Written by StreamYard
The 8 Best Live Streaming Encoders for Content Creators
Live streaming encoders are a must-have if you want to reduce the size of your videos - something essential for sharing your content live. These encoders work in real-time and can also help you quickly adapt your video format to the requirements of various platforms without losing quality or risking instability.
In this article, we will show you the best eight live-streaming encoders, covering both hardware and software and going through their features, pros, cons, and pricing in detail. So, let’s get started!
What Is A Live Streaming Encoder?
A live streaming encoder is a device that converts raw audio and video signals from cameras, microphones, or other sources into a compressed digital format. In other words, an encoder takes this input feed and prepares it for distribution to online platforms, including social media, video hosting services, or content delivery networks (CDNs).
There are two main types of live-streaming encoders: Hardware and software. The difference lies on the physical nature of their implementations:
- Hardware encoders are standalone devices. They are dedicated exclusively to the task of encoding live streams, so they tend to often offer better performance and reliability. Hardware encoders are more suitable for professional live-streaming setups.
- Software encoders, on the other hand, are applications or programs (they can run on your computer, laptop, or mobile device). These encoders convert the audio and video feeds into a digital format for live streaming, and are particularly popular among content creators that have small-scale streaming setups.
How To Choose The Right Live Streaming Encoder For You
A live streaming encoder is an essential tool for anyone looking to broadcast live content over the internet, but how do you pick the best one? Well, here are some factors that can help you make a decision:
- Streaming requirements: The first thing you should do is identify your specific streaming needs, target audience, and platforms you plan to stream on. For example, consider whether you need to stream in multiple bitrates or resolutions.
- Compatibility and performance: Always ensure the encoder supports your audio/video sources and video formats, and provides reliable performance. Hardware encoders, for example, provide dedicated resources for encoding, while software encoders rely on your computer's CPU and memory.
- Ease of Use and Security: Look for a user-friendly interface, easy setup, and security features like secure streaming protocols (RTMPS, HLS) and options for access control, password protection, or secure tokens.
- Bitrate and bandwidth management: Consider using an encoder that can adapt to varying network conditions for viewers with different internet speeds. If you plan to stream to multiple platforms simultaneously, you should also choose an encoder that offers built-in multi-platform support.
- Pricing and budget: Live streaming encoders come in a range of prices, from free to high-end. So, plan your budget and choose an encoder that meets your needs while staying within your financial limits.
#1: Wirecast (Software)
Wirecast is a popular live-streaming encoder designed to help creators produce broadcasts for various streaming platforms. It works for both Mac and Windows users and is compatible with various cameras, audio sources, and pre-recorded files.
- Multi-source capture: Wirecast allows you to capture video and audio from various sources, including cameras, microphones, webcams, screens, and media files.
- Multi-platform streaming: You can simultaneously stream your content to multiple platforms and services like YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, Twitter, and Vimeo.
- Real-time editing and graphics: Wirecast actually enables real-time editing, transitions, overlays, lower thirds, graphics, and animated titles you can use to enhance the visual quality of your live stream.
- ISO recording: The software can record each input source separately (ISO recording). This is particularly useful for editing videos post-production and keeping backups.
- Remote production: Wirecast supports remote live video calls. You can use the built-in Rendezvous feature to do this and bring in remote guests or contributors to your broadcasts.
- It is a professional-grade encoder. The program offers a wide range of advanced features, including multi-source capture, real-time editing, virtual sets, ISO recording, and support for multiple streaming platforms. So, a truly versatile solution for creating high-quality live broadcasts.
- It has a user-friendly interface: Despite the advanced capabilities we’ve covered, Wirecast is known for its user-friendly interface - so you can use it whether you are a beginner or an experienced user.
- It supports remote guests out of the box: The built-in Rendezvous feature allows you to make remote live video calls and bring in guests to your live stream without relying on any other third-party applications.
- It’s costly: As you might suspect based on the advanced features, one of the primary drawbacks of Wirecast is its cost. Compared to some other live-streaming encoders, this solution can be relatively expensive.
