Software

Six encoders your business can use to stream and capture live video

Streaming live video from your device to the cloud requires a specialized encoder. Here are six downloadable applications your business can use for the task.

In many cases, the most effective medium for communicating training and other educational messages in a business enterprise is audiovisual. With the widespread availability of inexpensive video recording hardware and software, businesses both large and small are using video for corporate communications ranging from technical training courses to general announcements.

Many of these businesses have discovered the benefits of capturing and streaming video directly from their computing devices to the cloud. This technique eliminates the need for video cameras and other hardware by relegating the entire process to specialized software applications.

If your computer is equipped with certain video cards from NVIDIA or AMD, the software necessary for recording and streaming video is already available and can be activated with the right keyboard shortcut. However, those video encoders are rudimentary examples and barely scratch the surface of what is available in the professional video encoder software universe.

Professional-grade encoders offer more sophisticated features, like multiple simultaneous sources, unlimited scenes, audio mixing and noise cancellation, and chroma key compositing. This article lists six downloadable video encoders and briefly discusses the features each one offers.

Many of the less-expensive downloadable video encoders are marketed to gaming-related content creators streaming video to services such as Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube, but they are not limited to just that purpose. All of these encoders are capable of creating professional-grade business-related videos with an efficiency not often available through conventional record-and-process video camera techniques.

SEE: Quick glossary: Streaming video (Tech Pro Research)

1. OBS Studio

Arguably the most popular encoder available, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio is a free and open source project. But don't let the low cost fool you—OBS offers a complete suite of video software applications and features, including simultaneous multiple sourcing, custom transitions, unlimited scenes, and audio mixing. OBS Studio is often the first choice for many because of its low cost and ease of setup.

2. vMix

Where other encoder vendors strive to do one thing well, vMix prides itself on offering complete solutions for whatever video creation your enterprise may need. In addition to streaming videos, vMix offers a full video production suite, including video conferencing and social media solutions. Streamed video can be captured in HD, SD, and 4K, with various applications available for post-production and aftereffects.

The basic streaming package is free, but any videos created will include a vMix watermark. To remove the watermark, you will have to pay $60 per license. Other more capable versions of the software will, of course, cost more. The most expensive Pro version costs $1,200 per license.

3. Wirecast

Also falling into the complete video studio solution category is Wirecast. This suite of software can stream multiple sources, transition between scenes, and superimpose commentators using chroma key compositing. Wirecast is essentially a studio mixing board in an all-software format.

The Studio version of Wirecast costs $695 and includes one year of standard level support. A free trial version is available for download, but it will add both visual and audio watermarks to your productions, so you will have to make a purchase for usable content. Wirecast may be a good choice for businesses requiring a comprehensive set of video creation and editing tools.

SEE: Streaming media policy (Tech Pro Research)

4. VidBlasterX

VidBlasterX also offers a complete video production solution that can be used for capturing, streaming, and broadcasting everything from webcasts and presentations to live events and even television shows. The software can stream HD, UHD content to cloud services like YouTube and Facebook and includes advanced audio mixing.

VidBlasterX offers its software as a subscription service, with the basic Home package available for a reasonable $9 per year. The Studio version is $99 per year, and the Pro version will run you $999 per year. A trial version of the Studio version is available, but it adds a watermark to every video production until you opt to purchase a subscription.

5. XSplit

Taking a slightly different approach to its marketing strategy, XSplit offers two separate applications but sells them together in one license. XSplit Gamecaster is a video encoder primarily marketed to live game streamers with Twitch and YouTube channels. XSplit Broadcaster is a video studio production solution that includes more advanced features, like adding remote guests via Skype.

You can try both XSplit applications for free, but you will have to purchase a license if you want to remove the watermarks on videos streamed above 30FPS or above 720p. You can subscribe to XSplit for as little as $4.17 per month or you can get a lifetime license for $199.

SEE: Getting started with drone photography (free TechRepublic PDF)

6. Gameshow

The software offered by Gameshow is primarily geared toward live game streaming, but it certainly can be repurposed for business use. Gameshow features include multiple sources, transitions between layers, and an audio mixer. In addition, Gameshow claims to require the lowest CPU operational overhead of any live stream encoder on the market.

A free trial version with accompanying visual watermark is available. A single lifetime license will cost you just $29.

Choices

All the software applications listed here can capture, record, and stream live video from your device to the cloud. The determining factor in choosing between them will generally depend on what kind of videos your business wants to produce. If you need slick video production software, you will have to pay extra for that level of sophistication. If video streaming is all you need, a free or nearly free application may adequately meet your needs.

One other thing to note: These applications are offered by small independent companies. There is no Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Apple, or Amazon to be found in the list. It would not be unreasonable to expect one or more of these small companies to be acquired by a bigger company, particularly a bigger company like Microsoft or Google, which already own popular cloud-based video streaming services.

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Your thoughts

Have you tried one of these applications? Share your experiences and advice in the discussion thread below.

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About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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