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OBS can now stream high-quality AV1 video to YouTube

You can even broadcast 4K60 video in the right conditions.

REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

High-quality video won't make or break a livestream, but it certainly helps — and now it's considerably easier to provide. OBS Studio 29.1 is now available with support for AV1 stream encoding when broadcasting to YouTube. While YouTube treats the feature as a beta, it enables higher-quality footage than H.264 at similar bitrates, and higher resolutions if you have the headroom. As creator EposVox demonstrates, you can effectively eliminate visual artifacts with 1080p 60FPS video or jump to 4K at the same frame rate without consuming significantly more bandwidth than a 1080p H.264 feed.

The improvement relies on the new Enhanced RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) standard, which extends the existing approach to handle newer video formats. The technology also supports HDR, but YouTube doesn't support it so far.

Hardware encoding works with AMD, Intel and NVIDIA GPUs, although you can use software if your CPU is sufficiently powerful. Tom's Hardware notes that YouTube still transcodes the resulting output to its VP9 format, but the image quality loss is said to be slight.

The OBS upgrade won't have the greatest impact when many streamers use Twitch, which doesn't support AV1 and currently limits feeds to 6Mbps. YouTube, meanwhile, hasn't said when its support will be officially available. However, the change hints at a future where creators can stream video that looks about as good to viewers as it does on the host's PC.