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The Best Live Streaming Software for 2018

Nick Bacon January 17, 2018

News and information about live streaming and video production

You heard it here first: 2018 will be the Year of Live Streaming. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have successfully integrated live streaming technology, and audiences are responding in a big way. Brands are seeing higher engagement rates with live streaming, and viewers prefer it over most other types of media. 

But with over 40% of of Millennials having created live video content, it’s imperative that brands rise above the noise by elevating their live streams’ production value. Sure, you can create engaging content putting an iPhone in the right place at the right time - but if you want TV-quality live streams, you’re going to need to upgrade to a live switcher.

What is a Live Switcher?

A live switcher allows you to pull in multiple feeds and switch between them in real-time. For example, you can incorporate multiple cameras, screen shares or PowerPoint presentations, video calls, images, and pre-recorded clips.

Traditionally, live switchers were built around dedicated hardware that cost tens of thousands of dollars. As consumer processing has increased in power, software switchers have begun to appear more frequently.

With that, let’s take a look at 5 software switchers that can increase the quality of your live stream.

Wirecast

Telestream’s Wirecast is the industry standard live streaming software switcher. Incredibly versatile and updated regularly, Wirecast works well whether you’re streaming a graduation ceremony or a minor league soccer match. It works on both Mac and PC.

With the most recent release (version 8), Wirecast added some fantastic features. This includes:

  • Rendezvous: produce remote interviews or panel discussions with up to 7 participants
  • Multiview: display a custom multiview of active feeds on a separate display
  • Audio mixer: Assign different audio tracks to different channels, enabling the ability to stream in multiple languages simultaneously

With regular updates and an emphasis on performance, we feel that Wirecast is the best performing live switching software on the market. But you’ll have to pay: a Pro license costs $995, while a basic license is $495.

vMix

vMix allows you to stream, record, and output your live video content simultaneously. While a little more cumbersome than Wirecast, one if its unique features is built-in PTZ control for IP cameras. If you produce live shows or performances and utilize PTZ cameras such as the PTZ Optics 12x-SDI, this may be the best software for you.

OBS Studio

OBS stands for “Open Broadcaster Software”. As its name suggests, it is built as an open source project and is therefore free. While it doesn’t get updated too often, OBS is a great place to start for casual streamers who are looking to produce live vlogs or stream gaming content. It’s seen especially widespread adoption in the gaming community.

Because it's open source, we've seen third-party developers create add-ons that extend OBS's capabilities. Check out what Streamlabs is doing, for example.

BlueFrame Production Truck

While BlueFrame Production Truck is Mac only, it is laser-focused on the sports streaming market. It features a simple interface to control or integrate scoreboards, and the pro model offers instant replay as well. If you’re looking to stream high school sports, Production Truck may be the best fit for you.

Livestream Studio

Last but not least, Livestream Studio offers many of the features of all the platforms listed above, with some added features to boot. The most exciting feature that Livestream Studio offers is built-in bonded streaming, allowing you to send your signal over multiple networks for added reliability. Additionally, Livestream Studio can integrate data sources including Twitter, RSS feeds, CSV files, and more into dynamically-updating broadcast graphics. Last, the software only costs $42/month.

All this comes at a cost, though: Livestream Studio is the most resource-intensive software switcher on the market. You need a very powerful computer to leverage all its capabilities.

Honorable mention: Lightstream Studio

An interesting alternative to software switchers listed above is Lightstream Studio, a browser-based live stream switching platform. While some features that are standard for the platforms above are still “experimental” for Lightstream Studio and its output options are limited, Lightstream Studio is completely free to use and may be a great solution for blog and game streaming. We’re keeping an eye on this one for 2018 to see how it develops.

Conclusion

As more brands and people begin to produce more live content, you can separate yourself from the rest by increasing the production value of your live streams. We recommend experimenting with the software switchers above to find what’s right for you. Think about ways to keep your audience excited about your content. By delivering a great show, you’ll create a longlasting relationship with your audience.

If you need any help producing your next broadcast, my team at Mainstream Media, LLC is here to help. Feel free to email or contact us on the web. As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have!

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About Nick Bacon

Nick Bacon is co-founder and managing director of Mainstream Media, LLC. You'll find him at the intersection of content and technology.