Comparing the Top 10 HLS Streaming Software for Live Broadcasting [2023 Update]

hls streaming software

Broadcasting live streaming video requires various tools. There are several types of streaming software, including encoders, live switchers, simulcasting tools, and more.

Each of these tools plays an important role in enhancing the live streaming experience. In particular, HTTP live HLS streaming software is used with live streams delivered with HLS technology.

This post will look at several of the best HLS streaming software offerings. We will review some of the top software in the live streaming game, including Wirecast, Switchboard Live, and Restream. What each of the tools has in common is its compatibility with HLS format streaming to an HTML5 video player.

Before our comparison, we’ll discuss the basics of HLS streaming and compare ingest and delivery in the context of live streaming.

HLS Streaming: The Basics

HLS streaming protocol

HLS format, which stands for “HTTP Live Streaming”, is a video streaming protocol that Apple developed to deliver content to an HTML5 video player.

This protocol became essential in the industry-wide transition from Adobe’s Flash Player to more modern HTML5 video players. To put it into perspective, HLS format is to HTML5 as RTMP is to Flash.

As an adaptive bitrate streaming protocol, an HTTP live streaming server delivers the best available video quality to viewers anytime. It scales the video bitrate based on the internet speed of the viewer. This way, they won’t have to face long periods of buffering as the stream will continue playing even at a lower quality. HLS solutions make it possible for every viewer to get the best viewing experience. 

Over the past several years, HLS fomat has become the most widely used live streaming protocol. Mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and many other devices, all support HLS format.

The biggest benefits of HLS format streaming are improved security and nearly universal compatibility. If you want to reach a big audience with your audio and visual content, you need to use an HLS solution.

Delivery vs. Ingest in Streaming

hls software
RTMP is a live streaming protocol that transmits (or ingests) video files from the encoder to an OVP.

Before we get into our HTTP live streaming software comparison, we must clarify the roles of HLS and RTMP encoding in delivery and ingest, respectively.

In most cases, live streaming involves sending data from your capture device to an online video platform (OVP), with a few stops in between. OVPs either use their content delivery network (CDN) or partner with a CDN to deliver streams to your viewers. 

It is also possible to send the data via your live streaming server, but this requires more equipment and technical knowledge.

This process of sending the stream from an encoder to the online video platform is known as stream ingestion or simply “ingest.” Stream ingestion usually occurs using RTMP.

RTMP, or “Real-Time Messaging Protocol”, delivers content to the Flash video player. RTMP ingest should not be confused with RTMP delivery.

It is also possible to use HLS format for ingesting, but that’s not yet widely supported. HLS is used primarily for HLS delivery, whereas RTMP is for stream ingestion.

If you’d like to learn more about RTMP servers and how the two protocols work together, we recommend checking out our dedicated RTMP ingest guide.

What is HLS Streaming Software?

There are several types of software for HLS format streaming. Typically, these tools specialize in a specific function related to live streaming, but it’s also fairly common for one software to include support for multiple functionalities.

What makes them “HLS streaming software” vs. “streaming software” (which we discuss in other posts) is that they are expressly set up for streaming to an HTML5 video player via HLS delivery.

Some main HTTP live streaming tools include encoders, switchers, and simulcasting tools. Let’s break these categories down.

Encoding Software

Encoding software is probably the most critical HTTP live streaming software simply because most broadcasters need it. This software converts the RAW video files your camera captures into a ready-to-stream digital video file.

The benefit of software encoders rather than hardware encoders is that they are generally more cost-effective. Unlike hardware encoders, it’s possible to update software encoders as the software is improved. That means the lifespan of live stream encoding software lives beyond its hardware counterpart.

Simulcasting Software

Simulcasting, short for “simultaneous broadcasting”, is streaming to multiple destinations simultaneously. This functionality is also referred to as “multi-destination streaming.”

For example, if you want to broadcast a live stream on your website and a social network like Instagram simultaneously, that is simulcasting. You are simultaneously sharing the same content across various online platforms.

Simulcasting requires the support of dedicated HTTP live streaming software.

Many broadcasters use simulcasting software to stream the same content to their sites, apps, and popular social media platforms, all at once. With simulcast streaming, you can reach a larger audience.

Switching Software

When it comes to live streaming at the professional level, a reliable switcher is a must. Switching software allows broadcasters to instantaneously switch between live feeds, on-demand videos, and other sources.

Using different sources throughout your stream can keep things exciting and engaging.

Comparing the 10 Best HLS Streaming Software in 2023

Now that you know how HLS format streaming works and what HLS streaming software is, let’s look at the best HTTP live streaming software.

With each option we highlight, we’ll share its key features, pricing, compatibility, pros, and cons.

