The Premise

As of 8/7/14, Twitch made the announcement that they have partnered with Audible Magic, a company that works closely with the recorded music industry, to avoid potential claims of copyright infringement for the use of in-game audio.  Mind you, these changes are stated to only impact VODs (Videos On Demand), better known as archived broadcasts, and NOT live streams.  This change is retroactive, meaning that it will impact both previous and more recent archived streams for all users.  Twitch does provide its users with the option of archiving their broadcasts, with the majority of users being able to access their previous broadcasts up to 14 days later or beyond.

According to the announcement, Audible Magic scans all VODs in 30-minute increments, and in the event that it finds copyrighted music within a single 30-minute block, it will MUTE the ENTIRE 30-minute block!  Again, this will only impact the VOD or archived broadcast.  The muted portion of a VOD will appear as a red bar in the progress bar at the bottom of the video along with a notification that 3rd party content was identified.

Of course, these new changes have not been received well by Twitch users, many of whom have jumped ship to other livestream hosts, such as Hitbox.  To provide “clarity” to these changes, the CEO of Twitch, Emmett Shear, fielded questions on Reddit regarding these recent changes and has even admitted that the system is still in early development (which may turn up false positives and unnecessary flagging).

If a user feels that their content has been misidentified, they must send Twitch a counter-notification that is compliant with provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

twitch_audio.0That’s a LOT of big words and bullshit to fix THIS!

Of course, that leaves those who have used Twitch’s system for storage and file exportation, and have even amassed a large viewer audience in quite a pickle and wondering what to do now.

Luckily for you, the reader, I have some solutions (utilizing a video hosting website of your choice, OBS, and Virtual Audio Cables) that will put your mind at ease.

What I Have Been Doing All This Time

When it comes to posting videos, one might call me compulsive, obsessive, and even paranoid, but I do know one thing: I have never trusted Twitch’s archiving system from the second I discovered it.  About a year ago, I conducted my first live stream, which happened to be Silent Hill 3, in its entirety.  Being the Twitch noob I was at the time, I forgot to check the little box that would archive my past broadcasts.  I also forgot to check the “save to file” option in Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (I was using my Mac Mini to stream), so after completing a 9-hour stream, I was left with nothing to show for it.

That’s my own tough luck, being a noob and all, but after that, I conducted some test streams to really put Twitch’s archiving system to the test.  I streamed various NES and SNES games (after ensuring that Twitch’s archiving setting was enabled), but what I discovered was that my videos would not only not be saved forever (7-14 days was the typical timeframe a video would stay up), but they would only be viewable in my profile page under Past Broadcasts.

Not very user-friendly, if you ask me.  When I use a program, I just want it to work.  I don’t mind taking additional steps to get there, but if it’s broken at its core, it’s broken.  Again, I may be missing a critical step somewhere, but I became so disenchanted with the whole experience that I began researching other outlets where I could save my footage for future editing.

After I had completed building my PC and loading it with Windows 7, I began playing around with OBS again using an ethernet cable attached to a power converter that is paired up with another that plugs directly into my home modem, providing a much more solid connection than WiFi.  After setting up OBS, I discovered that not only does it have the ability to stream directly to my Twitch channel, but it also can record the stream to a location of my choice!  What a find!

OBSHomeScreen

This made my DAY!

Where it saves the file as well as what it will be named can be found in Settings -> Broadcast Settings.

OBSBroadcastSettings

Make sure to check “Save to File” and specify a “File Path”.

Granted, some folks may not have a PC beefy enough to handle live streaming and recording simultaneously, as some users have reported that their CPU usage will jump up to 80-90% while doing so.  Mine, however, is powered by an AMD Phenom II Black Edition CPU and 8GB of RAM, so it’s more than capable of handling these two tasks, but I can’t help but wonder if something else may be hogging up all that CPU power on other peoples’ PCs or if they are running a dated operating system.

OBS has the ability to save my stream in its entirety to file, which I then can move onto a thumb drive and move it to my Mac for final encoding and editing (I use iMovie).  However, I discovered that OBS would be very finicky and sometimes not encode my video properly.  Imagine my stress level when a 2-hour recording session was totally lost because OBS did not encode it properly!  I was about to give up on the program entirely, but I really like its local save feature, so I strove to find a method that would work.  In the end, I had to change my Virtual Audio Cable settings, which brings me to my next topic of discussion.

