How to Set Up an RTMP Encoder for Live Video Streaming [Updated for 2022]

By Max Wilbert

40 Min Read

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Max Wilbert

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

    For many B2C broadcasters, just about any software encoder will suffice. However, as a professional broadcaster, it’s important to consider updating to an encoder that supports RTMP streaming. RTMP stands for “real-time messaging protocol” and is a standard that makes high -quality live streaming possible.

    In this article, we’re going to get into the technical details of RTMP encoding.

    First, we’ll discuss how to configure an RTMP encoder and connect it to a live streaming platform. Dacast is an authority on this particular protocol and has helped countless individuals and businesses stream live video using RTMP as well as other encoding standards.

    After that, we’ll also review some of the top video streaming protocols and the most popular RTMP encoding software on the market. It might seem complicated, and it is, but Dacast drastically simplifies the process. Keep reading to see how Dacast offers superior service and expertise in this field.

    This post has been updated to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding new features of each RTMP encoder’s latest versions released as of September 2022.

    Table of Contents

    • Configuring Your RTMP Encoder in 6 Steps
    • What is an Encoder?
    • Hardware vs. Software Encoders
    • What is RTMP Streaming?
    • What is RTMP Ingest and Why Is It Important?
    • Common Video Streaming Protocols
    • Popular RTMP Encoders for Live Video Streaming
    • Factors to Consider When Choosing an RTMP Encoder
    • The Future of RTMP
    • Conclusion

    Configuring Your RTMP Encoder in 6 Steps

    So you’ve decided on which RTMP encoder to use and are ready to start live-streaming. To prepare for a smooth live stream, you have to make sure all of your RTMP settings are properly configured. Whether you’ve decided on a software encoder or a hardware encoder, we’ve got you covered.

    Here’s a 6-step walkthrough for configuring your RTMP-enabled encoder.

    1. Connect Your Video Sources

    rtmp encoder sources
    Setting up your video capturing equipment is an important step in broadcasting.

    The first step is to connect your video sources. The method that you use to do this varies depending on whether you’re using RTMP encoder hardware or a software encoder.

    If you’re using RTMP encoder hardware, the method is simple. Generally, hardware encoders have dedicated cable inputs for video cameras. These may include SDI inputs as well as HDMI.

    Using an HDMI to RTMP encoder, for example, is generally a matter of plug and play. You typically just need to take the cord from your video camera, and plug it into the physical RTMP device. Additionally, some encoders support cameras via Wi-Fi. In that case, you need to sync the Wi-Fi signal of your device with the RTMP hardware.

    A capture card is a physical device that you plug into your computer, generally with a USB or HDMI connection. Then, you plug your camera into the capture card. Some capture cards allow you to capture images on your screen.

    The method for connecting cameras to software encoders may be a little more complex. Generally, this involves installing a “capture card” on a desktop computer. Laptops and other devices can use external capture cards that often attach via USB.

    Once your camera is physically connected to the encoder, it should be auto-detected. You can typically select it from a dropdown menu of “inputs.”

    2. Create a New Live Channel and Connect Your OVP

    The next step is to create a new live channel. This is done via your OVP (online video platform).

    To complete this step with Dacast, follow these steps:

    1. Log into your account.
    2. Click “Live Channels” in the left-hand sidebar.
    3. Click the orange “Create” button in the upper right.
    4. Enter a title for your new live channel, then click “Add New.”
    5. Click the “Encoder Setup” tab in the top-center of the screen
    6. This tab shows three simple setup steps. The first step involves selecting a publishing point (optional) and selecting a bitrate, resolution, and aspect ratio (also optional). The settings you select in your encoder will override these settings.
    7. The second step allows you to select an encoder. Select the option that matches the encoder you’re using, or select “other RTMP encoder.”
    8. Finally, on the right side of the window, a dialogue box will appear with a stream URL, a login, and a password. Leave this window open.

    After your new live channel is created, you’ll need to link your encoder to Dacast. This involves navigating your encoder settings, usually labeled something like “Broadcast Settings” or “Output.” Enter your Dacast stream URL, username, and password here. Your encoder is now connected to your online video platform.

    3. Select Video and Audio Encoding Options

    The next step is to select your video and audio settings. First, select a resolution, such as 1920 x 1080 (full HD) or 720 x 480 (standard definition). In this step, you’ll also select a bitrate and a codec. It’s extremely common to use H.264 video compression, or advanced video coding (AVC) for video, and AAC for audio.

