Live video streaming has become increasingly popular over the last year. With more people than ever stuck at home, thanks to the effects of COVID19 and its associated lockdowns, people have had to find ways to occupy their time. The most common type of video streaming is undoubtedly still gaming – Twitch is more popular now than ever now. In January 2021 alone, streamers broadcast on Twitch 22,089,295 times, and viewers watched Twitch for a total of 2,173,794,168 hours. The entire live streaming industry is expected to be valued at $184.3 billion by 2027.
But you can’t just turn on your computer (or gaming system) and start streaming. The software isn’t built into Windows, Mac, or any other operating systems. If you are serious about streaming, you first need to download suitable streaming software. This post analyzes what we believe to be the best streaming software available in 2021, both free versions and paid software with additional ease-of-use and features.
Best Streaming Software for 2021 (Twitch and Youtube):
OWN3D Pro is a plugin that expands on the open-source OBS Studio. OWN3D Pro makes it simple to give your stream a new look. It gives you access to more than 575 high-quality overlays and alerts, and a large number of Twitch panels, along with additional features, such as the ability to create a Twitch countdown and donation page and integrate a chatbox widget and a Twitch chatbot. You can also integrate to OWN3D Music, so you can add music to your stream without worrying about copyright violations.
OWN3D offers both free and paid versions of OWN3D Pro. The free version offers five free overlays, panels and alerts, stream labels, and a countdown widget. The paid version provides the full feature set, and you can subscribe for one month, three months, or annually.
OWN3D Pro works in conjunction with OBS Studio, which we cover separately below. You need first to install OBS Studio on your Windows laptop before you set up OWN3D Pro.
Although some of OWN3D Pro’s features will work on any streaming platform on which you use OBS Studio, it is designed for Twitch, and some features are Twitch-specific. It also uses Twitch terminology throughout.
Not only can you use OWN3D Pro to add overlays to change the look of your streaming, but you can also customize them to suit your style.
OBS Studio is open-source software you can use for video recording and live streaming. It is free to use but lacks some of the more advanced features found in paid versions of streaming software. As we have seen above, some software companies like OWN3D make extensions you can use to add to the core features of OBS Studio.
If you are a “techie,” you will love all the customizability of OBS Studio. Those who enjoy playing around with their computers will find more functionality than others but being open-source, OBS Source lacks the user support of most of the paid competition. It does come with a steep learning curve, but if you’re willing to spend time on YouTube or elsewhere online, you should find considerable help from existing users.
If you are prepared to devote time to learning its functionality, OBS Studio has more power than most of the other free software (although the free version of OWN3D Pro still has more, as it sits on top of OBS Studio). You will also find other plugins that people have developed to add to OBS Studio’s core functionality.
One advantage OBS Studio has over much of the other streaming software covered here is its versatility. You can use it on Windows, Linux, and Mac computers. You can also use it on multiple live streaming platforms, not just Twitch.
Streamlabs was initially a live streaming tool that streamers used with other live streaming software. Streamlabs OBS now combines the Streamlabs tool with OBS Studio, giving a more advanced streaming program with a cleaner interface than the open-source tool. It also offers better user support. Like OBS Studio, Streamlabs OBS is free.
Streamlabs OBS gives access to a range of gaming overlays. You can find more overlays, graphics, and streams, multistream to multiple platforms at once, and gain additional features by paying for Streamlabs Prime.
Streamlabs OBS helps you live stream on Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook. The live streaming software is only available for Windows systems, although console users can still use Streamlabs to raise money from their viewers.
You can use LightStream Studio to stream to Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and custom RTMP. It provides cloud-powered broadcasting accessed through a web browser. You can also capture Xbox and PlayStation gameplay for streaming to Twitch without a capture card.
You can select from the Gamer plan for $8, $12, or $16/month or the Creator plan for $25, $28, or $50 per month. The different prices shown for each plan indicate different maximum resolutions at which you choose to stream. There are also discounts if you opt to make an annual payment.
