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Buyers' Guide: Live Streaming Software

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When it comes to producing a multicam­era live stream, at the most basic level, there are four ways to do it.

The first way is with multiple hard­ware devices: one to do the switching, another to do the streaming, another to do the titles, and another to do the recording. Then, assemble all of the piec­es in a large control room-type situation. Thank­fully, these days, we are able to leverage software like Companion and Central Control or hardware like a Skaarhoj controller to make working with an assorted array of gear more unified and to consol­idate just those features that we need on a single control surface.

The second way to do it is with an all-in-one tool that integrates several of those features into one device, so that you can combine all of your switching, titling, transcoding, streaming, and recording on one piece of hardware (see go2sm.com/allinone). These (mostly) tablet-based solutions are useful and convenient, but they do not provide the same level of power or control that a computer-based system can offer, and it can be difficult to oversee multiple aspects of a production on one small screen.

The third way to do a live-switched stream is to use cloud switching solutions that can accept multiple cameras from one location or multiple remote locations coming into one production. Tools like StreamYard, Restream, Be.Live, VDO.Ninja, and Dazzl enable cloud-based production workflows where all of the hardware, titles, graphics, encoding, and comments from users and viewers—as well as recording and streaming— operate in the cloud, which is really just a powerful computer that is sitting somewhere else. Most often, these cloud solutions are simplified to enable control through a web browser.

The fourth approach involves dedicated, standalone production software solutions that run on a computer of your choice, and it uses hardware of your choice to accept external inputs of your choice. Inside this com­puter is where all of the camera switching, graphics, titles, multi-input layering, encoding, streaming, and recording happen. It’s a PC or Mac that you build or purchase off the shelf. 

Choosing Hardware for Software-Based Streaming

The software-based approach enables users to scale the cost and size of their hardware to their specific needs. If you’re a gaming streamer and you just need one camera in addition to capturing the gameplay from your computer, then a modest machine will suffice.

However, if you’re an event producer and you have to be able to ingest and manage 10, 15, or more inputs, then you’re going to need a much beefier computer. A house of worship may need only three or four cam­eras, but it might also require a dedicated audio op­erator to mix the choir or band in addition to the rest of the service.

I am not going to cover the different pieces of hard­ware that one could use to bring in camera inputs, be­cause that is a whole buyers’ guide unto itself. There are solutions available from numerous manufacturers with different capabilities and formats, as well as dif­ferent ways of integrating them into, or alongside, the computer. I will focus on the software tools themselves.

Criteria for Choosing a Software-Based Solution

These software-based production tools have a great amount of overlap between them because they all serve the same core purpose. Why you choose one over an­other can come down to the way you like to work, be­cause how one software tool lays out or integrates your different source selections, titles, custom layouts, and other media can be vastly different from how other software will organize those same functions. Most also offer the option of using external control surfac­es in addition to controlling selections directly with a mouse and keyboard on the computer.

All of these solutions will enable you to switch among multiple cameras; overlay presentations or graphics; create lower-thirds, multiviews, and PIPs; integrate social media comments; leverage transparency and greenscreen sources; encode to multiple streaming destinations; and deliver recording of mix-downs or even unmixed video and audio inputs. They have free trials that let you test them out, but I recommend set­ting aside time to watch and learn from the copious amounts of YouTube videos to help you get up-to-speed before starting that 14- or 30-day free trial period.

On to the software roundup.

Boinx mimoLive

Boinx mimoLive (see Figure 1) is a Mac-only solu­tion that utilizes a unique multi-column approach to build your scenes. This lets you see various assets and settings at the same time as your scenes and live show settings. All of the ingredients of your show ap­pear in a left-to-right, column orientation. It allows nine-channel live broadcasting up to 8K, with unlim­ited built-in remote web calls. It has instant replay and will handle up to 60p.

boinx mimolive

Figure 1. The mimoLive virtual control room

mimoLive enables users to record up to ProRes 444 for multiple channels, as well as custom audio mixes and mix-minus for every output. It has a vir­tual camera output to hook into Microsoft Teams, Webex, and the like. In addition, mimoLive offers control via a web browser on the LAN. As with oth­er apps discussed in this buyers’ guide, there are plugins that provide additional tools, such as a telestrator.