    For more on setting up your encoder and choosing the best settings, check out our walkthrough guide. To skip ahead and access the live encoder configuration settings, check out our recommended live encoder settings.

    4. Get an Embed Code

    At this point, we recommend that you carry out a brief test stream. A test stream begins with embedding a video player on your website. Since this is just a test, you may wish to use a private webpage.

    The exact method for embedding live streaming video to your website depends on the online video platform you’re using. If you’re using Dacast, we provide simple embed codes that can be pasted into any website to display your video.

    5. Conduct a Test Stream

    Now, you’re ready to begin a test stream. Head to the Dacast back office and hit the toggle switch to turn your live channel “On.” Then simply turn on your cameras and start recording. Since this is a test, it doesn’t matter what you’re streaming. Begin your live stream from the RTMP-enabled encoder you’re using to stream.

    Visit the web page that you embedded your video player on and take a look at how the stream is working. Test it out with both a desktop computer and a mobile device.

    If you’re having problems here, you’ll probably need to do some live stream troubleshooting. Troubleshooting can be frustrating, so try to be as systematic as possible. Check every link in the system. Ensure that cables are connected and that settings are correct. If you need more help, consider contacting Dacast technical support.

    6. Start Streaming

    You’ve now fully configured your RTMP-enabled encoder and are ready to begin live-streaming. Feel free to now copy your video player over to whatever web page or site you plan to stream on.

    You are now ready to begin your live-stream.

    What is an Encoder?

    RTMP-enabled encoder
    An encoder converts video file types to make them suitable for broadcast.

    If you’re just getting started with streaming, you may be confused about what an encoder even is. A live video encoder is a tool that converts a video from its RAW format to a digital deliverable. On one end, video footage from a camera is fed to the encoder. This footage is converted into a different format in real time. The purpose of the conversion is to prepare the video to be broadcasted over the internet.

    An example of an encoder is OBS Studio. We’ve made it really easy for Dacast users to use this free and open source online encoder by developing a custom OBS Studio portal.

    It’s very common for professional broadcasters to use an external encoder to broadcast since this allows for a more advanced event production than, for example, an in-browser encoder.

    Encoding can be contrasted with transcoding. While encoding turns a source into a digital file, transcoding converts one type of file to another type of file. Transcoding can be considered to be a type of encoding, but encoding can also refer to the process of converting a video file from a raw source or even a live event feed into a digital file.

    When it comes to live streaming, both encoding and transcoding can be used in order to prepare the video feed for broadcast. Also, there are both hardware and software encoders and transcoders.

    You can use either a hardware encoder or a software encoder. Each comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

    Hardware vs. Software Encoders

    Next, we’ll give you a quick rundown of hardware encoding compared with software encoding. A software encoder is a program that works with your online video platform. It uses your computer’s processing power to encode and deliver video content.

    A hardware encoder is a dedicated device. They come in various forms. Some are small and suited for mounting on a camera. Others are backpack-mounted or rack-mounted for use in studios or broadcast vehicles.

    Hardware encoders are typically considered superior to their software counterparts because they can generally produce a higher quality stream. However, hardware encoders are typically a much larger investment than software encoders.

    Depending on the type of broadcasting that you’re doing, the investment in the hardware may or may not be worth it. Since there are free online encoders and encoding software available for under $100, it’s worth testing them out if you’re not sure whether or not you’re ready to make the investment.

    What is RTMP Streaming?

    RTMP streaming
    RTMP makes live-streaming possible, and its primary role is to deliver content from an encoder to an online video host.

    RTMP streaming is a method of streaming that differs from its predecessors in the sense that it maintains constant contact between the RTMP video player and the RTMP server. This constant connection makes an RTMP live-stream very robust and reliable. RTMP has been essential for live-streaming over the years.

    It’s also possible to live-stream on mobile devices via RTMP ingestion to HLS. RTMP ingest is the technology that transmits the video files from the encoder to the online video platform. It ensures that your video files are able to stream. 

    For many years, Adobe Flash Player and RTMP worked hand-in-hand to produce ultra-low latency live streams.

