As a broadcaster, there are several tools you need for a successful live stream. One important decision you’ll need to make is which streaming video software to use for encoding your broadcasts.
There are a variety of choices available, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Price points for streaming video software vary widely as well. Additionally, each application may run better on hardware compared to other apps.
In this article, we’ll consider and compare the main features and capabilities of some of the top live streaming video software products on the market.
Our goal here is to help you choose the best streaming solutions and streaming video software for you. Now, let’s introduce each of the three encoding software options under comparison here. All three are functional options for particular live streaming needs, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide.
We’ll be Covering:
- Our Streaming Video Software Contenders
- Capture and Input Sources
- Multi-Bitrate Streaming
- Streaming with Simultaneous Sources
- Chroma Key and Color Effects
- Animations, Lower Thirds, and Titles
- Online Video Platform Integration
- Social Media Integrations
- Instant Replay and Sports-Specific Features
- System Requirements
- Ease of use
- How to Choose the Best Streaming Video Software for You
Our Streaming Video Software Contenders
Throughout this post, we will talk about several specific features and how they are incorporated into three popular streaming video software encoders. But first, let’s go into detail on the top 3 streaming video software providers.
1. OBS Studio
First up is OBS Studio. OBS is a free and open-source live streaming video software package. It’s quite easy to use, but relatively light on features.
For Dacast users, OBS Studio is especially easy to use, since we offer a customized version of OBS Studio that includes Dacast as one of the default streaming services. This gives our broadcasters an automated setup to start streaming live, including easy and secure video upload capabilities.
To access this version, log in to your Dacast account and click the “Encoder Setup” tab. You’ll find a download link there.
The next package we’d like to mention is vMix. vMix is a highly powerful application, though it does have a learning curve. We’ll get more into the details for each of these offerings momentarily.
Lastly, we’ll discuss Wirecast. Wirecast is easier to use than OBS, but it adds significantly more functionality and power. It is a paid tool, however.
Capture and Input Sources
The first feature we’re going to take a look at is capture and sources supported by each of these streaming video software apps.
OBS supports a slightly smaller range of sources compared to for-pay software options. These include:
- Video via capture cards
- Images and GIFs
- Video and audio files
- Web pages
- Specific application windows
OBS also has a special “game capture” mode and the ability to insert an image slideshow.
Also, as mentioned above, Dacast broadcasters can access an easier and faster version of OBS setup right through your Dacast account.
Wirecast supports many input sources as well. These include:
- Cameras and PTZ optics (again, often via capture cards)
- Video and audio files
- Application windows or desktops via Wirecast’s free Remote Desktop Presenter software
One interesting video source is Wirecast Cam. This is a mobile app that allows you to stream wirelessly from an iPhone or iPad during a live broadcast. Wirecast also includes an image slideshow feature.
vMix supports a huge range of inputs. These include video cameras (via supported capture cards) running at up to 4K resolutions. Other sources include:
- Video and audio files
- Audio devices, such as sound cards
- Desktop applications
- PowerPoint presentations
- Web browsing
vMix also supports NDI (Network Device Interface) for sending video over gigabit ethernet networks.
Multi-bitrate streaming is a feature that makes your video files available in a variety of sizes so that viewers can use the optimal size for their internet speed. Paired with an adaptive video player, viewers are automatically served the best quality live stream possible.
One drawback of OBS is that it doesn’t support streaming in multiple bitrates simultaneously. This can be a drawback for some streamers, depending on their chosen online video platform (OVP).
Wirecast and vMix both have native support for multi-bitrate streaming. This allows users to send out multiple simultaneous versions of a live stream, each at a different quality, at the same time.
This process does use more bandwidth and processing power. It also allows content to reach users with varying internet speeds and in various locations.
Streaming with Simultaneous Sources
OBS Studio and Wirecast both support as many simultaneous sources as you can connect for your broadcasts. With Wirecast, you can even stream multiple, separate live streams from the same machine.
