Thanks to the development of technology over the past decade, live streaming has become easier and more powerful than ever before. Evidence of this appears all around us in our daily lives.
Research shows that the global enterprise video market should reach $25.6 billion by 2025. If you do the math, that’s an annual growth rate of more than 20%. There’s no better time than now to make incorporate online video content into your business operations.
Today, we’re going to explore one essential tool for professional live broadcasting in 2021: the best live streaming software. We’ll cover what you can do with encoding software for live broadcasts and a comparison of top video broadcaster software options. Since some live streams require hardware encoding, we will cover a few of the best options for that, as well.
Please note that the Dacast team has updated this comparison to reflect improvements and version updates in streaming software as of April 2021.
Not to be confused with a live stream host or live streaming solution, live streaming software is another essential program for streaming live video.
Live streaming software performs a number of tasks, including encoding your video into a format suitable for streaming.
Additionally, live broadcasting software enables you to mix together multicam sources to create a professional-looking HD broadcast. The beauty of most streaming software solutions is that they help you produce those professional-grade live streams without much broadcasting experience.
There are a few things that most live broadcasting software can do. Typically, it serves two main purposes: encoding and mixing/production.
Live broadcasting software converts your video feed into a suitable format for live streaming.
Video cameras typically use formats designed for recording, but they’re not optimized for internet transmission. Broadcasting software is also crucial for video transcoding or making replicas of the video file in different sizes and qualities. This typically uses RTMP encoders or the HLS streaming protocol.
The second function of this software is both live video mixing and editing.
The main purpose of live video mixing software, otherwise known as live video switching, involves selecting and displaying multiple sources while a live broadcast is underway. In short, mixing is a kind of on-the-fly editing that the TV industry has used for many decades.
All the streaming software that we’ll cover below can mix software as well. These encoders allow you to do many tasks rapidly during a live broadcast, which is crucial to a successful live stream.
You can use the broadcast overlay software to do the following:
As you may already know, mixing is essential to creating an engaging and well-crafted live stream. The alternative – a single-camera feed without titles, images, cuts, overlays, or other finishes–may be sufficient on occasion. However, that approach is usually neither professional nor feature-rich enough for a good-quality broadcast.
In order to use live encoding software, you generally need to install and run it on a desktop. For more mobile streaming situations, you can use a laptop computer.
You need a computer with a consistently fast internet connection. Once you have your computer in place, you can easily connect video cameras via capture cards. The same goes for other dedicated hardware.
For more advanced live streaming situations, you may want to use multiple computers with distinct roles. For example, one technician could work to create graphics on an additional computer. From there, you can feed these graphics, for example via an NDI (network device interface) to the main mixing computer. That way, graphics display immediately with no lag time for your viewers.
Although it is not ideal, it is possible to use a mobile device to run encoding software, as well.
Some broadcasters have needs that exceed broadcasting software and may require a hardware encoder.
As the name suggests, a hardware video encoder is a dedicated physical device (rather than a downloadable software) that functions in some of the same ways as a software encoder.
Some individual broadcasters opt for hardware encoders when setting up access to mobile streaming. Why? Hardware encoders can connect to cell networks.
Note that hardware encoders tend to be much pricier than software encoders. In a similar vein, they can be physically cumbersome, depending on your particular setup. However, since they are dedicated devices, they are typically more effective.
We’ve covered what broadcasting software is, what it does, and the difference between hardware and software encoders. Now it’s time to review a few of the best software for live streaming options in more detail. Specifically, we’ll review and compare Wirecast, vMix, VidBlasterX, OBS Studio, Dacast, and more.
Let’s get to it.
Wirecast software is compatible with a wide range of capture cards, devices, and camera inputs. This encoding option includes live switching, picture-in-picture composition, titles, audio delay, and other similar features.
If you need to use pre-recorded video within your live broadcast, Wirecast makes this aspect easy, as well.
Wirecast supports a range of other technologies, including:
Wirecast is compatible with both macOS and Windows.
The latest version of Wirecast is 14.1. It is the newest full version and was released on January 25, 2021. It features several enhancements and fixes, including FBLive polling, re-written WebStream plugin, and Virtual Camera improvements.
The software comes in two versions:
The Pro version includes a number of features not available on the Studio version. These include:
“The best part of Wirecast is how easy it is to use. Being able to set up and plan a live stream is very simple. The user interface is intuitive. And it offers a lot of video solutions and flexibility of its set up.” – Steven K.
“We use it for training and online learning. It works great and is relatively easy to use, even for non-experts on our team.” – Anonymous G2 Reviewer
vMix is a highly powerful encoder. Like Wirecast, vMix software supports a wide range of inputs. These include:
vMix includes native support for multi-bitrate streaming which is very useful for professional broadcasters who place a high value on user experience.