    Many consider RTMP streaming to be outdated since it was so closely intertwined with Adobe Flash Player technology, which has become deprecated for OTT streaming. However, RTMP live-stream technology lives on via RTMP-enabled encoders. The RTMP standard helps encoders transmit video files.

    Common Video Streaming Protocols

    Now that you’ve been introduced to RTMP video streaming encoders and their general purpose, let’s do a quick comparison of the most common video streaming protocols.

    RTMP Streaming Protocol

    Most encoders use the RTMP stream format. As mentioned, RTMP streaming is a delivery method designed for live-streaming specifically. Simply put, the purpose of a live-streaming encoder is to encode video feeds into RTMP or another live-streaming protocol and send them out to an RTMP streaming server.

    RTMP streaming protocol is not a codec, but an RTMP protocol commonly uses the H.264 codec, which supports 4K resolution. Any 4K RTMP encoder you use will likely be compatible with the H.264 codec, partly because the H.264 standard has been around for so long.

    But also keep in mind that H.264 has a promising successor. HEVC RTMP encoders will grow in popularity because HEVC codecs arguably have more efficient compression mechanisms compared to those of H.264 codecs. However, because HEVC (also called H.265) is much newer than H.264, you risk running into compatibility issues. Most encoders use RTMP software with H.264 code for the greatest possible compatibility with other software and devices.

    The RTMP protocol is no longer commonly used to deliver streams to viewers. Most often, a modern option like the HLS streaming protocol is preferred. Since RTMP is still the standard for delivering your streams to your online video platform, the two work together to make the magic of live-streaming possible.

    To put things into perspective, your video follows this path:

    1. Recorded by an RTMP-enabled IP camera
    2. Fed to RTMP encoder and prepared for delivery using the real-time messaging protocol 
    3. Sent to your online video platform
    4. Prepared for delivery to viewers using the HLS protocol
    5. Sent to viewers

    This path is traveled almost instantaneously. RTMP and HLS rely on one another to bring your live-stream to your audience.

    HLS Streaming Protocol

    HLS stands for “HTTP Live Streaming.” It’s a streaming protocol that was originally designed and used by Apple. HLS is actually mostly responsible for the phasing out of Quicktime.

    HLS works by chopping up videos into smaller clips to make them efficient to transmit over the internet.

    Although it’s praised for its compatibility, HLS has about 15 to 30 seconds of latency.

    RTSP Streaming Protocol

    RTSP Streaming Protocol
    RTSP is a live-streaming protocol that utilizes a server-to-client connection to stream video files to a video platform.

    RTSP, also known as Real-Time Streaming Protocol, is a protocol for streaming video online, which has been around since 2002 (when Adobe Flash was the predominant video streaming format).

    Known as a network-control protocol, this standard protocol was designed to control the streaming servers used in entertainment and communications systems. RTSP servers sit between the live-stream and the viewer, issuing “play,” “pause” and “record” commands.

    When the RTSP controls the server-to-client connection, video-on-demand streams are used; when it controls the client-to-server connection, RTSP utilizes voice recording streams.

    RTMP vs. RTSP

    RTMP and RTSP are both streaming protocols, meaning they’re sets of rules that govern how data travels from one communication system to another. Metaphorically speaking, if the video data you’re trying to send to your viewers is a car, then the streaming protocol is the roads that the car takes to get from one place to another.

    Choosing between RTMP and RTSP streaming protocols should mostly depend on your individual business needs and how many extra steps you’re willing to take to make your content playable on your website.

    RTMP vs HLS

    As previously mentioned, RTMP and HLS as we know it today work together to bring streams to life. They have complementary functions.

    RTMP transmits the video from the encoder to the online video platform.

    HLS transmits the video from the online video platform to the viewers’ devices.

    It’s not a matter of comparing the two; they’re designed to work together. For example, Dacast uses RTMP for ingesting live-streams and, from there, converts live-stream content to the HLS streaming protocol.

    HLS vs RTMP would’ve been more relevant in the past. But you’ll rarely hear streamers talk about RTMP as a delivery protocol anymore unless they’re talking in the past tense. When you hear streamers talking about RTMP today, they’re likely referring to RTMP in the sense of first-mile delivery or RTMP ingest.