1. Wirecast

Wirecast HLS software
Wirecast is RTMP compatible, thus compatible with most online video platforms. You can install Wirecast on Mac and Windows computers.

Wirecast is RTMP compatible, thus compatible with most online video platforms. You can install Wirecast on Mac and Windows computers.

Wirecast is a professional-grade HLS streaming software with a video switcher, and encoder powered by Telestream.

This HTTP live streaming software lets you quickly switch between multiple sources, overlay graphics on the feed, and stream video. With Wirecast, you can record streams locally, mix audio, and add video effects.

Wirecast features several enhancements and fixes, including Facebook Live polling, a rewritten WebStream plugin, and Virtual Camera improvements.

What makes Wirecast even better is that you can invite remote guests, use virtual camera and microphone, and choose from over 500K stock media assets to improve your HLS format live streaming. The software also offers native support for 12 languages.

You can check out its tech specs on the Telestream website to learn more about it. 

Key Features:

  • Support for unlimited sources (cameras, mics, IP cams, capture cards, and NDI)
  • Multiple bitrate streaming
  • Built-in graphics and titling tool
  • Integrates with Facebook Live and Twitter for sharing comments on-screen
  • Includes instant replay, scoreboard, and timers for sports
  • Free wireless camera app turns iOS devices into mobile live video sources
  • Stream to multiple destinations simultaneously
  • Integrated video chat via “Wirecast Rendezvous”
  • Local program output

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use, user-friendly platform
  • Compatible with most popular operating systems
  • Fully loaded with valuable features
  • There are plenty of interactive features such as animated titles and social media comments moderation. 
  • You get customizable transitions, advanced audio mixers, and both plans’ virtual camera and mic output.

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Many features locked in the “Studio” version
  • Consumes a lot of computer memory

Pricing:

The HLS format streaming software comes in two versions:

  • Wirecast Studio for enhanced live production & streaming: pricing is $24.92/month for annual subscription
  • Wirecast Pro for advanced live production and streaming: pricing is $33.25/month for an annual subscription 

Upgrading to Pro adds support for:

  • 7 guests via Rendezvous
  • 8-track audio output
  • Instant replay
  • Scoreboards
  • 3D virtual sets for green-screen use
  • Program feed
  • Support for a broader range of capture devices
  • ISO camera recording
  • “Present” version of NewBlue Titler Live.

Additional Wirecast access plans include::

  • Wirecast Insider Access: $199/ year, and free access to a stock media library with over 500,000 unique media assets. 
  • Wirecast Premium Access: $299/year in which you get unlimited phone support and remote access services. 

Compatibility:

Wirecast comes in a version for Windows and macOS. When writing this article, the latest version of Wirecast is Version 16.0.2, which they released on Oct 26, 2023.

These specifications are for the latest version of Wirecast above:

  • Resolution: 4096 x 3072 (maximum)
  • Processor:  Intel® 6th Generation1 or newer, CPU2 – or AMD Ryzen™ 1000, Series or newer CPU2; Apple M1 or newer (minimum) 
  • Input Sources: Unlimited
  • Output Destinations: Unlimited 
  • Memory: 8 GB (minimum); 16+ GB (recommended)
  • Hard Drive: 7200 RPM for record to disk (minimum);, Solid State Drive (recommended)

Wirecast provides you with quality access to HTTP live streaming tools that you can use to customize your video content, record streams, and mix in special effects. They are an online video platform with professional pricing. 

Stream With Dacast Using Wirecast

Wirecast works with many online video players, including Dacast. It’s also straightforward to set up. To demonstrate just how easy it is, here’s how to set up Wirecast to live HLS format stream on Dacast.

To live stream with Dacast, you’ll need the following encoder settings:

VIDEO CODECH.264 (x264 may work)
FRAME RATE25 or 30
KEYFRAME INTERVAL2 secs (or 2x frame rate)
SCANNINGProgressive
ENCODING BITRATEConstant (CBR)
AUDIO CODECAAC
AUDIO BITRATE128 kbps
AUDIO CHANNELS2 (Stereo)
AUDIO SAMPLE RATE48 kHz (48,000 Hz)
    1. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
    2. Click on the “Encoder Setup” button.
    3. Under the RTMP Encoders dropdown menu, select “Telestream Wirecast.”
    4. Next, open Wirecast.
    5. Open the output settings window by pressing the CONTROL key + Y on your PC keyboard or COMMAND + Y if you have a Mac.
    6. Click on “Select an Output Destination.” Choose “RTMP Server.”
    7. Now, it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the Stream URL and Stream Key from Dacast to the “Address” and “Stream” fields on Wirecast.
    8. Click “Set credentials,” where you’ll copy and paste your credentials from Dacast onto the appropriate fields.

