How to Stream With Two PCs Using OBS Studio and the NDI Plugin

How to Stream With Two PCs Using OBS Studio and the NDI Plugin

A popular streaming setup involves two computers. The major benefit of this is that it allows the second computer to bear the brunt of the encoding load. Streaming at the highest quality, using the CPU intensive x264 encoder, can be a huge impact on a system, causing the framerates of your games to suffer and making the whole experience unenjoyable for both viewer and streamer.

Another benefit is that if your main gaming PC has a problem and you need to restart it, or restart OBS because the stream is actually coming from the second computer, your stream will not go offline.

The traditional method of a two PC streaming setup involves using something known as a capture card, like an Elgato HD60S. These cost almost $200 though and thus have a slight barrier to entry.


A Free Way to Stream With Two PCs

Not everyone wants to pay for something like a capture card, especially if you’re just starting out streaming.

Fortunately, a plugin utilizing something called NDI from a company called Newtek has been developed for OBS Studio. This uses your available network bandwidth (not your Internet speed) between your computers and your router to send/receive anything in your OBS preview window.

Since the main PC isn’t actually streaming, this NDI protocol is very lightweight on the gaming system and so the majority of your performance is maintained, while the second PC does all the heavy lifting. All the traffic is passed through your local area network, or LAN also known as your Home Network.

LAN WAN.jpg





PC Requirements to Stream With Two PCs

Since the second PC will be a dedicated streaming machine, you don’t actually need some super crazy high-end and powerful system in order to stream at a decent quality. Most old computers can work well as secondary computers, so long as they fit the below requirements.

  • The CPU must support Supplemental SSE3 instruction set (SSSE3). Please note, that’s THREE S’, not two. Google your CPU model + “cpuworld” to get a result that will tell you if your CPU supports that instruction set. AMD CPUs before the FX/Bulldozer series did not support SSSE3.

  • OBS Studio and the NDI plugin

  • Quad-core or hyperthreading dual core for 720p at 30 frames per second

  • Hyperthreading Quad-core or better for 720p 60 frames per second (preferred), or 1080p at 30 frames per second/1080p at 60 frames per second

Gigabit (1000 megabit) network connections between computers and router/switch. You can verify this on each computer by going to the control panel in Windows > Network Connections > Selecting and opening your active ethernet connection

network connections.jpg
LAN connection status.jpg


How to Install the OBS NDI Plugin

Step 1: If you don’t already have OBS Studio, go to https://obsproject.com/ and download and install the appropriate version. Reboot your computer after installation (this is optional but good practice to ensure the NDI plugin installs correctly). Make sure OBS is not open before proceeding to the next step. This guide is for Windows, so be aware of that.
Step 2: Download and install the OBS NDI plugin using the windows installer package. https://obsproject.com/forum/resources/obs-ndi-newtek-ndi%E2%84%A2-integration-into-obs-studio.528/
Once installed, follow the prompt to reboot your computer.

windows installer selection.jpg

Step 3: Repeat these steps for the second computer
Step 4: Verify that the NDI installation was successful by opening OBS and clicking “tools.” Make sure to click “allow” on any prompts at this point when opening OBS. If you see “NDI Output Settings” then we are ready to proceed to configuration.

Tools NDI.jpg

Configuring OBS for Two PC Streaming

The simplest way to take advantage of OBS NDI and a two PC streaming setup like this is to essentially mimic a single PC streaming setup. Configure all of your overlays and alerts in OBS on the computer you will be gaming on. For a step by step tutorial on configuring StreamElements overlays and alerts in OBS, please see the following videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFgrV2aSiHg&t=
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwAfMIR3Cj0&list=PLCDDKlFdScbEwdx5AntcQIS1InkFJwHtv&index=5&t=0s

If you’re at this point, we will assume that you have your overlays and alerts configured so lets go over getting OBS ready for two PC streaming.

