Video Streaming Software: Top 6 Apps for Professional Live Streaming [2020 Update]

video content management system (cms)

In recent years, we’ve entered a very exciting time for online video. Video is taking over the internet, and users are watching more content online than ever before. 

Live video streaming is a helpful tool for individuals and businesses alike. Many businesses use live streaming content to better connect with their audiences. 

In this post, we’ll introduce video streaming software basics, go into the topics of encoding, and live streaming protocols such as RTMP vs. HLS streaming to make sure the terminology is clear. Then, we’ll move into a review of the top 6 examples of popular video streaming software with encoding capabilities, provide detailed information about key advantages, as well as features of each software to help you weigh your options.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Video Streaming Software
  • What is an Encoder?
  • RTMP and HLS Streaming Protocols
  • 6 Popular Video Streaming Software Applications
  • Conclusion: Choosing the Best Software

Introduction to Video Streaming Software

First, note that encoding software is a key component of the live streaming process. Simply put, an encoder turns a video feed into something ready to stream live or on-demand online.

Also, it’s important to understand that an encoder can be either hardware-based or software-based. As we mentioned above, this article focuses on the software approach to encoding.

What is an Encoder?

video encoder
An encoder is essential to creating a high-quality live stream.

Encoding software is a key component of the video streaming process. Simply put, an encoder converts a RAW video file into a ready-to-stream digital video file.

An encoder can be either hardware-based or software-based. We’re going to focus on software encoders today.

The benefit of software encoders is that they are generally more cost-effective. Unlike hardware encoders, software encoders can be updated as the software is improved. That means the lifespan of encoding software lives beyond its hardware counterpart.

Hardware encoders are also typically bulky, so the fact that software encoders work on your laptop or computer is convenient for streaming outside of a studio.

RTMP and HLS Streaming Protocols

There are a couple of protocols that are used to transmit video files from your camera to your audience, and your encoder plays the role of the middle-man.

RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) is the most popular protocol for stream ingest. Today, nearly all live video streaming software supports RTMP. This includes all of the live encoding software we cover in this article.

To learn how to set up an RTMP encoder, check out this post on RTMP encoders for live streaming.

Today, however, most online video streams reach viewers via the HLS streaming protocol. It’s the best video media protocol for most uses. 

Originally, Apple pioneered HLS, which is short for “HTTP Live Streaming.” This protocol is compatible with nearly every mobile device, tablet, computer, smart TV, and game console on the market today. HLS is also constantly updated to support new technologies. To put these two protocols into perspective, RTMP transmits video files from the encoder to the video hosting platform, and HLS transmits the files from the live streaming platform to the viewers.

For more details, you can review our related article on how to choose the best video streaming protocol.

6 Popular Video Streaming Software Applications

We’ve rounded up six of the most popular video streaming software applications on the market. For context, note that all are compatible with most of the streaming platforms on the market. Likewise, Dacast broadcasters and the streaming community at large have found these to be strong, capable applications.

1. OBS Studio

OBS video streaming software
Did you know that Dacast has collaborated with OBS Studio to create a custom platform for our users? Source: OBSproject.com

Overview:

First, let’s review the OBS Studio streaming video software. OBS is an open-source, community-developed project. OBS’s broadcasting software is fairly basic in operation and features. However, OBS does offer a wide range of plugins that can add lots of functionality. These plugins help to enhance the basic OBS software. In addition, they add advanced features found in high-end (and therefore pricier) live streaming software.

Main Features:

  • Switching between multiple sources, including cameras via a capture card
  • Support for audio, video, image, web browser, and graphics sources
  • Pre-program scenes with multiple elements
  • Transitions, filters, and audio mixer
  • Studio mode and multi-view features
  • Chroma key (green / blue screen)
  • Overlays
  • Supports video recording or RTMP live streaming
  • Wide range of community developed plugins
  • NDI support via a plugin
  • Websocket API for remote control (plugin)

Pricing and Compatibility:

OBS Studio is free. This software is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.