    If you get stuck, check out our thorough guide on how to stream with Dacast using Wirecast.

2. vMix

vMix HLS software
Vmix is an HLS Streaming Software that allows you to broadcast live productions online.

Next up is vMix, another powerful live switcher and HLS software application. Like Wirecast, vMix supports a wide range of inputs and streams to OVPs, CDNs and services like YouTube and Facebook.

As of Nov 2023 the latest version of the Windows-specific software is 26.0.0.45 and includes an upgrade to a free 60-day trial of vMix PRO for download. While vMix 25 is for Windows only, the software can be installed on a Mac via Boot Camp if the machine has a Windows partition.

The best part about vMix is that you can host both livestreams and produce videos using the software. You can also livestream directly to platforms like YouTube, Wowza, Restream, Twitch, Vimeo, X, and Facebook. This can help you get a wider reach and drive more views. It’s also possible to export your productions to projectors and TVs and other devices to see the results.

Many broadcasters love this HLS format streaming software. Let’s look in a bit more detail at vMix’s features.

Key Features:

  • Video support up to 4K resolution
  • Supports NDI
  • Source from audio, image, or video files as well as DVD, playlists, and websites
  • Stream, record, and output video to professional decks and monitors simultaneously
  • Video transitions and other effects built-in
  • Support for 3D acceleration reduces the need for a top-end CPU
  • Virtual sets
  • PC and Mac desktop source (including audio) via computers on your network
  • vMix call teleconference support for up to 8 remote guests
  • Titling support and four overlay channels
  • Instant replay support
  • Touchscreen web interface

Pros:

  • Some limitations on compatibility
  • Plans for every budget
  • 60-day risk-free trial
  • Users rave about switcher functions

Cons:

  • Streams in relatively low bitrate
  • Some “bugginess” (which users suggest could be fixed with software update)
  • It’s challenging to navigate due to its many features. Users have to spend more time than they should on simple modifications. 
  • Most users say they must restart vMix after changing specific settings. It gets annoying and causes delays. 
  • You need a high-speed internet connection to stream on vMix efficiently. 
  • You can have only eight broadcasters during the live event, which is relatively low, given how costly the software is. 

Pricing:

vMix is available in five different versions, ranging from BasicHD to Pro. Each version supports a different number of inputs, you can either get a lifetime license or monthly subscriptions and includes the following versions:

  • Basic HD: $60, which supports 4 inputs (up to 3 camera/NDI) and video up to Full HD 1920 ×1080 resolution
  • HD: $350, which supports 1,000 inputs, adds vMix call functionality, 4 overlay channels, and supports full HD video in 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 4K: $700, which supports 1,000 inputs, 4K resolution video (4096 x 2160), PTZ control, 2 recorders, instant replay, 4 SRT outputs, and much more
  • Pro: $1200, which also supports 1,000 inputs, includes all 4K features and 2 records, plus up to 8 callers, up to 4 cameras for instant replay, and 4 SRT outputs

The following is a subscription license that includes and is charged monthly:

  • MAX: $50/month, which also supports 1,000 inputs, 1,000 NDI inputs, and includes all 4K resolution video (4096 x 2160), PTZ control, 2 recorders, instant replay, 4 SRT outputs

vMix also offers a 60-day free trial and has all the features of vMix Pro, including the ability to use resolutions greater than HD such as 4K, mainly to ensure vMix supports your computer hardware works with it before purchasing.

It’s a great perk, as most HLS format encoder software offers only up to a 30-day free trial.

Compatibility:

vMix only works natively with Windows, but some limited tools from vMix are supported on macOS. However, many broadcasters use Bootcamp to access vMix on macOS. 

Learn more about how to use vMix in our dedicated tutorial.

vMix offers a wide range of pricing, making it appealing for smaller and larger organizations. They’re a good choice if you are looking for a Windows-based HLS provider.

If you want to know more about the latest changes introduced with the latest version, such as color correction features, virtual streaming, and independent streaming control support, check out this interview with the vMix management team at NAB:

Using vMix to Live Stream With Dacast

Adding vMix to your live streaming setup is simple. The steps to integrate vMix vary from platform to platform, but here are the steps to use vMix with Dacast specifically.

  1. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
  2. Then click on the “Encoder Setup” button.
  3. Under the RTMP Encoders dropdown menu, select vMix.
  4. Now, within your vMix encoder settings, click on the dropdown menu for “Destination,” and find “Custom RTMP Server”
  5. Next, it’ll ask you for a “URL” and “Stream Name or Key.” At this point, it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the URL and Stream Name information from Dacast into your vMix encoder.
  6. Next, on vMix, click “advanced.” Here it will ask for a username and password. Again, you will simply copy and paste that information from your Dacast account.
  7. After this, click “OK.”