Boinx sells mimoLive for macOS on a multi-tiered, annual license basis. The Non-Profit (Only for Individuals) plan is $200 a year and is “limited to Non-Profit usage.” It includes the iPad Remote Surface App with the core features: lower-thirds, pro layer, lower-thirds templates, stingers and outro templates, unlimited streaming in 4K, simulcasting to multiple destinations, multiple mimoCalls, SDI program output, NDI, and Skype call recording.

The Studio (Commercial) plan costs $700 a year and adds a lower-thirds layer pack, a sports graph­ics pack, ATEM controller support, a Zoom meeting source hook that brings multiple Zoom guests in a room into mimoLive as individual cameras, SDI out­put with fill and key, and professional support.

For $2,000 a year, the top-tier Broadcast (Mass Media | TV Stations) plan includes everything in the Studio plan and adds Fastlane priority support, a customizable mimoCall user interface, and unlim­ited broadcasting.

Broadcast Pix ChurchPix

Broadcast Pix has Windows solutions for broadcast and even faith-based productions with its ChurchPix software (see Figure 2), a package touted as an all-in-one video production offering that will enable any church to easily stream its worship services online. It strives to provide an affordable (around $6,000) turn­key solution for churches, including the PC itself, and comes complete with dedicated content and easy-to-use controls. It has two RoboPix PTZ IP cameras with 20x optical zoom, integrated remote control, and mount­ing brackets. The ChurchPix package also includes the PC hardware and even a network switch for worship production crews that are really starting from scratch.


Figure 2. The ChurchPix user interface

ChurchPix handles up to three IP/NDI inputs for worship applications, PowerPoint, or other sources, and it features a royalty-free library of suitable clips, stills, and graphic templates for faith-based produc­tions. It provides full-motion monitoring and one-touch live production control from a touchscreen or a web browser. ChurchPix will multistream to up to five on­line destinations simultaneously through the Switch­board Cloud Pro Platform, which requires a subscrip­tion. Currently, the package includes no SRT support.

Ecamm Live

Like Boinx mimoLive, Ecamm Live is a Mac-only production solution. It offers a modal interface in that it’s not presented a fixed window, but rather a col­lection of palettes that you can arrange around the screen as you see fit. Also, you can drag graphics and overlays right onto the program screen itself. With funky borders and shadows built in, it offers a low-key, fun aspect to the video it delivers.

Some producers might be a bit put off by the fact that each video window has overlays over the bottom, top, and/or sides for each of the additional capabili­ties available for that item (see Figure 3). That’s just how Ecamm Live rolls: putting features for an item right onto that item, so you don’t have to search else­where for titles, effects, or audio levels.

ecamm live

Figure 3. Ecamm Live’s on-player controls

Choosing the free Trial option lets you try out all of Ecamm Live’s Standard and Pro features for a full 14 days, but it adds an Ecamm watermark to all of your streams.

The Standard license ($16 a month) takes away the watermark and offers unlimited multicasting to 10 destinations, as well as custom overlays, screen shar­ing, PIPs, program recording, viewer comment inte­gration, web widget overlays, and chromakey.

The top-level Pro license ($32 a month) adds remote guest capability (Ecamm Live Interview), a virtual mic and webcam for connection to Zoom and other con­ferencing apps, 4K streaming, live video monitoring to any display, ISO recording, and VIP Tech Support.


ManyCam (see Figure 4) is a macOS-based solution that delivers a complete suite of streaming production tools, such as those for handling multiple video sources, switching between different pieces of media, building layers, and adding PIPs. You can create titles and add web sources, screencasts, and virtual backgrounds. You can also integrate an IP camera or smartphone app, do chromakey, add whiteboards, create video play­lists, and apply overlays, 3D masks, drawing, and text. ManyCam features 4K support as well as video record­ing and NDI input and output. You can leverage cus­tom hotkeys and a hand­held remote control app, as well as on-screen tool­bars for control. Then, you can use ManyCam Virtual Webcam to treat the output of ManyCam as a source in your business chat ap­plication of choice.