- It’s resource intensive: Being a software-based encoder, Wirecast can be resource-intensive, particularly when handling multiple sources or high-quality streams. So, you will need a powerful computer system to use it.
- Its updates and support are somewhat lacking: Some users have reported concerns with both the frequency of the updates and the responsiveness of customer support.
You can buy a Wirecast studio lifetime license for $599. Wirecast Pro, which includes some extra features and more remote guests, costs $799.
#2: OBS Studio (Software)
OBS Studio is a free and open-source application for video recording and live streaming. Many content creators and professionals swear by it and use it daily to broadcast their content on Twitch, Facebook Live, and other platforms. The platform is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
- Live streaming: OBS Studio lets you broadcast live content to popular streaming platforms and custom RTMP servers of your choice.
- Video recording: You can also record your screen or specific windows in high-quality video formats - and use them for generating pre-recorded content.
- Customizable transitions and effects: The software offers a variety of transition effects and filters you can use to drastically enhance the visual appeal of your scene switches and broadcasts.
- Scene and source management: OBS Studio organizes all of your content into scenes. These scenes can have various sources, like video feeds, images, audio, and text overlays.
- Audio mixing: OBS Studio includes tools you can use for adjusting audio levels and sources and get a more balanced audio output during your live streams.
- It's open-source and free: OBS Studio is actually an open-source software, which means it is freely available for anyone - not just to use, but also to modify! So, you can expect great community contributions and frequent improvements.
- It's versatile and can be highly customized: The encoder allows you to create unique and professional-looking live streams and recordings, arrange content creatively, and easily switch between setups.
- There's an active community and tons of plugins: OBS Studio has a very active community of users and developers, so you will always have a wide range of plugins and integrations available.
- There’s a somewhat steep learning curve: OBS Studio can be a little difficult to set up and configure if you’re a beginner. So, you will probably need some time and effort to learn how to use all the features.
- There are no built-in editing tools: OBS Studio primarily focuses on live streaming and recording, so it doesn't have any advanced built-in video editing capabilities. You will need to rely on third-party software for editing and post-production.
- It’s resource intensive: While the program works well on most modern systems, it can still be resource-intensive, especially when streaming or recording at high resolutions and frame rates.
OBS Studio is completely free.
#3: VidblasterX (Software)
VidblasterX is a powerful live video production and streaming program with a rather impressive and comprehensive set of tools, including multi-camera switching, video effects, overlays, transitions, and support for various video and audio sources. The software is also designed to be very user-friendly, so it's accessible to both beginners and experienced video producers.
- Live video switching: You can switch between multiple video sources in real-time (for example, to create dynamic live productions with various camera angles).
- Multiview preview: VidBlasterX allows you to see all your video sources simultaneously. So, it's easy to monitor and quickly select a source.
- Video effects and transitions: The software comes with a good range of built-in video effects and transitions to enhance the visual appeal of your live stream or video recording.
- Overlay support and support for external devices: You can add text, logos, graphics, and other overlays to the video feed, and also integrate with external devices such as capture cards, webcams, and audio interfaces.
- Live streaming: VidBlasterX allows you to stream your productions live to various streaming platforms and custom RTMP servers.
- It has great live production tools: VidBlasterX offers a wide range of features for live video production, making it a powerful solution for creating professional-grade live streams and recordings.
- It has a very user-friendly interface: Unlike other encoders on this list, and despite its extensive feature set, VidBlasterX was designed to be user-friendly and offers great UX.
- It includes excellent live streaming capabilities: The program comes with great built-in live streaming capabilities so you can broadcast to various streaming platforms and custom RTMP servers.
- There's limited availability and support: VidBlasterX's development and support are generally considered not as active or widely available as some other live video production software.
- It’s also resource-intensive: Like many live production software, this solution can be resource-intensive, especially when handling multiple video sources and effects simultaneously.
- There’s a learning curve for the more advanced features: While VidBlasterX was designed to be user-friendly, some of its more advanced features and configurations can have a steeper learning curve.
Vidblaster is free to try. The Home version then costs $9 a year, Studio $99 a year, and Broadcast $999 a year.
