An encoder is one of the most important components of any live streaming equipment. The encoder takes the information from your camera and converts it into a new format. From there, you can embed this content and stream live video on your website, using a streaming host service (e.g., the DaCast online video platform). You also choose a hardware or a software encoder, also called live stream encoding software, the most popular choice for transmitting your video to your viewers in accessible format(s).
In short, encoding is a crucial component with any of the available streaming solutions.
The Basics of Live Stream Encoding Software
Live stream encoding software generally provides features to manage and control your videos. For example, you can change the appearance or add recorded elements to a live stream to yield a more complex and complete picture. Encoders also support varying numbers of camera feeds at the same time. Each encoder uses different methods for controlling those feeds.
- Is the encoder compatible with your streaming platform?
- What features does the encoder provide? Is it the best option for your editing and shooting needs?
- What are the available pricing plans?
Those three factors established, let’s consider and compare three of the most popular live stream encoding software on the market as of 2018. These encoders include:
- Wirecast (including the premium Wirecast Pro);
- OBS Studio; and
*Note: Already a DaCast customer and looking to set up live stream encoding software directly through your account? Check out this article on DaCast live streaming encoder setup to get started today.
Telestream’s Wirecast partners with several streaming platforms to produce encoding software that is widely compatible with each of those platforms. These video streaming services include DaCast, UStream, Wowza and other B2B (consumer-grade) OVPs like Facebook Live. These streaming platforms, among others, allow you to live stream your event to any RTMP destination. They also support recording MP4 or MOV files to any drive.
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). Wirecast is compatible with a variety of capture cards, devices, and camera inputs.
Wirecast supports live video compositing via a “layers” architecture similar to many graphics programs. This encoder facilitates live switching, picture-in-picture composition, titles, audio delay, and many other fine-tuning compositional elements. This live stream encoding software makes it easy to incorporate pre-recorded video content into your broadcast. Finally, Wirecast supports encoding of HD and SD sources for streams broadcast simultaneously to multiple servers and platforms.
Note: Wirecast 11 has moved out of the beta testing phase and is now available to for purchase (or upgrade).
The Wirecast Pro enhanced program adds several other specialized features, including:
- Live scoreboards
- Virtual 3D
- Use of IP cameras and web streams
- 8-track audio output
- and more!
These advanced features of Wirecast Pro make it a better choice than the basic Wirecast program for most live streamed events. With all those features, Wirecast’s biggest downside may be the price. To start, you can download a free trial version of the basic software.
If you decide to commit to Wirecast, the basic software now starts at $486, and the Pro version costs $696.50 or more, both a decrease in price from 2018 rates. Overall, Wirecast caters to a variety of live streaming contexts, including live event production, sports, faith-based events, education, tv and radio broadcasts, and digital marketing and social media.
Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS)
OBS Studio is an open-source software encoder for live streaming. OBS Studio is a solid option for those new to live streaming or with simpler streaming goals; it’s very easy to use. This software also offers downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The encoder is equipped with a powerful API, enabling community-generated plugins and scripts. These add-ons can provide further customization and functionality specific to your needs. Note that Windows Vista is no longer supported by OBS Studio.
Features of this live stream encoding software include:
- real-time video/audio capturing and mixing
- unlimited number of scenes and custom transitions
- intuitive audio mixer, and
- modular “Dock” UI.
DaCast has developed a customized version of this live stream encoding software. If you’re a DaCast customer, this customized software is available free of cost and with a direct integration of the OBS Studio platform. Within just a few clicks you can be up and streaming! See for yourself in this video:
Note that OBS Studio does not support multi-bitrate streaming. Multi-bitrate streaming can be crucial when broadcasting to diverse users in distinct locales. This feature generally is included with most other encoders. However, we still highly recommend this encoder, particularly for testing or becoming familiar with live streaming. To see more information on how to set up OBS Studio for the first time, please click here.
VidBlasterX Live Encoding Software
The final live stream encoding software option we’ll consider here is VidBlasterX. Like Wirecast, VidBlasterX is a professional-quality (B2B) encoder program. It comes in three versions: VidblasterX Home, VidBlasterX Studio, and VidBlasterX Broadcast. The main difference between each version is the number of modules each supports. Each successive module also adds additional advanced features pro broadcasters will appreciate.
VidBlasterX Home is the basic product; it supports up to 7 modules. VidBlasterX Studio has several features for studio production of videos (hence the name) and allows for more versatile video. The Studio version supports HD and full-screen television quality production, as well as community support. Finally, VidBlasterX Broadcast incorporates all the features of VidBlaster Studio, adds more module capacity, and is recommended for professional broadcast studios. With Broadcast you get direct email support from the developer. If you want to try live stream encoding software before committing, you can access the Trial edition (a version of the Studio edition). Note that this trial adds the VidBlaster logo to all output channels.
The Home version, however, costs only $9 per year! To get access to advanced features, you need to upgrade to the Studio version, starting at $99 a year, or the Broadcast version, at $999 a year. One drawback of VidBlasterX is that it does not come in a Mac OS version. It requires a Windows machine to run.
Making a decision about live stream encoding software
No single live stream encoding software is perfect for every broadcaster. Now that you know some of the options available to you, however it’s time to ask yourself what kind(s) of videos you want to broadcast. Once you decide on the kinds of videos you’ll stream, then consider asking yourself the following questions:
- How big is your target audience?
- How many camera feeds do you need to incorporate into your videos, and which camera(s) will you use?
- What kind of computer will you use, and with what kind of operating system?
- How much will you need to do in the way of studio effects or video editing?
- What are the requirements of your live streaming platform service?
- And, finally, how much money to do you want to spend? Is this a flexible or fixed price-point for you or your business?
Still not sure which live stream encoding software is right for you? If you’re new to live streaming video, we recommend that you start with OBS Studio to first become familiar with how to stream live video on your website. After you get down the basics, you can upgrade later to a more powerful program if you like. Overall, it’s important to ensure that any live stream encoding software you choose–as with your hardware, your cameras, and your streaming platform–allows you to meet all of your goals for producing and broadcasting your video content.
And there you have it! We hope this article has helped you to compare live stream encoding software options for your broadcasts. For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, you can also join our LinkedIn group.
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Note to our readers: We’ve updated and expanded this article to reflect available options and features of the three encoders covered here as of January 2019.