    Despite RTMP being a mostly phased out streaming protocol, it has stuck around as RTMP ingest mostly because of the low latency associated with the protocol. Another reason RTMP ingest continues to be popular is because of how readily available RTMP-enabled encoders are—you’ll rarely run into a compatibility issue with it. However, compatibility issues are quite common with HLS ingest.

    Popular RTMP Encoders for Live Video Streaming

    Let’s go over some of the more popular RTMP encoders that are available. If you’re in the market for an RTMP-enabled encoder for live streaming, this breakdown can help you narrow down your options so you don’t necessarily have to shop around. We’ll start the list with a few software encoder options and finish off with some hardware encoder options.

    1. OBS Studio

    OBS RTMP
    OBS Studio is free and open-source RTMP encoder software for video recording and live-streaming.

    OBS Studio, previously known as Open Broadcaster Studio, is an open-source platform with encoding capabilities. This professional video streaming and broadcasting software is available for download here for macOS 10.13 or newer, Windows 8.1, 10, and 11, and Ubuntu 18.04 operating systems. For the Linux version, FFmpeg is required.

    Dacast has partnered with OBS Studio to create custom live broadcasting software on OBS Studio that integrates perfectly with the Dacast platform.

    Basic Functionality:

    OBS Studio offers many great features for new broadcasters who are just getting the hang of live-streaming. The software has a set of OBS-specific settings and system requirements to ensure the most optimal live broadcasting experience.

    Key Features:

    OBS Studio comes with a variety of recording and encoding tools, including audio and video mixing, multiple integration options, and an easy-to-use interface. Other key features include:

    • HLS Live streaming and recording functionality
    • Audio and video mixing, filters, and transitions
    • Support for hotkeys
    • Chroma key and 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
    • One notable negative is that OBS Studio doesn’t currently offer multi-bitrate streaming
    • Detailed wiki and highly active user forum for support/help, many YouTube tutorials are also available.

    Pros:

    • Free to use
    • Works with most OVPs
    • Works with Windows 8.1, 10, and 11; macOS 10.13+; as well as Linux
    • Is open-source for ongoing development and crowdsourced improvements
    • Great for beginners

    Cons:

    • Lack of detailed guidance and support
    • Very basic compatibility with macOS
    • Very taxing on CPU and memory

    Pricing:

    OBS Studio is free to use for everyone and has a working integration with Dacast.

    Best Use Case:

    OBS Studio is best used as encoding software along with a professional video hosting platform.

    OBS Studio works with all three of the major operating systems, and is designed to work seamlessly with Dacast.

    It’s a good choice for those looking for a powerful, yet free encoding software. It offers many plugins and a living community that will help even the newest streamers get a lot of value quickly.

    2. Wirecast

    Wirecast RTMP encoder
    Wirecast is a live video streaming production tool with RTMP encoding capabilities.

    Wirecast is a live video streaming tool with encoding capabilities. It’s owned and operated by Telestream, which has been around since 2004, but its video production tools have been around since 1998. The team at Telestream recently released the latest Wirecast version on May 13th, 2022. 15.0.1 is the newest full version of the tool.

    Basic Functionality:

    Wire-cast is a software video switcher that controls real-time switching between several video sources.

    It’s used for encoding and mixing professional broadcasts.

    Key Features:

    • Input sources from cameras, mics, webcams, IP cameras, capture cards, and desktops
    • Ideal for sports: instant replay, scoreboards, clocks, and timers
    • The free wireless camera app allows you to use any iOS device as a video source
    • NDI support
    • Graphics and titling tool
    • Audio mixer and up to 8 audio tracks
    • Built-in video conference tool
    • Stream to more than one destination simultaneously
    • Support for MIDI hardware controllers
    • Stream and record simultaneously, with re-stream and live captions options
    • Multi-service broadcasting
    • Works on both Windows and macOS
    • 3D graphics
    • Simulcasting capabilities
    • The new features in the 14.1 version included:
      • New Luma Key and Color Key
      • Precision Chroma Key Settings
      • Improved Ability to Size and Scale Sources, as well as Source Connections
      • Free Stock Media Library
      • Improved Shot Bin and Layers
      • Facebook Streaming Updates
      • NDI PTZ Camera Controls (Pro Version Only)
    • Update: brand new features in Version 14.3.3 include:
      • Apple Universal Support: Now Wirecast can be run natively on M1 Macs.
      • Placeholders and Shot Templates: New and improved Shot Templates let you easily add a pre-configured shot layout to your document.
      • Secondary Display Output (Pro-only): Adds a new type of output that sends the live program feed to a secondary display without the need for specific hardware.
      • Lock Shot Icon: Take a snapshot of your live shot and save it as the icon thumbnail image.
      • Shot ISO indicator: You’ll see a tally indicator on shots that are currently being ISO recorded.
      • PTZ Control of X-Series Sony cameras: Added Sony X-Series VISCA/UDP protocol profile in the PTZ controller.
      • LinkedIn Live Auto-Captions support: Make your LinkedIn Live broadcasts more accessible by adding auto-generated captions to any LinkedIn Live video.
      • Input connection selector for Blackmagic devices: This new option lets you select the type of video/audio input connection (HDMI/SDI) used for incoming Blackmagic Designs sources.
      • Audio in the Web Page source: Added the ability to adjust audio from a Web Page source as well as stream it out as part of your broadcast.