OBS Studio Reviews:

As it’s free and open-source, OBS does not offer much in the way of support or customer service. Though it is fairly easy to use, brand new broadcasters will experience a small learning curve to make the most of this software. If you are familiar with adding and using plugins, however, this software can be as feature-rich as other, for-pay options.

Check these highlighted reviews, as well as this overview for more information.

“The thing I liked most about this software is that it is totally free to use. It comes with great effects that are easy to set up. The software is very easy to learn and understand. Exceptional settings within the software. Very good for those who are just starting out.” – Ludvig W.

“Currently using OBS for our primary streaming software after Adobe’s old software went obsolete and other options were too pricey or still couldn’t manage what we needed. OBS is simple enough and delivers exactly what we need. It can handle multiple inputs and files to enable us to not need a switcher, but perfectly fine if you were using a switcher/single input setup.” – Travis G.

If you’re looking to use this software to stream over Dacast, you can review this OBS tutorial for Dacast.

2. Wirecast

Wirecast Video Streaming Software
Wirecast Pro is the top of the line, award-winning production software for streaming and recording high-quality live video. Source: Telestream.net

Overview:

Second, let’s examine Wirecast. The company Telestream is the developer of Wirecast. This application is a capable live video streaming software. Specifically, Wirecast expands the functionality of more basic applications like OBS Studio to include a wider range of powerful, professional tools.

Wirecast expands the functionality of more basic applications like OBS Studio to include a wider range of powerful, professional tools.

Main 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 social media comment curation feature
  • 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

Pricing and Compatibility:

There are two versions of Wirecast: Studio and Pro. Wirecast Studio costs $599, Wirecast Pro costs $799.

Wirecast is compatible with both Mac and Windows. 

Wirecast Reviews:

Here are a few reviews to highlight:

“We have been very pleased with the service from the beginning, and it gets better every year! It has really helped us stand out in our industry and provide a great viewer experience for our clients and their families.” – Chris M.


“The best part of Wirecast is how easy it is to use. Being able to set up and plan a live stream is very simple. The user interface is intuitive. And it offers a lot of solutions and flexibility in it’s set up.” – Stephen K.

For more information, check out G2 Crowd reviews of the Wirecast software. You can also read this consumer review from high acclaimed photographer Trey Ratcliff of the video streaming software’s functionality.

Finally, if you’re looking to use Wirecast with your Dacast account, you can review this how-to blog article.

3. VidBlasterX

vidblasterx video streaming software
Vidblasterx is a versatile video production software solution for capturing and streaming everything from webcasts to live events. Source: VidBlasterX

Overview:

Next up in our video streaming software review here is VidBlasterX. First, note that VidBlasterX is both a software encoder and a live switcher. In fact, broadcasters can use this software for many tasks. For example, you can mix video and audio from many different sources, add images and graphics, make adjustments, add transitions, and more. 

Software packages range from the inexpensive to pricier options, so there are options for diverse live streaming needs.

Features:

  • Unique modular user interface
  • Overlay graphics, lower thirds, and scoreboards
  • Video effects including support for chroma-key (green/blue screen)
  • Stream via RTMP and record streams to local media
  • Audio mixer with peak meters, input gain, and pan settings
  • Customize further via macros, custom shortcuts, and internal API with a scripting language
  • “SyncLok” function syncs clocks between multiple sources to avoid mismatched frames or audio
  • Multiview allows you to monitor video and assign custom names to each source. It also adds a tally light to track which source is live.
  • NDI and IP support
  • Supports a wide range of sources including NDI, IP, TCP, DeckLink, and more

Pricing and Compatibility:

VidBlasterX offers three different pricing levels, on a subscription-based model. Also, note that VidBlasterX has a modular design. As a result, each software level adds support for using more modules simultaneously. All software purchases include free upgrades.