If you need more help, check out our guide on live streaming with Dacast using vMix.

Using vMix to Live Stream With Dacast

Adding vMix to your live streaming setup is simple. The steps to integrate vMix vary from platform to platform, but here are the steps to use vMix with Dacast specifically.

  1. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
  2. Then click on the “Encoder Setup” button.
  3. Under the RTMP Encoders dropdown menu, select vMix.
  4. Now, within your vMix encoder settings, click on the dropdown menu for “Destination,” and find “Custom RTMP Server”
  5. Next, it’ll ask you for a “URL” and “Stream Name or Key.” At this point, it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the URL and Stream Name information from Dacast into your vMix encoder.
  6. Next, on vMix, click “advanced.” Here it will ask for a username and password. Again, you will simply copy and paste that information from your Dacast account.
  7. After this, click “OK.”

If you need more help, check out our guide on live streaming with Dacast using vMix.

 

3. VidBlasterX

Vidblasterx HLS live streaming
VidBlasterX is versatile live streaming software, allowing you to capture, stream, and broadcast everything, anywhere.

VidBlasterX is a potent and capable live streaming software. However, VidBlasterX takes a somewhat different approach, especially regarding customization.

This software is an encoder, mixer, stream recorder, and production tool.

What makes VidBlaster X a powerful HLS streaming software is the fact that it takes advantage of multi-core CPUs and doesn’t necessarily need a GPU. 

It’s highly configurable and offers multi-channel and multi-camera live streaming features so you can use it for professional events as well. You also get loads of built-in video effects that can be used to make your streams more engaging. It’s also possible to add overlays and lower-thirds.

Key Features:

  • Modular user interface
  • Everything is customizable
  • Includes macro and scripting functionality to automate or hot-key actions
  • Supports overlays and lower thirds
  • Chroma key support
  • Live streaming and recording up to 4K resolution
  • Compatible with social media platforms as well as most OVPs, including Dacast with a direct integration
  • Audio mixer
  • Multiview support
  • Split and merge camera views
  • Event scheduling 

Pros:

  • Offers plans for a wide range of budgets
  • Feature-rich
  • Easily customizable. You can create slow-motion and replay videos using clips from your live broadcast. 

Cons:

  • Not compatible with macOS
  • Not well-suited for inexperienced live streamers
  • Slightly complex

Pricing:

VidBlasterX is available in three versions. Each option is priced with an annual subscription model:

  1. Home version ($9/year) supports seven modules for basic live streaming
  2. Studio version ($99/year) supports 25 modules.
  3. Broadcast version ($999/year) supports 100 modules. This version also supports multiple recorder & streamer modules in a single profile.

The main difference between the versions is the number of simultaneously active modules you can have.  The Broadcast edition also supports UDP streaming, multiple streaming sources, and recorder modules in a single profile and includes priority support.

Compatibility:

VidBlasterX is available for Windows only.

VidBlaster X offers a low-cost affordable streaming plan for small organizations and supports a broadcast plan for larger organizations. If you need an HLS format streaming provider with 4K support and compatibility with online video platforms, such as Dacast, you should try VidBlasterX. 

Using VidBlasterX to Stream on Dacast

Integrating VidBlasterX into your live broadcasts is relatively easy. The steps to get started vary between different online video platforms, but here’s what the process would look like with Dacast specifically.

  1. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
  2. Then click on the “Encoder Setup” button.
  3. Under the RTMP Encoders dropdown menu, select “Vid Blaster.”
  4. Now, within VidBlaster, click on “File.”
  5. Next, click on “Load Profile.”
  6. Then choose the default profile.
  7. Right-click on the Streamer 1 module to find “settings.”
  8. Here, it’ll ask you for a “URL/ IP:Port,” “Stream,” “Username,” and “Password.” At this point, it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the URL and Stream Name information from Dacast into VidBlasterX

If you get stuck, check out our detailed guide on how to stream on Dacast using VidBlasterX.

4. OBS Studio

OBS Studio Broadcasting Software
OBS Studio is a free and open-source live streaming software for video recording and live broadcasting.

Now, let’s look at the best free HLS format streaming software reviewed in this article. OBS Studio is an open-source, community-based free HLS streaming server project for live broadcasting. It’s cross-platform and under active development, with new versions and upgrades released regularly.

This streaming software is an excellent option for beginners still getting the hang of online video streaming since no financial investment is required.

What makes this software for HLS format streaming even better is the fact that it’s available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It offers great mixing features and even enables you to set up different scenes for the stream. You also get the ability to add webcams, capture cards, images, text, and more into the streams to make them more engaging.