    Pros: 

    • Jam-packed with advanced features
    • Compatible with both Mac and Windows
    • Great customer support
    • Regular system updates

    Cons:

    • High price point
    • Slightly complicated

    Pricing:

    Wirecast has two encoding plans, and the software comes in two versions:

    1. Wirecast Studio for enhanced live production & streaming: pricing is $599
    2. Wirecast Pro for advanced live production and streaming: pricing is $799 with a monthly billing option of $35

    This is a bit expensive for encoding software, but it’s tailored to advanced streamers. They offer a free 14-day trial if you want to try it before you buy.

    Additional Wirecast upgrades are available, including:

    • Wirecast support comes in 2 levels: Insider Access: $199/yr; Premium Access: $299/yr
    • NewBlueFX Titler Live (for creation of animated graphics and titles): $245 Standard version, $445 Advance version, $945 Ultimate version
    • Virtualsetworks (pre-made virtual sets for green screen use): $329

    Best Use Case:

    Wirecast Studio is a software encoder that’s best suited for advanced, professional broadcasters who intend on operating elaborate live streams.

    Keep in mind that compared to OBS studio, Wirecast Studio requires a more powerful system. It requires a powerful CPU to work effectively.

    3. VidBlasterX

    Vidblasterx RTMP encoder
    VidBlasterX offers professional broadcasters live video production, encoding, and streaming software solutions.

    VidBlasterX is a live-streaming software encoder that focuses on video production. VidblasterX is no longer free and relies on a subscription-based local installation to distribute its software.

    The latest edition is the X, or the 5th version of the solution, and has 3 editions: Home, Studio, and Broadcast. Each edition comes with more features than its lower-tiered version, and the biggest difference between them is in the number of modules allowed in a single profile: Home supports up to 7 modules, Studio supports up to 25, and the top tier Broadcast edition supports up to 100.

    Basic Functionality:

    VidBlasterX Home is a 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. 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.

    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

    Pros: 

    • Free version
    • Plans for every budget
    • Supports multiple streams
    • Easy setup
    • Audio mixing and video editing

    Cons:

    • Branding limitations on the free version
    • Only works on Windows OS

    Pricing:

    VidBlasterX is available in three versions. Each of the following options is priced with an annual subscription model:

    1. The Home version ($9/year) supports 7 modules.
    2. The Studio version ($99/year) supports 25 modules.
    3. The Broadcast version ($999/year) supports 100 modules. This version also supports multiple recorder & streamer modules in a single profile.

    First, the difference between the versions is the number of simultaneously active modules you can have. The Home editions support up to seven modules, enough for basic live streaming. The Studio edition supports up to 25 modules, and the Broadcast edition supports 50 modules. These higher limits allow professional users with multiple monitors to set up and oversee complex workflows.

    Additionally, the Broadcast edition also supports UDP streaming, multiple streaming sources, and recorder modules in a single profile, and includes priority support.

    Best Use Case:

    VidBlaster has a wide range of best uses since it has such a variety of plans, but the encoding tools are at the core. It works well with professional OVPs such as Dacast. Here is a tutorial on how to stream on Dacast with VidBlasterX.

    Keep in mind that it only works with Windows PCs.

    4. vMix

    vMix encoding software
    VidBlasterX offers professional broadcasters live video production, encoding, and streaming software solutions.

    vMix is a streaming software tool with encoding capabilities that was designed for Windows operating systems. vMix was developed by StudioCoast.