Additionally, this software supports the Network Device Interface (NDI). NDI sends your secure video upload over gigabit ethernet networks and green screens.
vMix also includes a built-in titling tool that includes animation support. Additionally, it offers an instant-replay and slow-motion feature.
vMix is only available for Windows PCs. However, it is possible to run it on a Mac using a certain technique. While vMix cannot be installed directly on OSX, the solution when using a Mac is to install it on Windows via Boot Camp.
vMix is available in five different versions, ranging from Basic to Pro. Each version supports a different number of inputs, your purchase never expires, and includes the following versions:
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, particularly to ensure vMix supports your computer hardware works with it before purchasing. This is a great perk, as most encoding software offers only up to a 30-day free trial.
“I like vMix because it is very easy to set up various shots by assigning various camera inputs, adding videos, presentation[s], and other graphics. It is an all in one solution for mixing video and streaming.” – Abhishek D.
“vMix filled a hole for us several years ago where we didn’t want to spend the money required for a full production switcher but needed a Multicam switcher for our live stream broadcasts that were budget-friendly but was still feature-rich. vMix has only grown leaps and bounds since then, adding a multitude of features that have kept it competitive while still keeping the price low. The support team is great, and the community is excellent if you have questions” – Anonymous Reviewer on G2
Next up on our list of encoding software is VidBlasterX, an RTMP-enabled live video production software. VidBlasterX enables streaming to most streaming platforms (including Dacast). The input support and other available features are similar to Wirecast and vMix.
For studio users, VidBlasterX supports:
VidBlasterX utilizes a unique modular design. For example, broadcasters can add each feature via a “module.” You can then add, rearrange and remove these at your discretion.
VidBlasterX is compatible with Windows PCs.
VidBlasterX is available in three versions. Each of the following options is priced with an annual subscription model:
Check out our tutorial to learn how to set up VidBlasterX with Dacast.
“VidBlaster is now a subscription-based local software installation that provides live streaming and recording up to 4K/UHD. Send streams to Facebook, YouTube and other CDNs using RTMP or the virtual camera driver.” – BCBLive Live Video Production Software Review
Now, let’s discuss OBS Studio. This encoding option is a free and open-source live stream broadcasting software package. OBS supports RTMP broadcasting, switching between multiple sources, capture cards, webcams, chroma-key (green screen), video and audio files, and application windows.
Though it’s light on features, it’s quite easy to use, even for those new to live broadcasting. Note that OBS does not natively support any plugins. However, community members have developed a wide range of plugins that broadcasters can use to add features to the more basic OBS Studio.
These plugins include NDI, a feature formerly only found on high-end encoders. Another notable plugin supports pulling Tweets into your streams in real-time.
Please note that OBS does not support multi-bitrate streaming.
OBS is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Windows Vista is no longer supported by OBS Studio.
OBS Studio is open-source and completely free. There is no cost to accessing and using this software.
Version 26.1.1 was released on January 6th, 2021, and is available for download here for both macOS and Windows operating systems.
We offer a customized version of OBS Studio’s live broadcasting software to our customers. This version makes it easier to directly connect to your Dacast live streaming service account.
With this option, you don’t need to manually enter details. Instead, simply login to your Dacast account via OBS to start streaming live in minutes.
“OBS has allowed our organization to enter the video streaming and recording arena. In a day where face-to-face interaction is limited by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, video interaction has become so important. OBS provides an easily accessible way to develop effective video communication.” – Michael A.
“From simple streaming to bigger events, OBS has been able to handle all of it with full confidence from us. Have never questioned if it was going to be unreliable in a specific situation, even with minimal training. Software identified the external input source easily and had no issues setting that up (Blackmagic Mini Recorder), and great for pulling in separate audio from the computer input.” – Travis G.
Streamlabs offers quite a few features for editing and multicasting live streams. It is the chosen broadcasting software for many professional streamers. One of the most unique aspects of this software is their web-based live streaming studio called MelonApp. The app allows you to broadcast to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitch with 1 click, and without leaving your browser.
The Streamlabs website doesn’t indicate any limitations on operating system compatibility.
However, the platform is suitable for streaming to Facebook, Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube.
The Streamlabs app is free to download, but users must pay for “Prime” for full access to all of the features. Prices for prime are not listed on the website.
We do not have a specific tutorial for setting up Streamlab OBS with Dacast, but you can follow our encoder setup guide for some general tips.
“Streamlabs is absolutely an incredible solution combining streaming and the wonderful opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. I’m grateful to be able to sell my merch as well.” – Harry D’Janite, via TrustPilot
“Easy to use, has tons of great features. Takes the worries out of streaming for first-timers.” James F., via TrustPilot
FFmpeg is yet another open-source broadcasting software that can be customized based on a large library of programs that are geared towards production and multimedia management.
This platform is pretty basic, but it can be customized to achieve great things due to its open-source nature.
FFmpeg is compatible with Linux, Windows, and macOS.
FFmpeg is free to download and use.
Check out our guide for using FFmpeg on Dacast.