The latest version of OBS Studio is 29.1.3 released on June 19, 2023. 

Key Features:

  • HLS format live streaming and recording functionality
  • Audio and video mixing, filters, and transitions
  • Support for hotkeys
  • Chroma key/green screen support
  • Scenes allow you to prepare overlays in advance for rapid switching
  • Support for a wide range of video, audio, and image sources, as well as screenshots
  • Expandable via plugins to add NDI functionality, remote control via WebSockets, advanced scene switching, and more
  • Detailed wiki and highly active user forum for support/help. Many YouTube tutorials are available as well.

Pros:

  • It’s free
  • Easy-to-use for beginners
  • Frequent updates
  • Able to function on lower-quality internet
  • Easily integrates with Twitch, Dacast, Facebook, and YouTube. 

Cons:

  • Some limitations on features
  • Does not offer multi-bitrate streaming
  • Room for improvement for plugins
  • Steep learning curve for users who don’t have a background in video or audio editing. You might have to hire someone to teach your team to use it or help with technical issues. 
  • Since the software undergoes regular updates, the syntax often changes, and the settings/ functions are modified. Sometimes the changes are minor, but other times they can be significant enough to cause delays by upsetting your routine if you’re too used to operating certain features in a specific way. 

Pricing:

OBS Studio is open-source and completely free. There is no cost to accessing and using this HLS Streaming Software.

The latest version is available for download here.

Compatibility:

OBS Studio is compatible with macOS 11.0 or newer, Windows 10 and 11, and Ubuntu 20.04 operating systems. For the Linux version, FFmpeg is required.

Check out our OBS for Dacast guide for Windows users; You can also review this OBS for Dacast guide for Mac users.

Please note that these specifications are based on the latest version above:

  • Resolution: unavailable 
  • Processor: Dual or 4-Core (recommended)
  • Input Sources: unavailable
  • Output Destinations: 1
  • Memory: 4 GB or more (recommended)
  • Hard Drive: unavailable

When you are getting started with video streaming, it is helpful to use some free tools to make the broadcasting process more affordable. OBS Studio is a free HLS format player that is integrated with Dacast.

5. XSplit Broadcaster

XSplit HLS Software
XSplit’s streaming software is intuitively designed, and easy to use suite of video content creator tools.

XSplit is an HLS streaming software with five products: Broadcaster, Vcam, Connect Webcam, Presenter, and Capture. The XSplit Broadcaster is the most fitting product for the context of this post, as it works for both HLS live streaming and recording.

XSplit Broadcaster is designed for professional broadcasting for businesses and creators who stream niche content like gaming.

You can use this software for multistreaming to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch to increase your reach. But what makes it even better is the fact that you can use it to create on demand video content along with live streaming. This makes it a great option for content creators and OTT platforms.

Key Features:

  • Support for a range of inputs, including all major capture cards, videos, music, and webcams
  • Display webcam and remove the background
  • Professional production features, including enhanced audio
  • Chroma key (green/blue screen)
  • Remote guests via Skype
  • Record streams locally
  • Integrated chat function
  • Other custom plugins and integrations
  • Edit and do secure video upload recordings

Pros:

  • Organization by title tags
  • Streaming and recording tools
  • Suitable for business needs
  • 24/7 support
  • Inexpensive as compared to other primary HLS streaming services. 
  • Its basic features are easy for beginners and users without prior live streaming experience. 

Cons:

  • The platform is a little confusing
  • Requires a bit of a learning curve
  • Puts strain on some processors
  • Some features require you to watch an ad before accessing
  • There are limited customization options as compared to OBS studio and other platforms in this article. 
  • You’ll need a powerful computer to use all of its features, or your game will slow down or your computer will get stuck from time to time while you’re streaming. 

Pricing:

XSplit Broadcaster is priced with a three-tier Premium subscription model.

  • Premium 1-month license: $15
  • Premium 12-month license: $60
  • Premium Lifetime license: $200

Before committing to a subscription, however, a free trial is available for users to test the software. 

Compatibility:

The XSplit site does not specify operating system compatibility, but they have some system requirements that you can review on their website.

There currently is no integration between XSplit and Dacast.

XSplit is a unique HLS provider. It offers an integrated chat function and allows remote guests to join via Skype. If you are looking for these unique features, XSplit may be the right HLS provider.

6. FFmpeg

FFmpeg open-source software
FFMPEG is a video streaming software solution compatible with live streaming platforms.

FFmpeg is an open-source HLS streaming software that includes a library of tools for recording, converting, and streaming audio and video.

