Live streaming is easier and more powerful than ever before. We can see evidence of this everywhere around us in our daily lives. Research, too, shows that the global enterprise video market should reach $40.84 billion by 2022. Do the math–that’s an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent! In this article, we’ll explore one essential tool for professional live streaming in 2019: live broadcasting software.
In this article, we’ll start by reviewing what you can do with encoding software for live broadcasts. Next, we’ll compare live streaming software with hardware encoders. (Some situations call for the latter.) After exploring that topic, we’ll review examples of live broadcasting software for you to compare and consider. We’ll share live streaming pricing plans, compatibility, and features for each, before leaving you to your own decision-making process.
What can you do with live broadcasting software?
Live broadcasting software is essential to stream live video.
Live streaming software performs a number of essential tasks, one of which includes transcoding a video into a format suitable for streaming. Additionally, live broadcasting software enables you to mix together multiple sources to create a professional-looking broadcast, whether or not you have a lot of technical expertise yourself!
Now, let’s begin with a review of what live broadcasting software actually does. Typically, it serves two main purposes: encoding, and mixing/production.
First, 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, then, is crucial for video transcoding. It typically converts a video feed into RTMP or HLS, for instance.
Given that encoders perform this function, live broadcasting software applications are sometimes called live stream encoding software.
2. Mixing and production
The second function of broadcasting software is live video mixing. For those new to this topic, mixing 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 software (also called software encoders) we list 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. For example, you may need to:
- Switch between multiple cameras;
- Switch between multiple audio sources;
- Insert a still image or a pre-recorded video during a live broadcast;
- Overlay graphics or titles on top of the video feed; and
- Add transitions and video effects, such as “green screen” virtual sets.
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.
3. How to run encoding software
You generally install and run live broadcasting software on a desktop. For more mobile situations, you can use a laptop computer. You need a computer with a consistently fast internet connection. Ideally, you also want (at least) a moderately powerful computer. 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 complex 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 (via NDI, for example) to the main mix computer. That way, graphics display immediately with no lag time for your viewers.
Finally, it is possible to use a mobile device to run encoding software as well.
Best live broadcasting software of 2019
So we’ve covered live broadcasting software in general. Now, let’s turn to a review of several encoding software options in more detail. Specifically, we’ll review and compare Wirecast, vMix, VidBlasterX, and OBS Studio. Let’s jump right in!
Built by the company Telestream, the Wirecast encoding software enables live streaming to any RTMP destination. This software also supports recording streams locally.
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 green screen, instant replay and NDI. It also supports a range of other technologies listed on their site.
Wirecast is available for MacOS and Windows.
Wirecast 11 is the the newest full version as of January 2019. It features several enhancements and fixes, including: FBLive polling, re-written WebStream plugin, and Virtual Camera improvements. The software comes in two versions: Studio (now $486, instead of $695) , and Pro (now $696.50, instead of $995). The Pro version includes a number of features not available on the Studio version. These include:
- Up to 7 guests via built-in video conferencing solution
- 8-track audio output
- Instant replay
- Wider device support
- Live scoreboards
Note: Wirecast 11 has moved out of the beta testing phase and is now available to for purchase (or upgrade).
Setting up Wirecast with DaCast
For reference, we’ve previously written about how to setup Wirecast with the DaCast video streaming platform.
vMix is a highly powerful encoder. Like Wirecast, vMix supports a wide range of inputs. These include video cameras (view supported capture cards) at up to 4K resolution. The vMix encoding software also supports webcams, audio and video files, DVDs, playlists, PowerPoint, and other sources.
vMix includes native support for multi-bitrate streaming. Additionally, this software supports NDI (Network Device Interface). NDI sends video 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/slow motion feature.
vMix is only available for Windows PCs.
vMix is available in six different versions, ranging from basic to pro. The Basic version is free; it supports only very simple streaming. At the other end of spectrum, the $1200 Pro version supports very complex studio setups. Each version supports a different number of inputs. The Basic and Basic HD versions of vMix only support four total inputs. Note that every camera, audio source, or other input count toward that limit.
vMix also offers a free 60-day free trial, particularly to ensure vMix supports your computer hardware before purchasing. This is a great offering, as most encoding software offers only up to a 30-day free trial.
Setting up vMix with DaCast
Next up on our list of encoding software is VidBlasterX, an RTMP-compatible 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 video routing, recording streams to local disks, displaying outputs on a monitor of your choice, and outputting to a Blackmagic DeckLink video card.
VidBlasterX utilizes a unique modular design, which in turn influences pricing. 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:
- The Home version ($9/year) supports 7 modules
- The Studio version ($99/year) supports 25 modules
- The Broadcast version ($999/year) supports 50 modules
Setting up VidBlasterX with DaCast
Check out this tutorial to learn how to set up VidBlasterX with DaCast.
Last up, let’s take a look at OBS Studio. This encoding option is a free and open-source live streaming video software package. OBS supports RTMP streaming, 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 streaming. Note that OBS does not 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 include NDI, a feature formerly only found on high-end encoders. Another notable plugin supports pulling Tweets into your streams in real time. Finally, do note that OBS does not support multi-bitrate streaming.
OBS is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
*Note: Windows Vista is no longer supported by OBS Studio.
Free! OBS Studio is open-source. There is no cost to accessing and using this software.
Version 22 is available for download here.
Setting up OBS Studio with DaCast
Custom DaCast version of OBS Studio
If you’re interested in a free option super easy to set up, we offer a customized version of OBS Studio 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 just moments. Learn more with this video:
Live broadcasting software vs. hardware encoders
We’d be remiss to conclude this article on live broadcasting software without at least briefly mentioning hardware encoders. As the name suggests, a hardware encoder is a dedicated physical device (rather than a downloadable software) that functions in some of the same ways as a software encoder. For example, many broadcast studios prefer to use hardware encoders as opposed to encoding software.
Likewise, 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.
And there you have it! Those are our picks for the best live broadcasting software of 2018! We hope this article provides you with useful context and a starting point for picking the best live broadcasting software for you.
Interested in testing out a live streaming platform with your chosen software today? You can sign up for the DaCast free trial. Our trial last for 30-days, and it provides access to nearly every DaCast feature. No credit card necessary!
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!
By Max Wilbert.