Generally, the limiting factor here is your hardware, rather than the software itself. Once you start inputting a range of cameras, animations, and so on, the load to a computer becomes taxing. Sufficient RAM, a fast RAID or SSD disk, and a powerful processor make all the difference here.
vMix comes in six versions, starting at the free Basic version and ending with the Pro version. Each version supports a different number of inputs. The Basic and Basic HD versions of vMix only support four total inputs. Each camera, image, animation, audio source, or other input counts against that limit.
Additionally, the Basic version limits you to two cameras/NDI inputs. The Basic HD version limits you to three.
However, the SD, HD, 4K, and Pro versions of vMix each support up to 1000 total inputs, including cameras or NDI devices. That should be more than enough for even the most complex live presentation.
Chroma Key and Color Effects
Chroma key is the technical name for what’s commonly called a “green screen.” Other colors besides green are sometimes used, however. OBS, Wirecast, and vMix all support this technology.
Wirecast and vMix both come with a number of “virtual sets.” These allow you to easily use a chroma key to isolate your subject, then put them on a virtual scene such as an office room or news headquarters.
Virtual sets are also available from various third parties if you’re looking for something in particular.
Animations, Lower Thirds, and Titles
As far as animations, OBS doesn’t have a built-in tool. OBS handles text as a “source” just like a camera or video file. To set up a title or transition, you have to set up these sources beforehand. Use the text source tool to enter text, or to select a text file as a source. The latter option is useful for situations such as news tickers or captions.
Starting with Wirecast 7, Telestream began collaborating with NewBlueFX. This allows them to include a 3D animated title tool in their application. The free version included with Wirecast is somewhat basic.
However, you can upgrade this tool if you’re willing to pay for the Standard, Advanced or Ultimate versions. This tool adds limited NDI support for pulling in animated titles from another computer on your network.
vMix does include a built-in titling tool. Titles that you create in this tool can be animated using XAML, but this requires some basic programming knowledge. Using an application like Microsoft Blend or Adobe After Effects may simplify this process. There are various tutorials available to help you through this process.
Online Video Platform Integration
Integration with various online video platforms can simplify the process of setting up a new live stream. This saves you a few minutes of setup time by offering presets for commonly used services.
It may not sound like much, but in a production environment, any time saved is golden. OBS Streaming video software integrates directly with Twitch, YouTube, DailyMotion, Facebook Live, and a number of others. Again, Dacast offers a version customized with the best OBS Studio settings to use with our online video platform.
Wirecast has direct integration with more than 30 services. These include online video platforms (OVPs) and content delivery networks (CDNs). Dacast is one of the many supported services.
vMix also features integrations, including Dacast, TikiLIVE, Twitch, StreamingChurch.tv, and more.
With each of these streaming video software apps, it’s quite simple to connect to a streaming server. This is true regardless of the provider when using the “Custom RTMP Server” option.
Social Media Integrations
Many live streamers strive to interact with their audiences via social media during broadcasts. One of the best ways to do this is to showcase live social media comments on-screen during your stream. Each of the three streaming video software has the ability to streamline this process.
OBS Studio doesn’t have a dedicated tool to integrate social media. However, it is possible to set up some powerful integrations using a free plugin called CLR Browser. It requires some setup, but the result is a transparent, borderless, scalable, and auto-updating tweet overlay. You can learn more about the process on the OBS site.
Wirecast has direct Twitter integration, allowing you to pull feeds into your broadcasts. This features a slick look and simplifies interacting with your viewers. As a bonus, this is an integrated feature ready to go for every Wirecast user.
vMix integrates social media using a plugin called vMix social, which is available free. This plugin is powerful, as it allows you to insert social media posts, feeds, and other content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any IRC chatroom.
It’s possible to bring in content from other social media sources on OBS and Wirecast by using screen and window capture tools. However, the native vMix method is smoother and less buggy.
Instant Replay and Sports-Specific Features
OBS Studio supports instant replays using a method that’s pretty simple. You’ll also need a plugin called “Video Source Plugin.” This supports the broadcasting of live streaming sports and instant replays using a configurable length of time. Then, you can press a keyboard shortcut to save and then replay that content.
When it comes to scoreboards, OBS uses an add-on called “Scoreboard Assistant.” This plugin is not free, but it’s available for a sliding scale “pay what you can” donation.