“FFMPEG is the perfect tool for working with media files, it lends itself as a multi-functional tool offering almost everything (Media compression, Media file type conversion, etc., etc.)” – Chamika W., via G2
“FFmpeg is a Swiss-knife for AV developers. It can transcode and trans package AV data in almost any format. The tools that come with it are very handy too. Its portability also makes [it] a strong candidate for writing mobile applications. Hardware acceleration support is widespread, too.” – Ameya T., via G2
XSplit Broadcaster is designed for professional broadcasting use for both businesses and creators who stream niche content like gaming.
XSplit works with the Windows operating system. Although it is not currently compatible with macOS, a dedicated version that works with that operating system is coming soon.
The pricing plans for XSplit Broadcaster are as follows:
Head over to our dedicated guide to learn how to set up XSplit with Dacast.
“XSplit Broadcaster has features that can help you create great streams to Twitch and other services such as Facebook and Youtube. I had my doubts at first. But have to admit using this is a better option for the beginner streamer/gamer/media content creator.” – Steven L., via Capterra
“From setup to broadcast, getting XSplit to do its thing is incredibly simple. It even has hooks built-in for just about any streaming service you could want.” – Verified User, via Capterra
SplitCam is a broadcasting software with many capabilities. Its primary use is for webcam splitting which comes in handy for use-cases where peer-to-peer streaming is necessary. Some use cases would be live training sessions, webinars, and other virtual streaming events that involve interaction from viewers.
Unfortunately, this tool is not an encoder, but it is a tool for simulcasting audio mixing and webcam splitting.
SplitCam is compatible with many major peer-to-peer services and streaming solutions, which makes it useful to broadcasters with many different streaming needs.
This platform also has a special community forum for users to share ideas, ask questions, and troubleshoot issues.
SplitCam is compatible with Windows and macOS.
SplitCam is free to download and use.
We do not have a specific tutorial for setting up SplitCam with Dacast, but you can follow our encoder setup guide for some general tips.
There are no user reviews available for SplitCam.
Restream is a simulcasting broadcasting software that has several solutions for broadcasters. Restream Studio is their solution that is focused on elevating broadcasts to better connect with your audience.
Restream works on Windows, macOS, Linux, and some gaming consoles.
Restream has several pricing plans for both individuals and businesses. These include:
We do not have a specific tutorial for setting up Restream with Dacast, but you can follow our encoder setup guide for some general tips.
“We do not have a specific tutorial for setting up SplitCam with Dacast, but you can follow our encoder setup guide for some general tips.” – Austin G., via Capterra
“The user interface was easy to use and navigate. Streaming and RTMP was easy to connect and the streaming quality was great. I used it with OBS and it worked great. Compared to other software, this worked the best!” – Heather B., via Capterra
Dacast is equipped with the tools you need to host and your video content. Our unified live streaming platform integrates with OBS Studio, VidBlasterX, vMix, and Wirecast to provide the resources you need for a high-quality broadcast.
Dacast is compatible with both streaming software for macOS and Windows.
Some of the detailed features include:
Dacast’s live streaming pricing plans start at $39/month and come with all the features required for professional broadcasting. Plans include:
You can try all of these features 100% risk-free for 30 days with the Dacast free-trial.
“The pricing made it affordable for me to stream my bi-weekly broadcasts live to an unlimited number of viewers. I also like the fact that everything is included under one roof – live streaming, PPV, and on-demand video streaming, as well as the ability to collect fees charged that viewers pay to watch PPV. Also, Dacast’s customer service is top-notch. I receive replies to my questions usually within an hour regardless of who I need to contact.” – Stu S via G2 Crowd
“Dacast is a solid streaming platform backed by an excellent support team which has helped me sort out configuration and integration into our e-learning platforms. I also like the fact that it´s highly customizable and integrates well into OBS studio and HTML pages, as well as Facebook. All in all, the quality/value for money ratio is well worth it.” – John C via Capterra
There you have it. Those are our picks for the best live broadcasting software of 2021. As a professional broadcaster, streaming software is essential. It is what allows you to add those professional touches that you’d see on traditional television broadcasts.
We hope this article has given you a starting point for picking the best live broadcasting software for your streaming needs. We also hope that our review of top streaming video software helps you choose one that works well for you.
If you are new to broadcasting, we recommend starting with OBS Studio since it’s free and easy to use. If you find that you need more, you’ll be equipped with the experience you need to navigate a more advanced broadcasting software.
Interested in testing your chosen software with a streaming platform and professional-grade video hosting features? Sign up for the free trial on Dacast to see how your live streaming software of choice works in action.
Our trial is 30 days long, and it provides access to nearly every Dacast feature. No credit card required.
Any questions, comments, or ideas? Let us know in the comment section below. We appreciate hearing from our readers, and we will get back to you. For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, you can also join our LinkedIn group.
Thanks for reading, and as always, best of luck with your live broadcasts!
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