Figure 4. ManyCam’s main user interface

ManyCam is available through three plans. The Standard plan ($49 a year) supports one device with video sources at Full HD. Features include PIP lay­outs, NDI, titles, effects, and whiteboard with no watermark. Custom over­lays, desktop capture, and the mobile app are provided. The Standard plan also supports IP camera ingest and one RTMP stream.

Next up is the Studio plan ($79 a year), which adds virtual backgrounds and background blur, as well as chromakey and an edit/preview screen before going live, plus ManyCam Lite for mobile content creation. ManyCam Studio also adds unlimited RTMP streams and H.264 IP camera ingest. It will run on two devic­es and handle 50 video sources at 4K quality.

The Premium plan ($99 a year) ups the ante to 200 sources at 4K quality on three devices and adds pri­ority tech support to the list.


Next up is the elephant in the room, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). OBS Studio is available for Mac, PC, and Linux. It is free and open source, meaning it’s not owned by one person or company. This also means that support and bug fixes are community-developed.

OBS Studio features high-performance, real-time video/audio capturing and mixing. You create scenes made up of multiple sources, including window cap­tures, images, text, browser windows, webcams, cap­ture cards, and more. You can set up an unlimited number of scenes to switch between seamlessly via custom transitions. It has an audio mixer with per-source filters such as noise gate, noise suppression, and gain, as well as VST plugin support.

The Settings panel (see Figure 5) provides access to configuration options to tweak every aspect of your broadcast or recording. A modular “Dock” interface allows users to rearrange the layout exactly as they like. You can even pop out each individual item to its own window. You can also choose from a number of different and customizable transitions and set hotkeys. Studio Mode lets you pre­view your scenes and sourc­es before pushing them live. OBS Studio also has an API that enables plugins and scripts to provide further customization and func­tionality that are specific to your needs.

obs studio

Figure 5. The OBS Studio Settings panel

One thing to note is that there is also Streamlabs OBS, a variant of OBS that offers more integrated ca­pability upon install, such as viewer comments and the like. OBS Studio is lighter weight, but you’ll have to add plugins and extra resources to get functionality that comes standard with other tools. Streamlabs bakes in some of that functionality from the start, in a more polished-looking interface, but also requires a more power­ful machine.

Streamlabs’ real strength is serving the profes­sional live YouTuber who wants to interact with their audience by highlighting when someone sends mon­ey. Automated highlights and Thank Yous, as well as custom messages to supporters, help drive inter­activity-based revenue. These features gamify the stream for viewers, who can cause things to happen and then see themselves highlighted in the stream when they support the streamer. There are dozens and dozens of apps you can integrate to customize the experience.

Streamlabs offers a free Starter tier and a paid Ul­tra tier for $149 a year. The Starter version provides themes, overlays, alerts, and widgets for Streamlabs’ desktop and mobile. Ultra adds the Streamlabs Con­sole and multicasting capability. Another key differ­ence is that Starter integrates only one remote guest, but Ultra can handle up to 11. There are also several streamer-centric tools that will be of varying utility to different producers, including Cloudbot, tips, cross-clip, video editor, podcast editor, and Talk Studio.

PRISM Live Studio

PRISM Live Studio is a free, all-in-one program with versions available on Windows and Mac, as well as on Android and iOS mobile devices. The updated Mac version boasts the ability to take advantage of Apple silicon. PRISM Live Studio (see Figure 6) provides the necessary tools for streaming on major platforms.

prism live studio

Figure 6. PRISM Live Studio

For Windows users, PRISM Live Studio v4.0.0, re­leased in 2023, updates the interface and adds all of the functions provided in OBS, according to the com­pany. The app is designed for both horizontal and ver­tical streaming production, with resolutions up to 4K and support for six streaming destinations.

Like Streamlabs, PRISM Live Studio is definitely aimed at the fun, creative crowd, with filters for au­dio visualization, GIPHY stickers, a game mode, and many more widgets, including a drawing mode akin to an on-screen telestrator. It promises low CPU us­age, but I don’t recommend gaming on the same com­puter that’s doing the streaming production.

A mobile version features various chat and other overlays. It’s not a multicamera switching app, but for handheld streaming, it looks to be a pretty powerful little solution offering both horizontal and vertical layouts, custom avatars and backgrounds, and your choice of chat templates. Mobile devices can also be used as a remote control for the desktop app.

PRISM Live Studio uses Medium as its blog plat­form, and announcements about both Mac and Win­dows updates have been made as recently as January 2024. While PRISM Live Studio may not offer the deep feature sets that other solutions do, the fact that it’s free enables anyone to try it out at length and decide if it fits their needs.

Vizrt TriCaster

The Vizrt TriCaster, developed by NewTek be­fore it was acquired by Vizrt in 2019 (and fully ab­sorbed into the Vizrt brand in 2023), is one of the first computer-based solutions and needs to be included in any discussion of computer-based live production software—even if it is primarily tied to the compa­ny’s own custom Windows hardware. TriCaster Now is a cloud solution, but we will focus on the software included with the hardware. A key feature of both components coming from one company is that there’s only one phone number for any hardware or software issue, as opposed to having to try to diagnose a com­puter issue on your own.

Depending on the size of the hardware, TriCaster can handle from four to 32 inputs and from two to 48 outputs. With its long-standardized interface, Tri­Caster serves almost every live production need. It offers multiple mix/effects busses, an audio mixer, media and animation buffers, video playback decks, keyers, virtual sets, compressor presets, multiple multiviewer and control monitor outputs, web inputs, data links to external sources and databases, PTZ control, macros, tally, genlock, MIDI, NDI, Dante, AES67, Skype TX integration, software control pan­els, ISO recording, replay, and more.

Additionally, TriCaster is such a standard that you can often hire in an expe­rienced TriCaster operator to run it for a show. While there are subscriptions available for certain ser­vices, and licenses for Dan­te and other third-party capabilities are extra, the TriCaster hardware and software are a one-time purchase. The hardware cost ranges from $5,000 for the TriCaster Mini Go to more than $30,000 for the TriCaster 2 Elite. This doesn’t include the dedicat­ed external hardware con­trol surfaces either, which make complex shows a lot more manageable than trying to do them on the computer screen.

Pricing may cause some to shy away at first, but when you’re looking to custom-build a high-end PC, adding third-party video and audio I/O hardware, and then purchase dedicated production software— or if you are looking to license it for several years, and all of the pieces come from dif­ferent companies, plus the time it takes for integration and ironing out any problems— the TriCaster cost for turnkey capability is a good value for an established tool.

While being Windows-based, TriCaster comes in Vizrt’s own custom configuration that does not auto-update, so you won’t be bricked by some random overnight Win­dows update. You do have access to Win­dows on TriCaster so you can manage your media and recordings in a standard Windows desktop interface. The other reason TriCaster is included in this list of software-based solutions is because the TriCaster Vectar is the TriCaster software and interface in the cloud (see Figure 7), on some other computer, or as a hybrid solu­tion in which multiple operators can be working on different parts of the produc­tion with multiple control surfaces in dif­ferent locations.

vizrt tricaster vectar

Figure 7. Vizrt TriCaster Vectar

Telestream Wirecast

Telestream Wirecast (see Figure 8) is a Mac and Windows live production solution that has been around for more than 20 years and has shifted from a purchase to a monthly sub­scription of $35 a month for the Studio version and $46 a month for Pro. There doesn’t appear to be any downloadable trial version. Also, please note that any Wirecast purchases are non-refundable and will auto-renew.

telestream wirecast

Figure 8. Telestream Wirecast

Wirecast, in version 16.2 at this mid-February writ­ing, can handle unlimited live camera sources, with a free wireless camera app for iOS devices. It sup­ports NDI, screen capture, web source display, PTZ control, control surface integrations, remote guests, layer-based compositing, ISO recordings, virtual camera/microphone, and built-in multistreaming with presets for YouTube, Facebook, RTMP, and more. There’s built-in chromakey, animated graphics and overlays, and more than 500,000 unique stock media assets preloaded. There’s also a scoreboard feature with clocks and timers, social media comment inte­gration, and multiview templates, playlists, and oth­er automation features.