FFmpeg compiles, runs, and passes the testing infrastructure FATE across most operating systems under various environments, machines, and configurations. This software also comes with FFserver, the FFmpeg tool for live streaming.

Additionally, FFmpeg is mainly a command-line application. This streaming software is a bit more complex, making it best suited for professional users. There are minimal GUI interfaces available in this tool. 

Like OBS Studio, this software is also available for download on all major OS, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. The biggest advantage here is that the platform is completely free to use, making it a great option for those with budget constraints. 

Key Features:

  • Open-source 
  • Primarily an encoder
  • Supports all resolutions
  • Local live HLS stream recording
  • No mixing features
  • RTMP ingest makes it compatible with most OVPs

Pros:

  • Very customizable
  • Equipped with professional tools
  • Multiple encoding configurations
  • Suitable for advanced broadcasting use
  • Highly compatible. Once you get the hang of it, there’s nothing this software can’t do. You can record, edit, save, share, and reuse videos on FFmpeg.

Cons:

  • Minimal educational materials, tutorials, or manuals for using the platform.
  • Highly complex and requires pro-level expertise with command lines 
  • Users report issues compiling multiple streams into a single output file. 

Pricing:

FFmpeg is free and open-source.

Compatibility:

FFmpeg is compatible with macOS, Linux, Windows, BSD, Solaris, and other popular operating systems. The latest version of FFmpeg is 6.0 “Von Neumann” which was released on 27 Feb, 2023.

If you want a customizable HLS provider that works with all major operating systems, try out FFmpeg. It is great for broadcasts with more technical skills. 

Live Stream Using FFmpeg and Dacast

Once FFmpeg is set up, the steps for live streaming with Dacast are as follows:

  1. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
  2. Then click on the “Encoder Setup” button.
  3. Under the RTMP Encoders dropdown menu, select “Other RTMP encoder”
  4. Next, run the following command in a text editor or directly on the command line interface:

$ ffmpeg -re -f lavfi -i testsrc -c:v libx264 -b:v 1600k -preset ultrafast -b 900k -c:a libfdk_aac -b:a 128k -s 1920×1080 -x264opts keyint=50 -g 25 -pix_fmt yuv420p -f flv “rtmp://[STREAM URL] flashver=FMLE/3.020(compatible;20FMSc/1.0) live=true pubUser=[LOGIN]Passwd=[PASSWORD]playpath=[STREAM NAME]

Of course, replace the bolded words “STREAM URL”, “LOGIN”, “PASSWORD”, and “STREAM NAME” with the correct information. All 4 of these pieces of information can be easily found and copy + pasted from Dacast in the “encoder setup” step.

The exact steps for setting up FFmpeg live streaming differ between operating systems. For a thorough guide, check out our post on FFmpeg live streaming with Dacast.

7. Streamlabs OBS

streamlabs obs live streaming software
Streamlabs OBS is another great open-source streaming software.

Streamlabs is an HLS streaming software that offers a wide range of streaming capabilities. The software is open-source and free to download, but users can upgrade to the Prime version to access advanced features.

Streamlabs has a built-in web-based streaming studio called MelonApp that is designed for simulcasting, an excellent value add.

The software also has a new multi-stream feature built toward streaming to multiple platforms simultaneously. These include YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, Facebook, and more.

Streamlabs Desktop also enables you to create custom scenes for your stream for breaks, stream ending, beginning, and more. You can also get a dual output of your streams with vertical and horizontal formats. This makes it possible to stream to platforms like YouTube and TikTok simultaneously. Two-way communication is another plus point here as you can invite guests to join your stream. 

Key Features:

  • Open-source and customizable
  • Simulcasting support
  • Several different production tools
  • Graphic overlays
  • Preset themes
  • Green screen/chroma keying
  • Options such as chats, alters, and music bots to engage with the audience

Pros:

  • Easy for beginners to use
  • Stream layout design tools
  • Stream recording
  • Gaming-specific tools
  • Tipping and donations options

Cons:

  • Very basic software. 
  • Even though they offer a free version, most of the customization and engagement options are behind a paywall, so you’ll have to buy the premium version before enjoying all the features for which this software is known. 
  • Limitations on graphic overlays and effects
  • Some features are a bit difficult to use
  • Requires strong CPU power (especially the premium version), or else you’ll sacrifice the quality of your stream 
  • Some users report difficulty with separating different audio tracks while editing their live streams

Pricing:

Streamlabs offers two different versions. These include:

Compatibility:

The Streamlabs website doesn’t indicate any limitations on operating system compatibility. However, the platform is suitable for streaming to Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, and more.

Streamlabs offers a free HLS streaming server with a payable subscription with more advanced features. If you want to start with free HLS software with the option of getting more access over time, Streamlabs is an excellent option.