Getting Virtual Audio Cables to Work with OBS

I’m not entirely sure why, but when I would use the VAC settings as found in this setup guide, the recording capability in OBS would become erratic and sometimes result in my losing hours of footage!  Until I started my Silent Hill LP, I had no idea that OBS’s recording capability could act so broken.

Determined to find out why it was not encoding the video properly, I began to look at all the processes I was using in conjunction with OBS that would cause a bottleneck.  The only other programs running during that time were the Virtual Audio Cables, so I started there.  The settings outlined in the setup guide worked perfectly for streaming, but were absolutely piss poor when using OBS as the sole recording medium.  Thus, my venture into tweaking OBS and VACs began!  We’ll start with OBS.

OBSInitialSettings

This is what my OBS Screen USED to look like!

Notice how the Microphone audio is muted. The reason for this is that when I would record/stream console play, I would be piping my mic and game audio into the same VAC (which resulted in two instances of VAC needing to be open) as well as the game’s audio pumping into my headphones (which resulted in yet another instance of VAC).  However, upon further inspection, I discovered that OBS has Audio Settings that can be changed to capture both mic and game audio simultaneously!

OBSAudioSettings

What the Audio Settings screen looks like!

What I used to do was Disable the Microphone/Auxiliary setting and set the Desktop Audio to the common VAC that my mic and game audio shared.  Again though, this resulted in very unpredictable recording files which even after hours of editing, cannot be saved.  Even if I took one of those broken files and tried to play them in another media player, it would be rife with echo, audio pops, screen tearing, you name it.

Then I had a bright idea: why not use OBS’s own tools to stream and/or record?  Not changing my PC’s audio settings (Playback set to  VAC Line 3, Recording set to VAC Line 2), I unmuted the Microphone Audio in OBS’s home screen, set it appropriately, went back into Audio Settings and set the Microphone/Auxiliary setting to my webcam’s microphone (as shown above).  In this case, I only needed to use two instances of Virtual Audio Cable, which I outline below.

1) Microphone (High Definition Audio) -> Line 2 (Console Game Audio using my current setup as shown here).

2) Line 3 -> Speakers (Headphones)

The result?  It worked!  Mic and game audio were both picked up cleanly and deposited into one common track that is recorded over the gameplay.  Just one problem: the audio was out of sync.  For my streams, I used to set the Mic Sync Offset (shown above) to 1500, which worked great for streaming and even recording, but for some reason, when using OBS solely as a recording medium, the audio would be out of sync. Now, you may be thinking that this can be fixed in editing later, but me, I just want the shit to work right the first time.

This next part is REALLY IMPORTANT: when using OBS as a RECORDING MEDIUM ONLY, set the Mic Sync Offset to zero.  When using OBS to STREAM AND RECORD, set the Mic Sync Offset to 1500.  How did I come up with 1500, you may ask?  I really can’t recall, sadly, but I do know that it has worked all this time.  I have even conducted recent tests that confirm this.  When streaming/recording, my last few seconds of commentary were cut off by the end of the video and it was out of sync the whole time.  This phenomenon carried over to what was “archived” on my channel.  BOTTOM LINE: when RECORDING ONLY, set MIC SYNC OFFSET TO 0; when RECORDING AND/OR STREAMING, set MIC SYNC OFFSET TO 1500!

It is also important to remember that you may not experience sync issues at all, and if that is so, simply set the Mic Sync Offset to 0 and you are good to go, whether you are recording, streaming or both.  I have made a ton of videos out of live streams that I have recorded as well with 1500 as the Mic Sync Offset setting and have had amazing results, but now with my new VAC settings (stated above), I’m not bogging down OBS with too many instances of VAC, thus making its job of encoding it much easier.

Putting Twitch’s New Policies to the Test

After hearing the news regarding Twitch’s new copyright policies, I decided to take to my channel and see exactly what the hubbub was about.  Using my current settings (albeit without changing the Mic Sync Offset to kill two birds with one stone), I streamed/recorded the introduction video of Silent Hill in two instances: one with commentary and one without.  Here are the results:

twitch test

Without commentary over the introduction.  Lol…my ass got FLAGGED! :-)

silenthilltwitchtest2

Me talking over the music.  Look, Ma!  No flaggage! :-)

So it would appear that if I wanted to regale my viewers with the ultra-immersive intro to Silent Hill by not talking over it, I would be flagged and all of my audio was muted, mic audio and all.  However, in the second test, I talked over the music and it was completely missed by Audible Magic’s rotating machine of death!