The Studio version supports just two remote call­ers and one stream out. The Pro version adds built-in streaming to multiple destinations, up to seven remote guests, ISO recording, PTZ camera control, sports production tools, multi-track audio recording, and a 1–17 slot multiviewer output. If those are core features you’ll need, then the higher-end Pro version is what you’ll be looking to use.

Wirecast has a unique layer design that always makes it clear which layer is on top of another. This is very different from the hardware-based interface of the TriCaster or the scene-based interface of tools like vMix. But it’s a design that suits some produc­ers perfectly. There’s not just one way to visualize how live production comes together, and different designs will appeal to different people. It will just cost you a $35 or $46 1-month license to find out if Telestream’s paradigm is for you.


StudioCoast Pty Ltd.’s vMix, which I’ve written about extensively in Streaming Media (go2sm.com/remote), is a Windows-only app that has also been around for a long time. Unlike the standard interface of a TriCaster or the layer-based approach of Wirecast, vMix “inputs” are multi-layered “scenes” that you can use simply as a camera input or as a 10-layer scene with multiple sources—camera, titles, overlays, data, back­grounds, and more. vMix has a simple-looking but very deep interface that lets you add inputs and then apply triggers or actions to create complex sequences or to automate repetitive tasks (see Figure 9).


Figure 9. vMix

Your capabilities and resolutions are dependent on the particular tier of the app you purchase. vMix is not sold on a subscription-based model. You can purchase the four-input (scene) Basic HD for $60, the 1,000-input HD for $350, the 4K version for $700, and the Pro version for $1,200. After your purchase, you get any updates free for 12 months. After that, if you want to get a newer version, a $60 “Version Up­grade” fee covers you for another whole year regard­less of which version you’re using. But the version you have will continue to work even if you stop paying.

In response to user requests, vMix has recently add­ed a $50 a month Max license of the Pro version that will cease to work if the subscription stops. This is handy for those with more basic packages who need the capabilities of the top Pro tier, but only for one event. A $50 Max license basically gives you the $1,200 vMix Pro for 30 days. With a low initial cost of entry of just $60 and a very generous 60-day trial period for the $1,200 Pro version, vMix makes it easy to really take time to learn and dig into it before deciding if it’s the right tool for you. Some of the key features in vMix are the ability to take in as many as eight remote callers using vMix’s own remote caller service, vMix Call, without rely­ing on any third-party service. The company has also completely integrated Zoom, enabling a room full of

Zoom participants to be ingested as individual cam­eras with individual audio control as well. vMix works with numerous control surfaces direct­ly or through third-party apps like Companion and Central Control. Another option is to connect through vMix’s own web interface, Custom Panel Maker, or other hooks to the vMix API. This is one of the ad­vantages of using long-established tools.

The higher vMix tiers can also deliver up to eight cameras of 4K instant replay, up to four SRT outputs, and up to four hardware outputs, four virtual out­puts, and two fullscreen outputs. It has an integrat­ed animated titling engine, social comments inte­gration, and a MultiCorder that will record as many channels as your hardware is capable of handling. Although vMix provides recommended hardware specifications for different tiers of the app, users must source and build the appropriate machines—as well as I/O hardware—on their own.

vMix can leverage the GPU to handle many live production processes. The more you demand of vMix, the more expensive a hardware configuration you will need. There are VARs that specialize in vMix systems and can deliv­er the hardware and software together.

Vimeo Livestream Studio

In 2017, online video platform provider Vimeo purchased Livestream, purveyor of the feature-rich streaming software package Livestream Studio. Now, Livestream Studio for Mac or Windows comes as part of a $65 a month Advanced Vimeo subscription. Vimeo offers a rather short 7-day trial period to de­termine if Livestream Studio works for you. Livestream Studio (see Figure 10) allows you to connect cameras via hardware interface, USB, NDI, Mevo, mobile app, RTMP, and more, and you can live switch up to 4K with graphics, media, transitions, and more, viewable on multiple control room monitors.

vimeo livestream studio

Figure 10. Vimeo Livestream Studio

The software leverages Vimeo’s ability to integrate with multiple CDNs and social media, as well as RTMP wherever else you want it to go. Vimeo also offers the ability to self-host on white-label pages that are per­fect for client-facing corporate work. As with any good computer-based broadcast pro­duction app, you can build multi-layer PIP scenes, apply downstream overlays, chromakey, connect multiple data sources, control PTZ, and do ISO re­cording.

