Top Streaming Software for Content Creators & Gamers

Which streaming software is best suited for your needs? Read ahead for a guide on the top streaming software for content creators and gamers today.

Live streaming is a highly popular activity for both personal enjoyment and profit in 2021. Static video marketing, while still active, is fading into the shadows of rapidly expanding interactive and live streaming content. Learning to livestream requires knowledge about the various streaming software programs available on the market today. An option is definitely available for you whether you are a novice, intermediate-level or expert streamer. Which streaming software is best suited for your needs? Read ahead for a guide on the top streaming software for content creators and gamers today.

Streaming Setups 101 (Understanding the Essentials)

It is important to get a firm grip on the essentials of streaming setups before making any livestreaming software purchases. Compatibility with your computer type (PC or Mac) and operating system (Apple OSX, Windows, Linux, etc.) is also essential to research but the components of your streaming setup dictate the features and software power you need.

A streaming setup is personal and because of this some beginning streamers are surprised by the rigidity involved in some of the requirements and components. At the same time, some of these components and requirements are fairly obvious and easy to understand. Others require a bit more research and knowledge before making any purchases.

Essential Elements Every Streaming Setup Needs

When you are live streaming, you are creating both visual and audible content. This means you need a source to capture and reproduce the audio and video. For example, without an audio and video source you would lack fundamental livestream capabilities. Next, a capture card is used when connecting a non-USB camera to your computer or tablet. An encoder is also required to package the audio and video input and transport it to an applicable network, website or platform. Encoder prices range widely from free to (approximately) as low as $200 and as high as $20,000. Encoders priced in the multiple thousands of dollars are generally designated for heavy professional use. Encoder pricing and whether hardware or software encoders are your best option are all discussed in more detail in the next section below.

Everyone needs a reliable (and stable) internet connection for even basic daily life at this point. Live streaming proves to be no exception to this need and, in fact, relies on a steady internet connection to successfully transfer your livestream data to its destination. Finally, a streaming service is required as the landing spot (destination) and output method for your data. These five components, including an audio and video source, capture card, encoder, steady internet connection and a streaming service comprise the essential elements every streaming setup needs.

A streaming setup is essentially a home-based, mobile or combination online broadcasting system capable of generating entertainment and possible income opportunities. Before you launch into purchases, however, you must first do further research on perhaps the most important element of your livestream setup. You need to get your hands on an encoder.

Get Your Hands on Live Streaming Encoding Software (or Hardware)

Quality audio and video data take up a lot of space. This is true not only as it relates to your computer hard drive (or external HD) capacity but also in terms of bandwidth. An encoder transfers your audio and video livestream data in a deliverable packaged format. This packaged format is referred to as compressing. You might already be familiar with downloaded ZIP and RAR files, which need to be uncompressed or expanded before use. An encoder is used to compress your data so it takes up less bandwidth during transfers and therefore uploads at faster speeds.

What streaming platform are you using for your livestream presentations? This is important because platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitch need to support whatever encoding method you use in order to display your livestream. You also have to choose between a software-based or hardware encoder.

Hardware Encoders

Hardware encoders are popular because of their overall consistent and reliable operational behavior. In other words, hardware encoders are efficient and predictably do their jobs as expected. Because of this, in addition to the materials required to manufacture them, hardware encoders tend to cost significantly more than software encoders do. Hardware encoders are also limited to encoding and serve no additional purposes. The Resi Ray ($1,299 MSRP) is considered one of the best encoders available today in part because it uses a proprietary high-tech Resilient Streaming Protocol (RSP). RSP is marketed by Resi as the first livestreaming technology to completely protect your audio and video from a loss of quality during transmission even if network interruptions occur (and they will). The Blackmagic Design Web Presenter HD is another popular and more affordable option at $495 MSRP but it lacks the lossless guarantees of the Resi Ray.

Software Encoders

Software encoders are more affordable options. Some are even free to use but they all rely on the power of your computer hardware to process the encoding. Unlike their hardware counterparts, software encoders include additional features such as multi-camera setup capabilities, scene creation and angle switching. Software encoders are popular among many livestream enthusiasts because of their additional features and general affordability. For example, OBS Studio is a completely free and open source broadcasting software compatible with Mac (OSX 10.13+), Windows and Linux systems. VIDBlaster X is professional-grade software with tiered package prices ranging from $9 through $99 to $999 per year.

Buying Live Streaming Software? - Consider These Aspects First

Most live streaming software supports H.264 encoding, which is the most commonly used video encoding standard today. Despite such commonalities various streaming solutions also have distinct differences. Make sure your live streaming software is compatible with real time multimedia protocol (RTMP) before buying. Compare features to pricing and make sure you are getting enough bang for your buck. Free software is nice but often limited. Purchasing itemized for-pay improvements might be the most affordable way to increase your livestreaming quality on a budget.

Top Live Streaming Software for 2021

All things considered, you need your livestreaming software to deliver, regardless of price. OBS Studio is rated as a top program on the market despite its completely free accessibility. Additional popular and top livestreaming software for 2021 includes: