How to set up your own private RTMP server using nginx

A somewhat advanced guide for Linux-based servers

  1. dodgepong
    Most people who stream enjoy using services such as Twitch.tv or Ustream to deliver video to viewers, and that works well enough. But sometimes you want some more control over your stream, or you want other people to be able to stream to you, or you want to stream to multiple places, or any number of things that requires you to have access to an actual RTMP stream from an RTMP server. This guide will cover the very basics of setting up a simple RTMP server on a Linux computer. Don't worry, it's not too complicated, but having familiarity with Linux will certainly help.

    A couple things you can do with your own RTMP server that you might be interested in:

    • Stream to multiple external channels
    • Import other people's streams to incorporate for your own purposes (I use it in my casts for multiple camera angles, like in this video I did of a Tribes Ascend broadcast with multiple camera angles)
    Alright, so how do you do these kinds of things?

    Step 1: Get a Server Box

    Believe it or not, RTMP is actually extremely light on system resources. Essentially it just grabs data from the input and forwards it on to the output, simple data transfer. Don't believe me? My RTMP server for a long time was a Raspberry Pi, a $35 mini-computer, sitting under my desk, and it was capable of hosting at least 3 simultaneous streams, and I never even stressed it to see how many more it could handle. So I assure you, even a cheap old box would suffice.

    If you don't have your own box, a VPS can also work. I recommend Linode or Digital Ocean as providers. Just make sure you have enough bandwidth...remember that bandwidth usage will be (the size of a stream) * (the number of people uploading + the number of people downloading). So when I have 2 streamers stream to my server, and I download both of them, I can chew up 10GB of bandwidth in 2 hours.

    I recommend using Ubuntu for the server software for the sake of ease, but you can obviously use whatever you want. As long as you get the dependencies for nginx somewhere besides apt, you can follow this guide just fine.

    Note to Windows users: This guide focuses on using Linux. If you want to use Windows, you can find Windows binaries for nginx with the RTMP module already included here: http://nginx-win.ecsds.eu/download/

    Note to Mac users: You can install nginx with the RTMP module via Homebrew: http://brew.sh/homebrew-nginx/

    If you are hosting your server in your home, you will have to forward TCP port 1935 to the box...this varies by router, so look up how to set up port forwarding for your router. Also, I recommend using a dynamic DNS service to overcome dynamic IP issues that come up with residential hosting.

    Step 2: Installing nginx with RTMP module

    Log into your box, and make sure you have the necessary tools to build nginx using the following command:

    Now a bit of info about nginx (pronounced "engine-X"). nginx is an extremely lightweight web server, but someone wrote a RTMP module for it, so it can host RTMP streams too. However, to add the RTMP module, we have to compile nginx from source rather than use the apt package. Don't worry, it's really easy. Just follow these instructions. :)

    From your home directory, download the nginx source code:

    As of this writing, the latest stable version of nginx is 1.9.15. You can find the latest version on the nginx download page.

    Next, get the RTMP module source code from git:

    Unpack/unzip them both, and enter the nginx directory:

    Now we build nginx:

    And nginx is installed! By default it installs to /usr/local/nginx, so to start the server run the following command:

    And to test to make sure nginx is running, point your browser to http://<your server ip>/ and you should get the "Welcome to nginx!" page.

    Step 3: Configuring nginx to use RTMP

    Open your config file, located by default at /usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf and add the following at the very end of the file:

    Code | Analyze
    rtmp {
            server {
                    listen 1935;
                    chunk_size 4096;
    
                    application live {
                            live on;
                            record off;
                    }
            }
    }
    
    This is an extremely basic configuration with a "live" application that simply forwards the RTMP stream on to whoever requests it. You can play with it some more later. Here's the whole configuration guide, which shows you how to forward streams to other places (such as Twitch), save recordings of uploads, output stats, etc.

    Restart nginx with:

    Step 4: Testing!

    Your server should now be ready to accept RTMP streams! Let's try it out.