It also provides hardware acceleration, browser sources, media playback, and more. In ad­dition, you can control Livestream Studio from any Chrome browser with Studio WebControl—even on mobile devices—which gives you greater freedom to delegate tasks. Livestream Studio is one of the few software apps that touts the ability to leverage multiple internet connections directly for bonding as well as live ad-insertion hooks to Google DoubleClick.

It has its own built-in RTMP server and Dropbox integration and lets you leverage all of the Vimeo OVP and virtual event platform capabilities as well. The Vimeo Advanced plan already incorporates numerous Vimeo features, like ad-free streaming, brand control for your player and apps, password protection, player embed restrictions, registrations, branded invite and reminder email notifications, CRM integrations, and ad-free hosting of up to 500 videos. If more control of the viewer experience— in addition to live produc­tion—is something you need, you can get both with a single subscription to Livestream Studio in Vimeo Advanced or Vim­eo Premium.

XSplit Broadcaster

XSplit Broadcaster (see Figure 11) is a Windows app that takes yet another look at designing custom scenes and delivering them live to the world. It has an internal Layout Wizard to help with custom layouts, as well as the ability to handle multiple scenes. It boasts in­tuitive audio management, including built-in noise reduction, and lets you change the audio setup on a scene-by-scene basis.

xsplit broadcaster

Figure 11. XSplit Broadcaster

XSplit Broadcaster will leverage your PC’s in­stalled GPU to assist with chromakey, custom tran­sitions, and image masks, and it lets you have dif­ferent records for different scenes at the same time for easier postproduction. As with Streamlabs OBS, there are XSplit Broadcaster-compatible third-party plugins for a gamepad visualizer, a whiteboard, DSP effects, replay, and more.

Broadcaster can stream to multiple destinations at the same time. These will be multiple streams from your computer, so you’ll need enough bandwidth to launch all of them simultaneously. The same goes for most all of the apps described here, with the excep­tion of Livestream Studio, which leverages Vimeo in the cloud to handle that.

Pricing is interesting, with XSplit Broadcaster of­fering a free version so you can get to know it. The free option is limited to four scenes with a watermark. The Premium version costs $15 a month or $60 a year, with an option for a $200 purchase with lifetime up­dates. Premium removes the watermark and adds unlimited scenes, a Skype video camera, audio mix preview, multicasting, source transitions, a preview window, and more.

XSplit also bundles XSplit Broadcaster with its VCam software, which enhances the capability of webcams, offering better background removal, zoomed track­ing from 4K webcams, plus logos and graphic overlay. For game players and self-producers, the two pack­ages can integrate nicely.

Final Thoughts

So that’s a look at 12 options you can pick from when looking to produce live-switched video. With nearly all of them, you can get started for free and pick your computer platform, as choices abound for each. The main cost you’ll incur with these products is not the software itself, but the computer you run them on, as these are all solutions you download and run on your hardware right in front of you. No internet connec­tion is required if you want to produce a multicam­era talk show for later edit and upload.

Streaming, of course, as well as remote control, remote guests, and more, all require a robust connec­tion to the internet, but these are not cloud-based solutions, so the hardware you have in front of you needs to be capable of sup­porting what you are ask­ing the software to do. If you don’t ask much, then lower-end hardware will suffice.

Higher demands will require more comput­ing horsepower. If you lack the time or ex­pertise to build your own PC, I find that gaming PCs offer an easy way to get higher-end pre-built ma­chines that work very well for all but the most ad­vanced video ingest, processing, and streaming demands. Then you can augment your setup with ex­ternal control surfaces, monitors, and more to make it comfortable for how you want to work.

No two producers do things exactly the same or have the same exact needs. This is why having a selection of tools is important. Go find one that works for you, and have fun creating.

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