For folks out there who were concerned about whether or not game audio was included in the Content ID system, let me be the first to tell you: YES, IT IS!  But it’s not the end of the world.

Do know that Silent Hill’s intellectual property is completely mired in legality issues, which include character voices and musical compositions, so I’m not surprised that I was flagged in the first instance.  What really knocked me for a loop was that by me simply talking over the audio, I wasn’t flagged.

This doesn’t fit my personal taste however, as I would want the viewer to become as immersed as I am in the game’s atmosphere, and by me talking over that intro video, I’m robbing them of that experience.  Therefore, it may just be safer to eliminate instances of that completely from your stream, unless you want to run the risk of having 30 minutes of your stream completely muted!

Unless you made the music yourself or have royalty-free music on hand that doesn’t suck, just assume that remaining silent during a stream will be flagged and muted when archived.  However, this doesn’t translate over to OBS, which saved the first file without commentary perfectly!

It looks like Twitch has stuck to its promise, so far.  It’s just too bad that some folks would export the video from their Twitch archive to their editing program only to find out that it has been muted, but if you use OBS’s recording capability, it becomes a non-issue!  Moving forward.

Making OBS Better

I have a good friend in Adam over at ReplayAbility, and one evening, we were discussing the trials and tribulations that come along with video editing when using a recorded file from OBS.  I was not pleased with my initial recording of Silent Hill, as I felt that my vocals were up too loud, so I found a need to be able to change that volume setting in iMovie.  Adam suggested that I use DirectShow Audio Source plugin, which functions as a separate recorder for your microphone.

At the time of this writing, I have not tested it myself, but from what I’ve heard, it is a way to separate mic audio and game audio which makes the editing process much easier and more approachable.  With my above-stated settings, mic and game audio are recorded on one track, and if the vocals are up too loud, I need to get creative in iMovie in order to rectify the situation.  Adam may have just presented me (and consequently, you) with a way to record your mic audio so that you can reduce or increase its volume later in editing.

It’s worth a shot, and the download link for your particular operating system can be found here.  Simply follow the directions on the download page to enable to plugin and get cracking!

How I Do Things

Since I’m compulsive, obsessive, and paranoid, I don’t trust Twitch to store my videos and have never once used their system to export my video file.  Using OBS allows me to record the video to a location that I specify, intact and untainted, so that I can edit it later.  Even when I was streaming on a weekly basis, I didn’t have to worry about flagging or Twitch’s attempt to dodge corporate bullets because I never used their system!

OBS is freeware, and as such, is not subject to the same laws that Twitch, Youtube, and others are.  You will never have to worry about OBS flagging your content or muting your audio.  When using a video hosting website (I have a Youtube Channel as well as a Dailymotion Channel), err on the side of caution when remaining silent during in-game musical interludes, because it can mean the difference between creative freedom and falling victim to Google’s ever-growing corporate umbrella.

Don’t play the victim!  Take charge of your content!

I have since removed my “silent” playthroughs in favor of LPs, reviews, and more, and since then, I haven’t been flagged once (except for my 45 minute LP of Super Mario Bros., but that was inevitable)!  If you happen to watch my Silent Hill LP, you will notice that I eliminated the introduction video completely.  I didn’t want to rob the viewer of its sheer epicness by piping my clowny voice over it, and since I want to dodge a potential flag, I simply removed it.  The result?  No flag!

For games that require silence in order for the viewer to understand or fully absorb them without having to listen over a commentator (such as Silent Hill), just know that you do run the risk of being flagged.  You should have seen how many flags I got on my “silent” run of Silent Hill 2! :-/

If Youtube is giving you a hard time, I would highly recommend Dailymotion, as some bigger personalities, such as Classic Game Room, have since moved over there and do not have the copyright claim issues that they had after Youtube changed its policies.  In reality, it all depends on your approach to determine which platform will work best with your format.

Just one important thing: NEVER GIVE UP, AND KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

Lumpz the Clown OUT!

newprofilepicLumpz the Clown