#4: xSplit (Software)
XSplit is a streaming and video recording software developed by SplitmediaLabs. It is widely used by content creators, gamers, and professionals to broadcast their content on various streaming platforms and comes in two main versions: xSplit Broadcaster (for live streaming and recording audio) and xSplit VCam (for your webcam).
- Multistreaming: You can stream to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and many others.
- Multiple-scene recording: Xsplit allows you to record high-quality video and easily manage volume levels and scenes.
- Professional layouts: The platform includes a Wizard setup to help you work on your scenes and produce professional-looking videos.
- Remove feature: You can remove your background, and without the need to have a green screen behind you.
- Blur feature: You can also blur your background (this works way more efficiently than other solutions).
- Replace feature: Lastly, you can replace your background with images or animated videos.
- It’s very user-friendly: xSplit has an intuitive interface that allows content creators to start streaming or recording quickly and without setup hurdles.
- It has plenty of features: The program comes with a wide range of features for both live streaming and video recording (including scene and source management, video mixing, audio mixing, and more).
- You can use your phone as a webcam: If you don’t have a webcam or professional camera, you can use your smartphone without much issue.
- It's (also) resource intensive: Like many clothes in this list, xSplit can be resource-intensive and can have performance issues.
- It has premium pricing: While there is a free version with basic features, the more advanced capabilities are only available in the premium versions.
- It's somewhat in competition with OBS Studio: xSplit faces strong competition from other software, particularly the free OBS Studio - although the latter has less powerful cam features.
The premium bundle is $70 a year, VCam Premium is $30 a tear, and Broadcaster Premium is $60 a year.
#5: Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro (Hardware)
The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro is a compact live production switcher that is designed for multi-camera live streaming and recording. This little device is commonly used to produce professional-looking live streams and video content.
- Multi-camera input: The ATEM Mini Pro supports up to four HDMI camera inputs you can switch between during live streams or recordings.
- Live streaming and recording: You can live stream your content to platforms like YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook Live directly or record.
- Built-in audio mixer: The switcher features a built-in audio mixer with two microphone inputs and a dedicated headphone output.
- Picture-in-picture and transitions: The ATEM Mini Pro offers picture-in-picture effects and smooth transitions.
- Stream control via ethernet or Wi-Fi: The handy switcher can be controlled remotely using Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections.
- It’s portable and compact: The switch has a compact size and lightweight design, so it’s highly portable.
- It has a user-friendly interface: The interface is intuitive and straightforward, so it’s easy for both beginners and experienced users to operate the device.
- The video output is high-quality: The ATEM Mini Pro supports video resolutions up to 1080p.
- There’s a limited number of camera inputs: The ATEM Mini Pro supports only up to four HDMI camera inputs.
- There’s a lack of advanced features: While the switcher is quite powerful and versatile, it still lacks some of the advanced features and customization options found in more expensive and professional-grade equipment.
- There are some audio limitations: There are only two dedicated microphone inputs, which might be limiting for larger productions.
The ATEM Mini Pro is $295, the ATEM Mini Pro ISO is $495, and the ATEM Mini Extreme is $995.
#6: Teradek Vidiu X (Hardware)
The Teradek VidiU X is another compact video encoder designed for live streaming. This device allows you to stream high-quality video in 1080p and from a variety of sources, so it's become a popular choice for content creators, broadcasters, and live event producers.
- Multi-platform live streaming: The VidiU X supports live streaming to a wide range of online platforms, including YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, and more.
- High-quality video encoding: The encoder utilizes advanced video compression technologies, such as H.264 and H.265 (HEVC).
- HDMI and SDI inputs: It provides both HDMI and SDI inputs, offering flexibility to connect to a variety of video sources.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi and ethernet: The encoder supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, as well as an Ethernet connection.
- TeraView app and Web UI: You can monitor and control the VidiU X settings using the TeraView app on your smartphones or tablets.
- It supports professional-grade streaming: The VidiU X supports H.264 and H.265 video encoding for higher-quality video streams.