Both plans offer various features, including streaming text, images, webcams, and video clips, 3rd party integrations for alerts and dynamic content, and unlimited streaming hours. The Creator plan adds in the ability to invite up to seven remote guests to your streams, RTMP sources, custom RTMP destinations, and PC screen share.
vMix is high-end live production and streaming software for your PC. You can use it to stream to virtually any streaming provider, including Facebook Live, Twitch, and YouTube. It comes in five versions, from a free Basic pack (allowing four inputs, one overlay channel, and a maximum resolution of 768 x576) to a $1200 Pro version (allowing 1000 inputs, four overlay channels, a maximum resolution of 4096×2160, 4-camera instant replays, and many more features). vMix suggests you first download their free 60-day trial, test it, and then ask yourself questions regarding the exact features you use in practice. At this point, you can decide which plan most suits your needs.
vMix considers its software’s primary purpose is as a Software Video Mixer and Switcher that utilizes the latest advances in computer hardware to provide live HD video mixing, a task previously only possible on expensive dedicated hardware mixers. It also functions as live streaming software that allows you to publish your live productions directly to the Internet. Depending on the version you opt for, you can use vMix to live mix, switch, record, and live stream SD, full HD, and 4K video sources, including cameras, video files, DVDs, images, PowerPoint, and more.
XSplit Broadcaster is live streaming and recording software for Windows. You can stream and record in 4K 60fps. You can use XSplit Broadcaster to stream on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. Indeed, you can even simultaneously broadcast to multiple stream services.
The streaming software comes with a range of stream management features. It comes preloaded with a variety of transition styles, and you can add custom stinger transitions. You can edit scenes before pushing live with the Scene Preview Editor. XSplit allows you to script virtually any action or series of steps, and it supports custom scripts.
Gamecaster started as an XSplit brand of software but is now an identity of its own. As its name indicates, it places its focus squarely on gaming. You can use it to go live to Twitch, Facebook, or YouTube in 1080p. It takes advantage of the latest NVIDIA and AMD technology to stream lag-free.
It comes loaded with hundreds of free overlays that include alerts, trains, goals, and widgets. These include professionally animated overlays. Gamecaster’s Scene Editor makes creating complex alerts and widgets simple.
Gamecaster includes multiple integrations, including elgato, Spotify, Streamlabs, and ReStream.
Nvidia ShadowPlay targets gamers and comes bundled with many Nvidia GeForce graphics cards. It enables you to record and share high-quality gameplay videos, screenshots, and livestreams. You can use it to broadcast to Facebook Live, Twitch, or YouTube Live.
It does, however, lack some of the features available in more specialist streaming software and is probably more used by gamers wanting to share their best moments on their social networks. It does, however, support camera and custom graphic overlays to better personalize your livestream.
ShadowPlay’s DVR-style Instant Replay mode allows you to hit a hotkey to save the last 30 seconds of gameplay to your hard drive or share to YouTube or Facebook. You can manually record gameplay videos for as long as you want. ShadowPlay is hardware accelerated, so you can leave it running in the background. You can also create up to a 15-second GIF from your favorite ShadowPlay video, add text, and upload it to Google, Facebook, or Weibo.
Wirecast offers two paid versions of live streaming software: Wirecast Studio and Wirecast Pro. Wirecast clearly targets more professional streamers than those who use free software. Indeed, Wirecast’s tagline is “Stream like a pro.”
You can stream from unlimited sources: cameras, microphones, webcams, IP cams, and more. You can also capture a variety of IP sources or anything on your computer screen or other computers. A built-in web-browser can display live web pages. It supports multiple professional audio sources, and you can even mix up to 8 independent audio tracks and add FX and processing.
It comes with over 100 built-in graphics and titles. You can access over 500,000 unique media assets directly in Wirecast, including videos, music, lower thirds, backgrounds, and more. If you’re into broadcasting sports, Wirecast includes replay, scoreboards, clocks, and timers.
You can use Wirecast to stream to Facebook Live, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo Live, or any destination via RTMP, more than one at a time if you desire.
Wirecast Pro has all Wirecast Studio features plus expanded inputs and audio capabilities, 7 simultaneous Wirecast Rendezvous guests, 3D virtual sets, PTZ camera control, and more.