    The latest version of the Windows-specific software is 25.0.0.34 and includes an upgrade to a free 60 day trial of vMix PRO for download. While vMix 24 is for Windows only, the software can be installed on a Mac via Boot Camp if the machine has a Windows partition.

    Basic Functionality:

    vMix offers an array of video streaming tool plans. They offer a wide range of features at different price points, so there are options for broadcasters of every level of expertise. vMix offers powerful encoding services.

    Key Features: 

    • Support for a wide range of inputs including webcams, cameras, capture cards, DVDs, sound cards, playlists, photos, PPT presentations, and more
    • NDI support
    • Chroma key and virtual sets
    • Built-in titling tool that supports animation via XAML
    • Live-streaming platform integrations (including with the Dacast streaming platform)
    • vMix Social allows you to pull and display content from popular social media platforms
    • Instant replay, slow motion, and scoreboards
    • Training videos available
    • vMix “reference systems” ease the difficulty around building a custom live production system

    Pros: 

    • Many powerful features
    • Reliable customer support
    • Professional platform
    • Added speed for specialized codecs

    Cons:

    • A high price point for most inclusive plans
    • Only works with Windows 
    • A bit tricky to use

    Pricing:

    vMix is available for Windows computers only, and it comes in 5 different lifetime license editions. 4 of them never expire, while the subscription license is month-to-month. The 4 lifetime licenses also each include a year of free updates, and the subscription license includes free updates during the subscription period. The versions are:

    • Basic (free), which supports 4 (up to 2 camera/NDI) inputs and video up to 768 x 576 resolution
    • 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 1920×1080 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 monthly subscription license includes the following:

    • 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

    Best Use Case

    vMix is another software encoder that’s best used as an encoding tool alongside a professional online video platform. If you’re responsible for a very advanced production and have the budget, vMix is a great option. However, keep in mind that it only works with Windows.

    5. TriCaster

    tricaster rtmp encoder
    TriCaster is innovative software-driven technology, offering broadcasters professional-grade tools for encoding and video production.

    TriCaster offers high-end RTMP encoder hardware from NewTek for advanced broadcasters. It has a wide range of capabilities that extend beyond encoding. Since this is a hardware solution, there are no trackable online download versions or editions. That said, TriCaster has 4 core products: Mini 4K, TC410 Plus, TC1, and the flagship 2 Elite.

    Basic Functionality:

    The TriCaster encoding tools are designed to aid broadcasters in live-streaming by encoding in real-time.

    Key Features:

    • Expensive hardware
    • Built-in mixing tools
    • Real-time encoding
    • Recording capabilities 

    Pros: 

    • Can process moving graphics
    • Record to DDR

    Cons:

    • High price tag
    • Requires additional paid tools to use
    • Complicated setup
    • Very heavy (some devices over 20 pounds)

    Top Products:

    NewTek offers several different products in the TriCaster line, including:

    • TriCaster 2 Elite: Encoding device for advanced, television-grade broadcasting
    • TriCaster 4k Mini: Portable desktop encoder
    • TriCaster TC410 Plus: Encoding tool for mid-sized productions
    • TriCaster TC1: Everything broadcasters need for end-to-end video production

    Pricing:

    The Tricaster encoding devices start at $8,995 for the Mini 4K base model, $9,995 for the TC410 Plus, $14,995 for the TC1 in a 2RU chassis, and $27,995 for the TriCaster 2 Elite.

    Best Use Case

    Tricaster is a good choice for those who have the budget and are searching for a high-ticket hardware encoder. Tricaster’s encoding devices are best suited for advanced, professional broadcasters such as those who will be live streaming on TV. Consider that there’s a high learning curve, but it’s worth learning because of all its powerful capabilities.

    6. TeraDek

    teradek RTMP encoder
    Teradek technology offers video and encoding solutions and is used around the world by professional and amateur broadcasters to capture and share content.

    TeraDek is a physical encoding tool that was built for mobile broadcasting. It’s most commonly used by advanced, professional broadcasters due to its elevated price point. Its functionality and convenient design make it worth the hefty investment. Like TriCaster, TeraDek is a hardware encoder with a variety of products but features CORE 2.0, which is a cloud-based streaming management platform designed to update and support live streaming capabilities to their product line. The service runs on cloud technology, allowing users from anywhere in the world to access the platform through TeraDek hardware products.