    Create a new profile in OBS, and change your Broadcast Settings thusly:

    You may be wondering where that play path "test" came from. Well, we just made it up, just now. You can basically make up any play path and stream to it, and put that path into an RTMP player, and it will play back. For simple purposes, authentication isn't necessary in my experience.

    You should now be able to start streaming to your server. If you hit "Start Streaming" and don't get an error from OBS, that's a good sign.

    So how do you watch it? Personally, I have been using vMix to play back RTMP streams and incorporate them into my own stream. If you just want to play back the stream that's being uploaded, you can do so with VLC 2.1.0 or later. Just Open a Network Stream and enter in rtmp://<your server ip>/live/test as the URL. If it all worked right, then you should now be seeing your stream in VLC!

    You now have a working RTMP server! Congrats!

    What now?

    You can use the video source plugin to add an RTMP stream to OBS itself, or use something like JWPlayer to play back the RTMP stream on a web site you set up.

    You can also use your RTMP server to forward to other streaming services and channels! Underneath the "record off;" line in your nginx.conf, add the following:

    And any stream streamed to that application will be forwarded on to the other service, as well as being served up from the server! You can add multiple "pushes" to forward the stream to multiple locations.

    FAQ

    Q: Why nginx? Why not crtpmserver/Red5/Wowza?
    A: I've tried crtmpserver (aka rtmpd) before, and it works, but is harder to use. If you need to use RTSP, though, instead of RTMP, then I recommend it, since the nginx RTMP module doesn't do RTSP. Red5 seemed overly complicated and heavy to me, and written in Java...you can use it if you want though. I haven't investigated it deeply. Wowza is not free. You can use what you like, but so far nginx is lightweight, easy to use, and free, so you're going to have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    Q: How do I X?
    A: This FAQ is still in progress...ask questions so I can add them here!
    Mike H, Yorubannin, devguy and 2 others like this.

Recent Reviews

  1. Mike H
    Mike H
    5/5,
    Super easy to follow, got me out of a hole. Thanks so much.
  2. Liam Green
    Liam Green
    5/5,
    THis is fantastic. Thank you very much for the post. Quick question do you know if there is a way to buffer the frames for the stream? Say if you have slow internet the frames get uploaded. Yeah i understand there would be a bigger delay but is this possiable?
  3. DvdGiessen
    DvdGiessen
    5/5,
    Works great. Set up a Docker version of it (see https://github.com/DvdGiessen/nginx-rtmp-docker ), so installing Docker (`sudo apt-get install docker.io`) and running `sudo docker run -dp 1935:1935 dvdgiessen/nginx-rtmp-docker` should do everything.
  4. tomisme
    tomisme
    5/5,
    This got me set up easily way back!! It mad my stream quality amazing. I am having trouble now I have upgraded to windows 10. I cant seem to push to the server any more. I get a "Could not access the specified channel or stream key, please double check your stream key. If it is correct, there may be a problem contacting the server" error. I know my IP/Port are correct as if I try any other port through OBS I get an instant failure to connect. Using the ip and set port in my config file is the only connection attempt that returns that error. Any suggestions? I'm pulling my hair out.
  5. SiLeNtCovenant
    SiLeNtCovenant
    3/5,
    This was really simple to set up. Although, having issues with timing and keyframe intervals. Twitch and Youtube keep complaining odd timing.
  6. ws_ubi
    ws_ubi
    5/5,
  7. AnthonyG70
    AnthonyG70
    5/5,
    Used the above information to port over a CentOS server, worked like a charm. Was up and running to four different stream hosts, from one source, in under an hour. Good information!
  8. wired420
    wired420
    5/5,
    Used this to setup a YouTube like service for a media editing team on an intranet, between this guide, and a little php and SQL. Was able to deliver what they wanted without having to build a java app through Red5. Was a huge help. Didn't realize nginx could do this. Running on CentOS 6 VM via a intranet XenServer flawlessly.
  9. M1notaur
    M1notaur
    5/5,
    Awesome!
  10. mechanikism
    mechanikism
    5/5,
    I was able to loosely follow these instructions and set up a working RTMP server on CentOS 6. Excellent guide!