8. Restream

Restream video streaming software
Restream is a slightly different type of broadcasting software. Source: restream.io

Restream is an HTTP live streaming software specializing in simulcasting. Although simulcasting is the focus, Restream has several products for broadcasters, including Multistreaming, Studio, Analytics, and Chat.

The Multistreaming product is the most popular offering from Restream. It supports streaming to over 30 destinations at once. Streaming to multiple destinations like this helps broadcasters expand their reach and grow their audience. 

One distinct advantage of Restream is that you can start your live streams right from your browser. It’s also possible to brand your streams and invite guests. And Restream takes this one step ahead by enabling you to record videos and turn them into live streams. This way, you can repurpose your on demand content into streams. 

Key Features:

  • Primarily a simulcasting tool
  • Analytics and data reporting
  • In-browser software
  • Streaming support
  • Chat tool with filters
  • Branding customization

Pros:

  • Simulcasting capabilities
  • Variety of products for different use-cases
  • Some production tools
  • Engagement and interaction tools
  • Peer-to-peer streaming capabilities
  • Connects to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube. You can upload pre-recorded videos or do live broadcasts. 

Cons:

  • No encoding support
  • Strong internet required
  • Minor issues with video quality
  • Some users report that the “stream health” analytics are quite wrong and, at times, show that you’re streaming while you’re not. It means that although the analytics tell you that you’re streaming on multiple platforms, your stream might not be live on each platform,, so you have to check manually. 
  • Connecting to some platforms (such as Twitter, where you need to create an “event” for streaming) for simulcasting can be complicated and occasionally fail on specific social media platforms. You’ll need someone managing the backend while you go live to ensure the stream runs smoothly.

Pricing:

Restream has several pricing plans for individuals and businesses. These include the following plans:

Individuals:

  • Free: $0/months (for individuals)
  • Standard: $16/month (for individuals)
  • Professional: $41/month (for individuals)

Companies:

  • Premium: $83/month (for businesses)
  • Business: $249/month (for businesses)

These prices reflect monthly rates when paid monthly, and offer discounts when paid for a full year in advance.

Compatibility:

Restream works on Windows, macOS, Linux, and gaming consoles.

Try Restream if you need an HLS solution that will work with gaming consoles and other operating systems.

9. SplitCam

Splitcam Streaming Software
SplitCam is a bit different than the other HLS streaming software we’ve discussed.

SplitCam is a video streaming software with many functionalities. Its primary purpose is webcam splitting, allowing you to stream to an audience while doing peer-to-peer streaming.

Some use cases would be live training sessions, webinars, and other virtual streaming events involving viewers’ interaction.

It is important to note that SplitCam is not an encoder but a tool for simulcasting, mixing, and splitting. SplitCam is compatible with many major peer-to-peer services and streaming solutions, which is a plus.

Another great aspect of SplitCam is that it offers a community forum for users to share ideas, ask questions, and troubleshoot issues. This community support is excellent for broadcasters who are still learning the ropes.

Key Features:

  • Free to use
  • Split webcam streaming
  • Simulcasting support
  • Audio and video mixing
  • Wide range of tools and features
  • HD streaming

Pros:

  • Split streaming from a single webcam
  • Wide range of functionality
  • Very accessible
  • Supports HD streaming

Cons:

  • No encoding tools
  • No mobile streaming support

Pricing:

SplitCam is free to download and use. 

Compatibility:

SplitCam is compatible with Windows and macOS.

SplitCam is a free HLS live streaming tool that is all about allowing you to share multiple webcams or screen content at the same time.

10. Switchboard Live

Switchboard Live HLS software
Switchboard Live is an HLS streaming software that focuses on simulcasting.

Switchboard Live is an HLS streaming platform dedicated to simulcasting multiple destinations. In addition to simulcasting, Switchboard Live also has tools for video player embedding.

This software is very basic and focuses on simulcasting functionality, but it doesn’t offer many additional features. Switchboard Live is an excellent option for broadcasters investing in simulcasting support.

While Switchboard enables you to live stream to numerous destinations like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Live, it also offers RTMP custom to help you add any destination of your choice. The ability to add unlimited destinations and enable them to auto-start is a great addition to its features. However, it’s not possible to add subtitles to your streams. 