- It’s compact and easy to carry: The encoder is lightweight and highly portable, so it’s suitable for on-the-go live streaming setups and field productions.
- It has dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities: You have more flexibility and options for connecting to available networks.
- It’s a single-channel encoder: The VidiU X is a single-channel encoder, which means it can handle only one video stream at a time.
- It’s a little pricey: Being a professional-grade encoder, the pricing might be higher compared to consumer-grade live-streaming solutions.
- There’s a learning curve: While it’s designed to be user-friendly, some of the advanced settings and configurations might require technical knowledge.
The Teradek VidiU X starts at $399.
#7: LiveU Solo (Hardware)
The LiveU Solo is a good live video encoder designed for professional-grade live streaming from the field. So, it's a popular choice with content creators, journalists, and broadcasters that want to transmit high-quality video content to various platforms and broadcasting networks.
- Bonded cellular technology: The LiveU Solo can combine multiple network connections (including cellular, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet) for a more reliable connection.
- HDMI Input: The encoder features an HDMI input, so it’s compatible with a wide range of video sources, including cameras, camcorders, and other devices
- LiveU Solo Portal: You can control and monitor the LiveU Solo through the LiveU Solo Portal, a robust web-based interface.
- HEVC Video Encoding: The LiveU Solo supports high-efficiency video coding (HEVC) for video compression, which translates into more efficient use of bandwidth while maintaining high-quality video streams.
- Simultaneous live streaming and recording: You can also simultaneously live stream your content to online platforms and record a backup of the video locally.
- It’s very reliable for live streaming: The bonded cellular technology, in particular, ensures a stable and reliable internet connection - ideal for live streaming from any location.
- It’s super-portable: The LiveU Solo's compact and lightweight design means it’s very easy to transport and set up.
- It’s highly versatile: With its HDMI input and support for various network connections, the LiveU Solo is compatible with a wide range of cameras and devices.
- It’s a little expensive: The LiveU Solo is a professional-grade live video encoder, so its pricing is relatively high compared to other solutions.
- You’ll need to learn how to use it: Some of the advanced settings and features might require technical knowledge and experience to optimize for specific streaming setups.
- There are recurring subscription costs: Some of the advanced features require subscription plans or additional fees.
The LiveU Solo costs $995.
#8: URayCoder Wired 1080P H.264 HDMI Video Encoder (Hardware)
The URayCoder Wired 1080P H.264 HDMI Video Encoder is an excellent cost-effective video encoder designed for both live streaming and video recording. Because of its price and features, it's become a common choice for various professional and consumer setups.
- High-quality H.264 video encoding: The URayCoder Video Encoder uses the H.264 video compression standard, so it can deliver high-quality video streams with the available bandwidth.
- HDMI input: The encoder features an HDMI input, making it compatible with a wide range of HDMI video sources.
- Wired ethernet connectivity: You can connect the URayCoder Video Encoder through a wire and get a stable and reliable internet connection for live streaming.
- Real-time monitoring: You can monitor your live stream in real time and through a web-based interface.
- Wide range of bitrate settings: There’s an excellent variety of bitrate settings, so you can adjust the streaming quality based on the available network bandwidth.
- It's very affordable: The URayCoder Video Encoder is a cost-effective solution for live streaming and video encoding.
- It’s compact and easy to use: It’s easy to set up and operate, even if you have limited technical knowledge.
- It is compatible with HDMI: The encoder is compatible with a wide range of devices.
- There are limited video compression options: The URayCoder Video Encoder is specifically designed for H.264 video encoding only.
- No Wi-Fi support: There is no built-in Wi-Fi support, so you might need to use an external Wi-Fi adapter.
- There are limited advanced features: While the URayCoder Video Encoder provides essential live streaming capabilities, it may lack some of the more advanced features found in higher-end encoders.
This encoder costs between $190 and $290.
Do You Actually Need To Worry About Encoding?
If you don’t want to worry about encoding, we got some good news! You can try StreamYard and let us handle all the technical stuff in the background so you can focus on what you do best: creating great content.