The term “live streaming software” is a bit of a misnomer. So if you’re confused by it, there’s good reason for your confusion: It’s not really a thing.
But many people do use the term, so what are they talking about, exactly? We’re sometimes asked about what live streaming software is—the same goes for “hardware” and “platforms”—so we thought it might be best to clarify these meanings here on our blog.
Live Streaming Software
When people talk about “live streaming software” they’re actually referring to a software encoding program.
An encoder is a necessity for live streaming because it converts video input into a digital format for playback on various devices. Many software encoders perform a variety of functions other than simply converting the video and sending a live stream to a platform, which is why it isn’t technically “live streaming software.”
Need an experienced guide to advise on your live stream setup? Choose a platform provider that’s willing to help—and deliver on a few other things as well.
We’ve talked a lot on our blog about the different types of hardware and software encoders. Software encoders range in complexity from the simple, free ones that stream your video signal to more robust encoders that assist with production work, such as Wirecast, vMix, Production Truck, and OBS. These more complex types of encoding software act as a broadcast environment that you can use for live streaming. Not only do they send your stream to a platform for streaming, they also help you customize your broadcast by allowing you to:
- Use multiple cameras and switch between them
- Tie multiple audio sources together
- Add graphics on the fly
Prices for live streaming software vary according to their functionality. (Find out more about software encoders in our ultimate guide to live streaming.)
Live Streaming Hardware
When people talk about hardware associated with live streaming, they might be referring to either of the below:
- Hardware encoders do the same thing as software encoders and also range in functionality, except that they are separate, dedicated devices made for video streaming. This type of encoder uses its own internal processor to stream video (in contrast to a software encoder relying on the computer processor).
- Production equipment, such as a computer, cameras, audio equipment, and cabling, that work together to create the live stream broadcast.
Live Streaming Platform
A live streaming platform refers to the vehicle used to broadcast your live stream.
There are two kinds of live streaming platforms: social media networks like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook; and live streaming platform providers like Stretch. For more information on social networks vs. platform providers take a look at this article; for more on social media streaming platforms, this article will answer your questions.
For the most part, live streaming platforms can accept and broadcast a stream sent from any software encoder. (One exception is Livestream, which requires Livestream Producer software in order to broadcast.) Some platforms have integrated solutions that make it easier to receive a stream from a particular type of software encoder; for example, Stretch is a preset destination for Wirecast software. If that’s the case, all you need to do is fill in your Stretch username and password in Wirecast to get the stream going. But even if a platform and software are not already integrated, the platform can still receive the stream once you supply some additional setting information, such as streaming URL, stream ID, and video presets (size and speed being sent are most important).
Do you have more live streaming questions? Find a platform provider that will go above and beyond to answer them!
At Stretch, we do more than just broadcast your stream to the world—we work in partnership with you to ensure your live stream is the best it can be. From helping to formulate your organization’s live streaming strategy, creating a branded live stream portal, optimizing your production workflow, and working with you on efforts to monetize your live stream, we take pride in going beyond the requirements of a basic provider. And that’s in addition to the high-level support we provide for every aspect of your live stream, from immediate, live troubleshooting to general questions along the way.