Key Features:

  • Specialized simulcasting tool
  • Video embedding features
  • Easy to use
  • New StreamShare tool

Pros:

  • Preferred simulcasting tool by many major brands
  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Unlimited destination streaming
  • Compatible with major platforms

Cons:

  • Very basic tool
  • No HLS encoding support

Pricing:

Switchboard Live has three different pricing plans, including:

  • Pro: $99/month; includes 1 streaming member, unlimited destinations, basic insights, and VSS basic
  • SMB: $249/month; includes 3 streaming members, unlimited destinations, 2 workflows, insights, and VSS basic
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing; includes 10 team members, 5 workflows, 24/7 streams, iframe player, M3U8 playback, and more

Discounts are available for users who pay quarterly or annually.

Compatibility:

Switchboard Live supports simulcasting to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, YouTube, and more.

Stream to Dacast Using Switchboard Live

Getting started with Switchboard Live for live broadcasting is simple. That’s especially true for Dacast users because Dacast has an easy-to-navigate integration with Switchboard Live. The steps to stream to Dacast using Switchboard Live are:

  1. Click “+ Create Encoder Workflow” on your Switchboard dashboard.
  2. Choose your encoder (for simplicity, we’ll stick to OBS as we go through the next steps).
  3. Next, you’ll see the Stream Server/URL and the Stream Key/Name, which you’ll need to copy and paste in a minute.
  4. In OBS, go to the “Stream” tab under “Settings.”
  5.  For “Service,” choose “Custom.”
  6. Next, copy and paste the Stream Server/URL from Switchboard into the “Server” field in OBS
  7. Next, copy and paste the Stream Key from Switchboard into the “Stream Key” field in OBS
  8. Click “Apply” and “OK.”
  9. Choose your preferred source on OBS, and click “Start Streaming.”
  10. When your stream appears on your Switchboard dashboard, click “Finish.”
  11. On Switchboard, click on the “+” under “Destinations (New).” Then click on “New Destination.”
  12. Click on “RTMP”
  13. Before you can configure your destination, you’ll need to get some information from Dacast.
  14. Within your Dacast account, create a live stream.
  15. Then click on the “Encoder Setup” button. Here you’ll see the information that Switchboard is asking to configure the destination.
  16. Go back to Switchboard Live. Copy and paste the relevant information from Dacast.
  17. Enable the “Use Authentication” switch. Once you are ready, click “Next.”
  18. If you’re using Switchboard Live, we’ll assume you want to add multiple destinations, so next, click “Add another destination.” The process is similar for other destinations.
  19. When adding all destinations, click “Finish.”

For a more thorough guide, check out our post on Switchboard Live to live stream with Dacast.

FAQ

1. What does HLS mean in streaming?

HLS is short for HTTP live streaming. It’s a protocol that enables you to deliver video and audio in real-time to a vast audience via the internet with minimal delay. This protocol delivers the live stream to a HTML5 video player and offers adaptive bitrate streaming. It enables viewers to get a smooth live streaming experience 

2. Does Netflix use HLS?

No, Netflix uses DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) for streaming its content on the platform. It does offer adaptive bitrate streaming features but doesn’t use HLS.

3. What is the difference between MP4 and HLS streaming?

The prime difference between MP4 and HLS streaming is that of the bandwidth they consume. As HLS loads each segment of the stream at a time, it consumes lesser bandwidth and enables better streaming. However, MP4 loads the entire video file and won’t play until it reaches your point, which makes it heavier in terms of bandwidth. As a result, MP4 videos start slower than HLS streams.

4. What is Mpegts vs HLS streaming?

MPEG TS (MPEG Transport Stream) is yet another video streaming protocol. It enables you to offer higher quality video and audio streaming to your viewers. However, this comes at the cost of bandwidth and storage space. The files take longer to buffer and download as well. HLS is much faster and consumes less bandwidth. However, the video and audio quality isn’t as good as that provided by MPEG TS.

5. Is HLS streaming safe?

Yes, HLS streaming is a secure streaming protocol that uses multiple bitrate encoding. It ensures that each segment of the video stream is protected. HLS uses the HTTPS protocol to secure the video stream, which makes it a much safer alternative in this regard to other existing protocols. 

Conclusion

Choosing the right HLS streaming software for your live video stream event may seem overwhelming. There is more than one “best” software since every streamer has slightly different needs.

However, by comparing each plan’s features and pros and cons, you’ll be able to determine which software best fits your individual streaming needs.

Before deciding, ensure you are working with an RTMP-compatible online video platform. One great option is Dacast.

With very competitive live streaming pricing, Dacast is a feature-rich platform. We offer a free trial to test all of our great features risk-free for 14 days.

To get started, you must create a Dacast account today. No credit card is required.

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For ongoing live streaming tips and exclusive offers, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group. Additionally, we love to hear from our readers! Have you experienced other issues and challenges related to the HLS software we reviewed here? If so, please let us know in the comment section below. We will get back to you.

Thanks for reading, and happy streaming!

Max Wilbert

Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.