If you’re involved in live streaming, you’ll need to decide which streaming video software to use for your broadcasts. There are a variety of choices available, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Like live streaming pricing plans, price points for streaming video software vary widely as well. Additionally, each application may run better on certain hardware compared to other apps.
In this article, we”ll consider the features and capabilities of some of the top live streaming video software products on the market. We’ll compare their main features here, including:
- capture & input sources
- multi-bitrate & multi-source streaming
- customizeable visual features
- OVP & social media integrations
- sports-specific features
- system requirements, and
- ease of use & pricing.
Our goal here is to help you choose the best streaming solutions and streaming video software for you. Now, let’s introduce each of 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!
Our Streaming Video Software Contenders
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. We offer a customized version of OBS Studio that includes DaCast as one of the default streaming services. This gives our broadcasts an even more 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’ll review is Wirecast. Wirecast is easier to use than OBS, but it adds significantly more functionality and power. It does cost more money, however.
Lastly, we’ll evaluate 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.
One top-end product we’re not going to consider here is NewTek’s TriCaster systems. That’s because these systems mix hardware and software seamlessly, meaning they don’t quite fit into this blog post topic. However, we can say that NewTek produces some of the best broadcast equipment and software in the business. Professionals, studios, and corporate users may want to seriously consider TriCaster.[Tweet “This article compares streaming video software from Wirecast, vMix, and OBS Studio. #livestreaming #onlinevideo #digitalvideo #production”]
Capture & Input Sources
Now, let’s take a look at the capture and sources supported by each of these streaming video software apps.
OBS capture and input
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
- Desktops, and
- Specific application windows.
OBS also has a special “game capture” mode and the ability to inset an image slide show.
Also, as mentioned above, DaCast broadcasters can access an easier and faster version OBS setup right through your DaCast account.
Wirecast capture and input
Wirecast supports many input sources as well. These include:
- Cameras and PTZ optics (again, often via capture cards)
- Video and audio files
- Images, and
- 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 capture and input
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.
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. However, 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 ($1200) 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 camera/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 & 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, & 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 titles 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, Advance, 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.
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 for 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, as well as a variety of other services, are supported.
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
Increasingly, 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 our apps has the ability to streamline this process.
OBS Studio doesn’t have a dedicated tool to integrate social media. However, it is possible to get some nice integration 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 here.
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, allowing 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 & 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 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 nice sports features. These include customizeable 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, and
- 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, and
- 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), and
- 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 a 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 comes in two flavors: Studio ($495) and Pro ($995). 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, audio effects, and
- 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 (free), Basic HD ($60), SD ($150), HD ($350), 4K ($700), and Pro ($1200). Each license does not expire and includes free upgrades to new versions for one year. To view which features are supported in which version, check out vMix’s pricing page. vMix does offer 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 asking yourself these kinds of 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? You’ll have to factor in your equipment, workflow, necessary features, and budget. However, swapping between three different websites and search engines to try to interpret a wide range of features isn’t an easy way to make a decision.
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 others), your decision may be easy now. However, that’s likely not the case for most of you. In that case, 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 easily and professionally 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. As such, these applications are highly functional and complex, and do require some trial and error to become comfortable and confident using them. To that end, we hope this guide has helped you to make sense of 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.
By Max Wilbert.