    Basic Functionality:

    TeraDek RTMP encoder hardware was built to encode on the go. There are 4 core products: Bolt 4K, TeraDek RT, VidiU Go, and Cube. Its compact designs and portable chassis allow broadcasters to stream beyond the studio.

    Key Features:

    • Small enough to film and encode on the go
    • Product support and updates through CORE
    • Phenomenal video quality
    • A bit expensive

    Pros: 

    • Built for live-streaming
    • Top-of-the-line video quality
    • Portable chassis
    • Compact design 

    Cons:

    • A very high price point

    Top Products:

    Teradek offers a wide range of encoding devices for professional broadcasting. Some of their top products include: 

    • Bolt: A very powerful compact solution for on the go 4K HD cinema-quality video with zero latency
    • Vidiu Go: Live-streaming encoder that can be used for broadcasting on the go
    • Bond: Backpack encoder for broadcasting on the go
    • Prism: 4K encoding and decoding device
    • Cube: Designed to support IP video
    • Ranger: Encoder for wireless connection to OVP from television-grade capture equipment

    Pricing:

    Teradek’s encoding tools start at $1,490 for Vidiu Go, $1,790 for CUBE, $2,490 for the Bolt 4K LT, and $3,499.95 for the CTRL.3 version of TeraDek RT.

    Best Use Case:

    TeraDek is a hardware encoder that’s best suited for advanced, professional broadcasters. Compared to other hardware encoders, it’s very light-weight and great for those who need to move a lot. It’s a great choice for those who need the power of a hardware encoder but also the portability of software encoders (which often just requires a laptop).

    7. Niagara Video

    Niagara video RTMP encoder for live streaming
    Niagara Video offers a rack mount solution suitable for various organizations and includes video encoding, transcoding, and decoding.

    Niagara Video offers nearly 20 different RTMP encoder hardware and software options for broadcasters of different experience levels. Niagara Video has been serving the broadcasting community for nearly 20 years and they are considered a “trailblazer and innovator” in their industry. The company offers both hardware and software solutions, focusing on verticals including sports broadcasting, enterprise and corporate, churches and houses of worship, government, education, and more.

    Basic Functionality:

    Niagara’s encoding tools are designed to encode and transcode video content.

    Key Features:

    • A wide variety of encoding tools to choose from

    Pros: 

    • Many hardware and software encoding choices

    Cons:

    • No Pricing transparency

    Top Products

    Niagara’s encoders currently include several model lines, each of which is available in a variety of configurations. Each model also includes a 1-year limited warranty.

    1. The new Niagara 9300 Series is a 1U rack-mount unit that supports HD and/or SD SDI inputs with up to 8 stereo pairs (16 channels) of embedded audio. The 9300 allows you to deliver multiple simultaneous streams. It also includes a web SDK to enable customizations and integrations. Additionally, it supports the new SCX Linux software or SCX+ software.
    2. The GoStream Digital and Analog encoders are powerful, compact two-channel streaming encoders with integrated solid-state drives. They’re available in SDI or DVI-I versions, as well as versions that support Component/Composite/S-Video and HDMI/DVI VGA. Additionally, they support Transport Stream (UDP/RTP), Adobe Flash (RTMP), Windows Media, and Apple’s HLS protocol.
    3. The GoStream B264 encoder is designed for hard use in broadcast and streaming applications. This small unit (3 fits in 1 RU) features two SDI inputs, two ASI outputs, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a variety of other connectivity options.
    4. Finally, the GoStream Mini 200 is a flexible, affordable encoder with low power consumption and support for common consumer and prosumer video formats such as AVC / HEVC, H.264 / H.265. The device includes inputs for SDI, HDMI, component, composite, DVI/VGA, and unbalanced audio. Additionally, it also has the ability to record a file as MP4 while streaming live.

    Pricing:

    Niagara has many products, and it would be best to contact Niagara directly for pricing on their products and solutions as their pricing isn’t transparent.

    Best Use Case

    Since Niagara offers a wide variety of products and solutions, there’s not one single best use. However, the primary function of their products is to encode and transcode live video content.

