OBS is a great live streaming resource, but there are several alternatives that shine in ease-of-use, production quality, and in some cases – price.
Producing a live streamed show, class, conference, or other event has increasingly become a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis. But just as it was even before the crises began, those looking to create their first stream can become quickly overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge required to run a well produced broadcast. You may have heard that OBS is a great resource (and it is!), but as a free software with limited functionality, there’s plenty more to explore in the realm of live streaming solutions. This article is intended to make your life a little easier by comparing different live streaming software solutions on the market today, and how each stands out as an alternative to OBS.
If you’re a hobbyist, OBS is probably fine. But if you’re a business or organization for whom live streaming serves an important function, the options below may serve you better.
1. NewBlue VividCast™
NewBlue VividCast was developed to be the all-in-one solution for everyday people seeking to create a professional looking broadcast. It couples streaming functionality with built-in high quality graphics and data integration (such as Facebook comments) to put all of the features of a professional stream in the hands of a single, previously inexperienced user. A well-stocked graphics library and 5 pre–configured template projects mean users can set up a broadcast quickly with no manual creation of graphics in Photoshop or After Effects. The simplicity of VividCast’s interface is a leading feature, making it a strong contender in its price point given its ease of use and versatile capabilities.
VividCast is the ideal solution for anyone looking to create a professional quality stream at low cost.
Wirecast is widely known as the most fully-featured streaming software because there is little that you can’t do with Wirecast. As a professional solution, Wirecast can do everything OBS can do and more, including remote video feeds, audio mixing, and virtual camera output. While its feature set is arguably the best among all streaming solutions, the learning curve on Wirecast can be a barrier to entry for some. Wirecast is not a “pick up and go” product and will require a few sessions of practice before you are ready to go live. It is not as cheap (read: free) as OBS. But the features and customization you get for your money are unmatched.
As a higher-end solution, Wirecast is best suited for individuals or organizations with evolving needs and an experienced stream operator on staff.
StretchCast is a sports-centric streaming application designed to be an alternative to full production studios and trailers. It is capable of handling all of the needs of your average sports broadcast, including not only streaming, but many useful features such as built-in scoreboards, player stats, and instant replay. The interface is intuitive and easy-to-use, even for beginners, so you do not need to be a professional to get the job done.
StretchCast is perfect for college and high schools looking to broadcast their sports on a budget.
XSplit is one of the oldest streaming solutions. First released in 2009, XSplit has been developed and supported longer than any other software on the list. This means that while it is one of the most configurable options available, it also requires some learning to operate correctly. It comes with the standard suite of solutions, including the full range of outputs, as well as a Plugin library that lets you download useful plugins for use with your broadcast, such as video sequences (for commercial breaks), audio visualizers, and per scene lighting.
XSplit’s learning curve is suited to those with some broadcasting experience, and those who want some of the professional features it offers while avoiding the cost of higher-end solutions.
Like OBS, FFSplit is free. It has the basic elements of many streaming softwares in that it lets you switch between video sources, import graphics, and adjust audio levels. Its biggest draw is that it is the only free streaming software that comes with built-in Virtual Cam support (OBS Virtual Cam must be downloaded as an independent add-on). The downside is that FFSplit is not considered a “finished” software product, so it is prone to bugs and can’t stream to certain popular sources (Such as Facebook Live). Furthermore, it offers no support.
FFSplit is ideal for hobbyists, as it is free, but that comes at the cost of features, support, and stability.
Lightstream is unique is that it is the only cloud-based streaming solution. This means that you don’t need to download any software. Simply operate your stream completely in-browser. It also comes with built-in conferencing that allows up to 7 remote guest video feeds.
Lightstream is best for people who are highly-mobile, such as event coordinators looking to work from the cloud so that they can output their stream from different locations on a regular basis from just an internet browser.
Like Wirecast, vMix is best suited for professional broadcasters with a wide range of needs and who want a near full-feature set of broadcasting tools. The biggest factor that sets vMix apart from the others is the variety of packages and price points offered. Each is designed to match the needs of different users. If you are looking for high-end streaming software, it is strongly recommended that you spend some time comparing exact features, as well as downloading trials of vMix and Wirecast. While similar in many ways, their configurations, hardware spec requirements, and workflows are different.
As a higher-end solution, vMix is best suited for individuals or organizations with extensive needs and an experienced stream operator on staff.
The streaming programs on the list below are all very niche products which are similar in terms of features, and are designed for a narrow user base (i.e. video game streamers or people using individual streaming platforms)
- Livestream Producer: Livestream Producer is technically a streaming software, but since it can only livestream to Vimeo, it is not considered a complete “streaming solution”.
- Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder: AFMLE is comparatively complicated for how few features it has, and it does not allow desktop/window capture. Still, it is free.
- Gameshow: Only on this list because it is still present on other outdated lists. Gameshow used to be Telestream’s solution to broadcast games, but it has been discontinued and all of its features have been incorporated into Wirecast.
- Twitch Studio: Twitch studio is a free software that only lets you output to Twitch. Has built-in incorporation of chat, follows, likes etc… but is not customizable.
- Streamlabs OBS: Once upon a time, Stream Labs was a simple plugin for streamers, but later developed Streamlabs OBS, which is basically OBS but with some Streamlabs features incorporated into it. Primarily intended for gamers.
- Elgato Game Capture: Primarily a video game recording software that is recommended by Elgato to go with their hardware. Not recommended for serious streamers.
- Avermedia: Similar to Elgato, a streaming software that is recommended by Avermedia to go with their hardware. Not recommended for serious streamers.
- Shadowplay: Also primarily a video game recording software, but comes bundled with nVidia graphics cards. Not recommended for serious streamers.