The Home edition costs $9 per year, and it allows you to use seven modules at once. The Studio version costs $99 per year, and it supports 25 modules. The Broadcast version costs $999 per year, and now supports the simultaneous use of up to 100 modules. The Broadcast version also supports multiple recorder & streamer modules in a single profile.

VidBlasterX Reviews:

Another difference in VidBlasterX encoding software options is the level of support: the Home & Studio editions come with community support, the Broadcast edition comes with both community and priority support.

VidBlasterX scored an 8.8/10 on BCBLive. Particularly, reviewers note that broadcasters may need the Studio or Broadcast versions to support enough concurrent modules. Do you want more details on how to use this encoding option with your Dacast account? If so, read this article on the best encoder settings for VidBlasterX broadcasting software.

4. vMix

vmix video streaming software
Vmix is a Live Video Streaming Software that allows you to broadcast live productions online. Source: Vmix.com

Overview:

Australian-based vMix is another live video production and streaming software. Overall, vMix is a strong option in terms of encoding software.

It includes a wide range of excellent features, and the vMix app includes regular software updates.

Features:

  • Support for a wide range of inputs including webcams, cameras, capture cards, DVDs, soundcards, 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 difficulty around building a custom live production system

Pricing and Compatibility:

vMix is available for Windows computers only, and it comes in six different editionsEach purchase never expires, and all editions include free updates for a year. 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 (1080p)
  • SD ($150), which supports 1000 inputs, 4 overlay channels, and 768 x 576 resolution
  • HD ($350), which adds vMix call functionality and supports full HD video (1080p)
  • 4K ($700), which supports 4K resolution video (4096 x 2160), PTZ control, 2 recorders, instant replay, and much more
  • Pro ($1200), which includes all 4K features, plus up to 8 callers, up to 4 cameras for instant replay.

vMix Reviews:

Click here to read a vMix review, as well as this review of the price version. Among other feedback, some reviewers express satisfaction with how feature-rich this software is. However, other reviews note challenges in understanding and applying features and capabilities with this complex software.

Here are a few which stand out:

“Really great set of features for streaming live sports on a budget. $60 gets you access to four inputs and HD broadcasting, or you can step it up and get features like instant replay. Great set of scoreboards too with XML input.” – Eric T.

“Overall vMix is one of my favorite software as it becomes very helpful with video mixing when streaming or casting. I use vMix to stream events of the university, to manage the projected video of events and such things.” – Verified User 

If you’re looking to try this software with your Dacast account, check out this post on how to live stream with vMix.

5. XSplit

xsplit video streaming software
XSplit’s streaming software is an intuitively designed, and easy-to-use suite of video content creator tools. Source: Xsplit.com

Overview:

Yet another streaming software that’s widely used is called XSplit. XSplit comes in two versions, with a focus on live streaming in a video gaming context. In fact, the “Gamecaster” option targets video games specifically. The second version, “Broadcaster,” is what we’ll focus on here. XSplit markets this option as a simple, powerful live streaming and recording software. It’s ideal for video content production and in conjunction with video games.

Features:

  • Support for a range of inputs including all major capture cards, videos, music, webcams
  • Display webcam and remove the background
  • Professional production features, including enhanced audio
  • Chroma key (green / blue screen)
  • Remote guests via Skype
  • Record streams locally
  • Integrated chat function
  • Other custom plugins and integrations
  • Edit and do secure video upload recordings

Pricing and Compatibility:

Like VidBlaster X, XSplit is priced with a subscription model. Before committing to a subscription, however, the free license allows users to test the software. The Personal license costs $89.95 for a 3-year subscription and $14.95 for a 3-month subscription. The Premium license, for professional broadcasters, adds a number of additional features. A lifetime license currently costs $199. A 3-month Premium license is $24.95.