On the Gaming PC

Step 1: Open OBS and go to settings > video. Ensure your video output settings here reflect the quality you want to stream at. The lowest impact, highest quality setting will be 720p at 60fps so that is what is shown.

Video settings.jpg


Step 2:
Now go to Tools > “NDI Output Settings” and click it. You will be presented with a window that lets you name your source and checkbox as an output. The checkbox we will check is “Main Output.” Make sure you write a name that will reflect which PC you are using.

Tools NDI.jpg
Main Output config.jpg

Pressing OK will activate the NDI signal to be sent from the Gaming PC, so the gaming PC configuration is now complete*. Let’s move on to the second PC.


*Note: activating the NDI output will make you unable to change your video settings. In order to change your video settings if you need to change resolution or FPS, you will need to deactivate NDI then change the video settings, then reactivate NDI. The second computer will automatically pick it back up.

Activate NDI EZGIF.gif

Second PC configuration

Step 1: Open OBS on the second PC
Step 2: Go to Settings and configure your stream output settings, including your stream key (or “connect account” option for Twitch and Youtube) and set your bitrate. A good example configuration for your Output is pictured below. Adjust the bitrate as necessary for your upload speed and adjust your CPU Usage Preset based on how powerful your CPU is/how much CPU load OBS uses while streaming with this second PC.


Stream-Output.jpg
Second PC Output settings.jpg

Step 3: Configure your Video settings to match the “Output (scaled) resolution” listed Step 1 above for configuring the Gaming PC.

Second PC video settings.jpg

Step 4: Almost there. Now we just add the Gaming PC’s NDI signal to the second PC. To do that, go into sources and click the + sign or right click. You should see “NDI Source” on the list, click it.

Add NDI source.jpg

Step 5: Once you click it, you’ll be asked to create new or add existing. Create new, and give it a familiar name such as “Gaming PC.” Click “OK.”

Naming source.jpg

Step 6: Now you’ll be presented with a window that should show you a dropdown list of any NDI signals that second PC you’re on detects**. It should show “Gaming PC” along with its configured network name. You may have manually configured this network name, but it may just be random letters and numbers with the familiar name you configured above in parentheses next to it.

NDI Source add config.jpg

Note**: You may see “latency mode” when at this screen and it has two options, Normal (safe) and Low (experimental). Try to use Low for the smoothest stream experience, but if you encounter any issues then leave it Normal.

Normal or Low.jpg


Press “OK” and your OBS feed from the gaming PC should appear in your preview window of your Second PC. You are now ready to stream!

Add NDI Source EZGIF.gif
Second PC ready.jpg


Once you are here and ready to stream, you can press “Start Streaming” in OBS on the second PC. You must NOT press that button in OBS on the gaming PC, but you MUST leave OBS open on BOTH computers.

Should you encounter any issues, fear not as there is a FAQ video that should help address most commonly asked questions about OBS NDI.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3KlbU5AYP0&t=


So, to wrap up. Configure everything in OBS on your gaming PC, enable the NDI output, add it as a source on the second PC, then click “start streaming” on the second PC. It might all sound complicated but if you think about it this way, you can be up and running in minutes! And yes, all audio, including your microphone, is transmitted to the second PC using this method. It’s incredibly awesome.

OBS.Live - Monitor, Control, Integrate, and Interact with your stream!


You may have noticed the activity feed and chat integrated into OBS in the above image. Monitoring everything from a single place becomes way easier with StreamElements OBS.Live add-on for OBS Studio.

You can see how many viewers you have, activity feed, skip/replay/manage alerts, refresh your overlays, media control, set what game you’re playing, set your stream title all in OBS...so much good stuff! The plugin is available to download right here: https://streamelements.com/obslive

Legendary Support is Available 24/7

If you found this article helpful, or need more help with your configuration, be sure to reach out to us on social media. Our fun and friendly Discord community is full of fellow StreamElements users too and our support staff are on-hand, providing legendary service 24/7!

Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/se
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