begins, I can either stream live or record with full production values. Either way, it happens all in one step and with little or no need for post-production editing.

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