Wirecast has a number of valuable sports features. These include customizable live scoreboards, instant replays, and more.
vMix is also ideal for sports use with an instant replay feature supporting up to four camera angles simultaneously. Slow-motion is also supported. Selected clips can also be exported for showcasing on social media. Scoreboards are supported via templates or a build-your-own feature.
OBS has the following system requirements:
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux
- AMD FX series or Intel i5 2000-series processor (dual or 4-core preferable) or higher
- DirectX 10 capable graphics card
- At least 4 GB of RAM (recommended, but not necessary)
Wirecast has the following system requirements:
- Windows 7 or newer or macOS El Capitan or newer
- Intel Core i7 CPU at 3 GHz or higher (for full High Definition 1080p streaming)
- Integrated or discrete graphics card compatible with DirectX 10
- At least 4 GB of RAM
- 2 GB of free disk space
The minimum system requirements for vMix are:
- A Windows PC running Windows 7 or newer (Windows 10 recommended)
- A 2 GHz dual-core processor or better (Intel Core i7 at 3 GHz or higher recommended)
- 1 GB or DDR2 or faster RAM (8 GB recommended)
- A 7200 RPM hard drive (SSD recommended)
- DirectX 10 compatible graphics card (Nvidia card with at least 1 GB RAM recommended)
Ease of Use
In terms of ease of use, different streaming video software packages have advantages. OBS, vMix, and Wirecast are all relatively complex. This is especially true compared to something like Facebook Live.
However, each of these applications is possible to learn within a few hours. Mastery will take longer, but between YouTube tutorials and dedicated forums, you’ll be able to answer just about any questions you may have.
Generally, we’ve found Wirecast and OBS to be similar in their ease of use. Wirecast may have a slight edge. vMix is a bit more complex and may take additional learning.
OBS is free and open-source software. You can download the application for free on as many devices as you like. You can also modify the code to create new features for your specific needs.
Wirecast offers two packages: Studio and Pro. Pro adds a few additional features not included in the Studio version. These include:
- Recording isolated sources
- Additional support inputs (Teradek Cube, IP cameras, Web streams)
- 3D set support
- Support for Firewire HDV cameras
- Live scoreboards, instant replay, and audio effects
- Output feed to Blackmagic Design or DeckLink capture cards
Wirecast offers premium support for an additional yearly fee. Users of earlier versions of Wirecast can upgrade to the latest version at a reduced cost. They also offer a free trial version of their software that includes watermarks.
vMix has the most complicated pricing structure of the encoding software we’re comparing here. It comes in six versions: Basic, Basic HD, SD, HD, 4K, and Pro.
Each license does not expire and includes free upgrades to new versions for one year. To view up-to-date pricing information and to see which features are supported in which version, check out vMix’s pricing page.
Please note that vMix offers a 60-day free trial.
How to Choose the Best Streaming Video Software for You
Selecting the right streaming video software is an individual decision.
To narrow down your options, consider these questions:
- Will you do live sports streaming?
- Do you want to stream live video on your website?
- Will you be live streaming business or professional events and conferences?
- What is your budget?
You’ll have to factor in your equipment, workflow, necessary features, and budget.
Our aim in this comparison has been to bring together important and up-to-date information on streaming video software. If you need a certain feature that’s offered in one of these applications and not in the other), your decision may be easier.
We highly recommend downloading the trial versions of these software packages. That way, you can test them out to see which you prefer.
If you prefer a simple solution for use with Dacast, we offer a themed version of each streaming video software for simple integration with our platform. You also have the option to stream live video on your website through our streaming platform.
Streaming video software is highly complex. It’s essentially a real-time video editing system with control capabilities, audio and video mixing, inputs and sources from a wide range of files and an encoding backend to stream over the internet.
These applications are highly functional and complex so they do require some trial and error. To that end, we hope this guide has helped you to make sense of some important features.
Interested to try the Dacast live streaming and video hosting platform? Sign up today to enjoy free streaming and all our great features for 30 days (no credit card required).
Finally, we love to hear from our readers! If you have any questions or experiences to share about streaming video software, let us know in the comments. We will get back to you. And for regular tips on live streaming, you’re welcome to join our LinkedIn group.
Thanks for reading, and happy broadcasting.