XSplit Reviews:

Click here to check out these consumer XSplit reviews. Here are a few to highlight:

“From setup to broadcast, getting XSplit to do its thing is incredibly simple. It even has hooks built-in for just about any streaming service you could want.” – Verified User

“What I like the most [about XSplit] is that it allows you to configure the quality of the broadcast in many technical aspects and offers a very efficient consumption of resources.” – Alvaro S.

For a tutorial on using this software with Dacast, you can review this how-to support post.

6. FFMPEG

ffmpeg video streaming software
FFMPEG is a video streaming software solution compatible with live streaming platforms. Source: ffmpeg.org

Overview:

Finally, let’s move in a different direction to compare the above video streaming software with FFmpeg. Like OBS, FFmpeg is an open-source option; this software includes a library of tools for recording, converting, and streaming audio and video.

Additionally, FFmpeg is mainly a command-line application. This means that this encoding software targets professional users in particular. However, there are some GUI interfaces available. FFmpeg compiles, runs, and passes the testing infrastructure FATE across most operating systems under a wide variety of environments, machines, and configurations. FFserver is the FFmpeg tool for live streaming. To learn more about FFmpeg streaming, visit this guide.

Features:

  • Stream via RTMP
  • Encode content using H.264, H.265 and a wide variety of other codecs
  • Any resolution supported
  • Record streams locally
  • FFmpeg is first and foremost an encoder
  • No mixing features

Pricing and Compatibility:

FFmpeg is free and open-source. It runs on macOS, Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris, and pretty much any other computing system you can find.

FFmpeg Reviews:

To learn more about this approach to video streaming software, check out these reviews:

“FFmpeg is just about the best video manipulation tool that has ever been made. Having a command-line tool that works across almost every platform is fantastic. Excellent options and there is almost nothing that you can not do with this tool, I use it all the time in conjunction with PHP, Perl, and Python to automate the most hideous repetitive video tasks.” – Jason S.

“The motherlode. Whether people realize it or not, this is the engine that underpins most freeware video manipulation software. I have a library of scripts that do what I need with FFmpeg in Windows. When I need new functionality I search the Web for a new script, likewise if a new release breaks my scripts. It’s not hard. WRT the download size, most people devote more bandwidth to YouTube cats and small children being silly. Get real folks. This is magnificent freeware.” –  Alan C.

In addition, you can review our article on how to broadcast live streams using FFmpeg. Though it’s not ideal for live streaming beginners, FFmpeg is a powerful option for those comfortable using this software.

Conclusion: Choosing the Best Software

As this post highlights, there is a wide range of video streaming software available for today’s broadcasters. In this post, we’ve reviewed software that could be compatible with your chosen live streaming platform. From here, of course, it’s up to you to pick the best option for your needs.

Do you already have a video encoder? Still not sure if it’s compatible with video broadcast platforms you’re considering? Choose the encoding software that offers the features you need, fits your budget and is compatible with the equipment and video hosting platform that you use.

Why not take advantage of our free 30-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! We offer feature-rich and affordable video hosting and live streaming, and we make it easy to get started! Just click the button below to sign up and start streaming live in no time.

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We love to hear from our readers, so post your thoughts in the comment section below. We will get back to you. Also, for exclusive offers and regular live streaming tips, you can join our LinkedIn group.

Thanks for reading, and as always, best of luck with your live streams!

2 thoughts on “Video Streaming Software: Top 6 Apps for Professional Live Streaming [2020 Update]

  1. Matthew Harvey says:

    Hello Max, thanks for your feedback. I plan to go through each one of these options. Which one would work best for streaming from a drone to an app on a separate device?

    To explain further, something that I can integrate drone video into an already existing app or new app and has the ability for several hundred people to have access to the stream at one time. (Education purposes)

    • Etienne Noualhat says:

      Hello Matthew. Well I think what you are looking for is hardware. Every software would probably work with any hardware that sends live video data from a drone! I hope this can help.

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