    Factors to Consider When Choosing an RTMP Encoder

    The right RTMP encoder for you will depend on your needs and goals. When choosing the best RTMP encoder for live video streaming, here are a few things to consider:

    • Pricing: There are powerful software encoder options that are free, like OBS Studio. And there are hardware encoder options that can get very costly. If you have the budget and are responsible for bigger productions with complex requirements, you may find value in the software encoders or hardware encoders with higher price points.
    • Technical knowledge: Software encoders are generally easier to set up than hardware encoders. In the same way, some software encoders are more intuitive than other software encoders. Some RTMP encoders offer a lot of plugins that make it very easy to implement cool things into your broadcast, while other RTMP encoders have a more significant learning curve than others. Also, consider the activity level of the community behind each encoder or their level of customer service. If you’re not super technical, having a community or support team to ask questions along the way will prove very helpful.
    • Portability: Most hardware encoders are quite bulky. Teradek is one of the few exceptions. So, if you’ll constantly be on the go when broadcasting, you’ll likely prefer a software encoder or a lightweight hardware encoder like Teradek.
    • System requirements: Some software encoders support all major operating systems while some don’t. Also, some software encoders require higher powered CPU and GPU hardware than others. For example, OBS Studio has less demanding CPU and GPU requirements compared with Wirecast.
    • Complexity of your production needs: If you’re running a production for a really large organization and feel you may have complex needs, there may be benefits in choosing one of the more costly hardware encoder options as long as you have the budget. However, depending on your specific needs, OBS may still be a powerful and free choice that’s capable of supporting large-scale productions.

    The Future of RTMP

    As mentioned earlier, RTMP lives on largely due to RTMP ingest. In other words, RTMP is still very commonly used for transporting video files from an encoder to an online video platform.  In fact, RTMP is currently the most commonly used protocol for ingesting video content.

    Although HLS beat out RTMP for streaming, HLS ingest is nowhere as popular as RTMP ingest. So RTMP encoders have a long future ahead. But there’s competition to look out for, like HLS.

    As a quick refresher, when opting for HLS ingest, you’ll need an HLS-compatible encoder in the same way that you need an RTMP-enabled encoder for RTMP ingest.

    RTMP encoders are far more popular than HLS-compatible encoders right now. But, keep in mind that there’s a good chance this can change in the future.

    A major reason there aren’t as many HLS-compatible encoders to choose from yet is that the use of HLS ingest is relatively new compared to RTMP ingest. For that reason, streamers trying to use HLS ingest have a higher chance of running into compatibility issues compared with those who are using RTMP ingest.

    And although HLS is currently popular as a streaming protocol, it has a major shortcoming compared to RTMP—latency issues. So, in addition to compatibility, this is another reason HLS ingest is’t as popular as RTMP ingest yet. But keep in mind that Apple has been working on improving HLS latency.

    Despite all of this, HLS has proven its power as a streaming protocol, so HLS ingest and HLS-compatible encoders have a hopeful future. As a protocol developed by Apple, you can bet on it getting better quickly.

    So, to sum it up, RTMP encoders are far more popular than HLS-compatible encoders at the moment for various reasons such as compatibility. But as more streamers and organizations start to use HLS ingest, adoption of this protocol is something to keep an eye on.

    Conclusion

    There’s always plenty to learn about video encoding. From RTMP and HLS to recording devices and OVPs, there really are many moving parts involved in live-streaming.

    Configuring an RTMP encoder requires many steps, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be confusing or complicated. While it can be overwhelming if it’s your first time streaming, the process becomes pretty simple with the proper tools and a little bit of direction.

    Luckily, there are so many wonderful encoding tools on the market, so finding one with the features that best suit your streaming needs shouldn’t be too big of an issue. Once you have the right tools, you can focus on creating quality live broadcasts that your audience will enjoy.

    If you’re looking for an end-to-end live streaming video platform to host your live-streams, look no further than Dacast. Are you interested in giving our streaming solutions a try? Why not take advantage of our free 14-day trial (no credit card required). You can test all the Dacast features for yourself to see if it’s a good fit for you!

    Get Started For Free

    What’s been your experience with RTMP encoders? Let us know by leaving a comment below! We have experience with most kinds of live video streaming encoders, so we can probably help no matter what issues you’re experiencing. For exclusive offers and regular live streaming tips, join our LinkedIn group.

    Thanks for reading and happy streaming!

    author avatar

    Max Wilbert

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

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