Separating game, voice chat, music, etc in OBS Studio (Windows 10+ only)

This is going to be a small tutorial on ways to set up different audio output captures for OBS using the win-capture-audio plugin — so you can better isolate content you don’t want to be heard on your livestream, while still hearing it on your PC audio playback. Be aware this only works for Windows 10 or above!

Getting started

Make sure you’re on Windows 10, updated to version 2005 or later. Windows 11 also works. To check what version of Windows 10 you’re currently running, open the Start menu and run this program:

winver

Just go to the releases page and download the latest version — this guide was written based on version 2.2.0-beta. Make sure you close OBS before installing and bear in mind bugs can still be present in this plugin — but I recommend you give it a try and if you’re making changes to your most important scene collection, make sure to duplicate it first so you have a working backup without using this plugin. Let’s get going!

What the plugin does

Essentially, this plugin takes advantage of some new features that came with Windows 11 that were also included in updates to Windows 10 which can allow you to capture audio from individual programs you have running, even if they’re in the background.

Setting the captures inside OBS

Once you finish installing it, open OBS and check for the new Source called Application Audio Output Capture. I recommend you add self-descriptive names (like Music, Game Sound, Voice Chat, etc.) for these captures so you don’t get mixed up later on on which is which. They will be sorted alphabetically in the audio mixer, so you can prefix them with numbers to achieve the order you want.

An option allows you to capture the current window in the foreground — essentially, the Window you have in focus, or opened — using a hotkey but what we’re going to use is the option to capture sessions from a selection of executables.

Now you can manually add executables if you know them by name on the plus sign button to the right and typing the name (case sensitive!) or you can look under Add from currently active sessions for a drop-down list of programs that are connected to the driver of your playback device.

Select the application that you want to capture — such as a videogames, music players, internet browsers, voice chats, and so on…

Your microphone/line inputs can still be added globally under Settings > Audio as usual. However, you will want to disable the default Desktop audio output on this menu, or else this will add up with the independent captures, resulting in everything being really loud on your stream.

Once you have all your audio capturing the way you want, it’s time to organize everything.

Organizing the capture sources

The amount of sources that you have to keep track of now can quickly add up, but there are some ways to organize them to help your streaming needs.

For this, it’s important to know about Nested Scenes, which is a quite common technique usually for video compositing inside your scene collections. Here’s an example using some color and text sources:

On top, we got our “_Nested Scene” with background color and text. On the bottom, we have our “Main Scene”, which has some background color and text itself, but also a reference copy of our nested scene, scaled down. Any changes we make to the nested scene, will affect its looks on the main scene, as well.

As you can see, this is a completely video-oriented example, but the same setup works with audio sources as well! Any audio source captures you include in scene A will be present in scene B by adding scene A to it as a source.

Method 1. Creating a single scene containing all independent audio sources

One way is to add all of them to a single scene, maybe call it “_Audio Sources” (I like to use an underscore before scenes that are meant to be used as sources so I don’t switch to them by accident) and add this scene to all of your other scenes, to have everything available on your audio mixer at all times, as long as your current scene contains the nested scene you just created. Have a look:

On the top screenshot we have our “_Audio Sources” scene selected, and there we all everything we want in our stream. In this case I’ve added a Mic capture as well but you can just add it globally like I’ve previously mentioned. On the bottom screenshot, we have an Ingame scene. that includes all of our audio, so it’s always available on the mixer.

Method 2. Creating multiple scenes with respective audio and video

This case uses more nested scenes but it’s nice to have everything organized because when you switch between your main scenes using Fade or Stinger, the audio will fade-out. If you’re using Stingers, I recommend you set to audio crossfade instead of fade out/fade in under its transition settings.

Here’s how the setup could look like as, for example, playing games and sometimes reacting to videos on stream:

Top screenshot shows your isolated game capture and game audio to use as a nested scene. Bottom screenshot is how you would use it in practice when you want to do your video switching.
Same as figure above, but this time for your browser window for reacting to videos, other streams, etc — make sure what you’re doing is considered “Fair Use” by law.

Intermission

With what we’ve done now, we are able to realize that isolating audio captures can be great in practice, but when it comes to organizing your scenes, things can get complicated. As Albert Einstein once said; with great power comes great responsibility — according to some very credible internet sources.

You can, however, instead of using nested scenes, just add these sources individually per scene, and avoiding having Scenes that are visible, but that you won’t ever switch to directly. Obviously the content of your scenes will now be more convoluted and it will take a bit more time to setup, plus it’s harder to keep track of things, but it’s an option…

Method 3. Not using nested scenes at all

As said above, this way keeps your scene list less convoluted, at the cost of keeping the content of that scene a bit more difficult to keep track of.

It doesn’t look like much, but say you want to have background music when you’re matchmaking in a game, or maybe you want to make some picture-in-picture effects and finalizing with stream alerts and graphic overlays — sources add up real quickly and you’ll have to do your best to keep them organized with descriptive but short names, prefixes, colors, groups, etc.

In case it wasn’t clear, here’s what it would look like not using nested scenes and instead adding sources on a per-scene basis:

Game capture example. Other scenes would follow the same principle.

What about the Group source?

As you probably know, you can also add sources to a Group, and use a reference copy of that group in other scenes, much like nested scenes.

While this method also works for both video and audio content, I’m personally not a fan of using grouping sources in OBS unless I absolutely have to due to some problems I’ve had in the past. This is my personal preference though, so if you want to give groups a try, go ahead and let me know how well it works for you!

I won’t add a demo using groups because I think it’s a good moment to challenge yourself on how the setup would work. One of the most important parts about streaming when it comes to composition and organization is learning the basics that video mixing programs can offer and then trying out different things based on inspiration or maybe just challenging yourself to replicate what you’ve seen in another internet livestream, or even TV live show.

Good luck and I’ll see you next time!

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