8 Tips for Choosing Professional Live Streaming Software
Live streaming is everywhere these days, and free live streaming software like Streamlabs and OBS Studio dominate a part of the market. Solo live streamers can usually get everything they need out of one of those, and if not, Xsplit Broadcaster is there as an approachable paid product.
But what if you need a more professional solution? Live sports, event production, esports, and houses of worship (among others) may need more than these free and open-source tools can provide.
If you’re exploring the idea of professional live streaming software, you’ve probably already encountered some of the limitations of the free options, and you know you need something more.
8 Considerations for Selecting Professional Live Streaming Software
Below you’ll find 8 pro tips for choosing the right professional live streaming software solution. As you evaluate the products available in today’s market, use these tips to help you land on the right choice for your context and needs.
1: Consider Stream Design and Onscreen Graphics (both Design and Display)
Professional live streams involve more than just a video input and an output destination (like Twitch and YouTube). To get the polished look you want, you’ll need to design consistent branded graphics for displaying onscreen.
This is stream design: all the graphical elements that aren’t just a video camera pointed at the person or event being streamed.
Rather than deal with cobbling together multiple applications (one to create graphics, one for video intake, one for scene mixing or design, and so forth), look for a professional video streaming software that gives you all these functions in one streamlined interface — which is exactly what ProPresenter does.
Do you envision using lower thirds? What about picture in picture (PIP)? Multiple simultaneous cameras? Whatever your live stream needs to include, make sure your chosen software can handle all those elements with ease.
2: Plan for the Right Number of Inputs and Outputs
Simple streamers may not need more than a single input and output, but professional live streams typically need more. Make sure that any solution you evaluate can handle your I/O needs.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
How many camera feeds could we need on stream simultaneously? Consider the most extreme scenario that’s still realistic. Picture in picture is common, but we frequently see higher simultaneous cameras on a single stream in sports, gaming, and video podcasts.
How many cameras or video sources are coming in? This is separate from how many you’re showing on stream simultaneously: for example, if you’re doing ISO recording in a multi-cam setup for sports or live events video production, how many camera feeds must you be able to intake?
Is a single live stream feed the only output, or are there others? You may be responsible for other outputs besides the live stream. Think of a live event or the worship service at a midsized or larger church: it wouldn’t make sense for the livestream feed to match the in-house IMAG feed. They’re going to be similar, but not identical.
The best professional live streaming software solutions can handle multiple unique outputs, covering a wider range of your presentation needs. Again, it’s possible to create solutions out of multiple pieces of software (and multiple workstations), but a single unified solution is simpler (and usually less expensive).
3: Evaluate How You May Grow or Evolve Your Streaming
Next, make sure you won’t outgrow your streaming software anytime soon.
You’re already operating at a pro level, but that doesn’t mean your streaming approach will stay the same forever and for all time. The technology is going to keep evolving, and so could your approach.
Are there any technologies, formats, or approaches you aren’t using now, but could conceivably want to add in the years ahead? Future-proof your broader production workflow by choosing professional video streaming software that’s current, robust, and actively being developed.
4: Prioritize Quality and Resiliency in Professional Live Streaming Software
You want your stream to be consistently high quality, broadcasting in full HD (or higher). 1080p output is a standard offering among professional live streaming software, but not every application can push upward to 4K.
The hardware supporting your streaming and recording efforts also factors into the discussion: if you’re using a capture card or a hardware video switcher, you’ll need to ensure that every piece of your hardware stack can meet your resolution and quality demands.
There’s more to quality than resolution, though. In fact, when most viewers think about stream quality, they’re thinking about both sharpness (resolution) and smoothness (bitrate and reliability).
In other words, your gorgeous 4K live stream isn’t worth watching if it constantly stutters, stops, or drops out.
Look for a software solution that’s a workhorse, one that doesn’t freeze up or crash or drop frames.
5: Consider Resi® and RSP
While we’re talking about resiliency, we have to mention Resi®: Resi’s Resilient Streaming Protocol (RSP) is the world’s most reliable streaming protocol. It drastically outperforms standard protocols like RTMP, fully protecting against audio and video losses in quality as your stream is transmitted.
ProPresenter includes support for Resi and RSP, giving you the option of creating an unbelievably resilient stream that stays smooth even under the harshest network conditions.
Resi requires a separate subscription, but it’s well worth the cost for many streamers. Using Resi for encoding allows you to send your stream to multiple online destinations (such as Facebook Live, Twitch and YouTube, and other social media platforms) without requiring additional bandwidth or compute. Resi does the heavy lifting so you can focus on creating content and experiences.
6: Verify Support for Advanced Formats and Elements
If you need a more professional live streaming software solution, chances are quite high that you’re using more professional equipment and doing more technical things than, say, a basic solo streamer or a simple classroom or auditorium live stream.
This reality can cause some complications, as not every streaming solution on the market can handle every advanced format and piece of equipment. For example, pro live broadcast audio formats like SDI, NDI, and Syphon could cause some headaches (if not complete incompatibility) when using a lesser tool.
Most streaming software supports chroma keying on some level; still, if you plan to use green screen or other chromakey tech, make sure your chosen solution is supported.
ProPresenter includes support for chroma keying (by sending content to a Chroma Key on a video switcher), lower thirds, overlays, user-generated chyrons, graphic bugs, and more. ProPresenter easily handles Inputs and outputs over SDI (with internal and external keying) as well as NDI and Syphon.
7: Hardware vs. Software Encoders
All live video streams must rely on an encoder to translate from video camera to internet-ready footage. Both hardware and software encoders exist: hardware encoders handle the processing externally, but they add another hardware layer of complication.
On the other hand, software encoders take care of this using your PC or Mac workstation, which reduces complexity — but eats up compute power and requires a competent machine.
Either approach can work, but make sure your chosen live streaming software can play nicely with whichever encoder you choose.
ProPresenter includes a powerful software encoder, plus support for many hardware encoders in the Blackmagic family (UltraStudio, DeckLink, ATEM series, and external PCIe cards in Thunderbolt enclosures).
8: Consider Your Existing Tech Stack
If you’re in the market for a professional video streaming solution, then you’re probably not starting from scratch. You have an existing tech stack, including hardware and software that you either need to 1) keep using alongside the new software without creating new problems or 2) replace entirely with your new software.
So before you commit, look at your existing tech stack:
- What can your new professional streaming software replace entirely?
- What does it need to work alongside?
- What challenges will you face when introducing the new tool (e.g., will you have to rework how you use existing resources)?
There will always be some amount of disruption or reengineering. The key is to not get surprised post-purchase or end up with software that can’t work with your hardware.
ProPresenter: Professional Live Streaming Software — and Much More
As you consider these eight tips, we think the verdict is clear: ProPresenter is the all-around best solution for professional live streaming software. And because it has roots as pro-grade presentation software, you can accomplish beautiful stream and asset design right in the same application that’s handling your live stream.
With ProPresenter, you’ll have the chance to reduce the number of tools and the layers of complexity, simplifying and supercharging your livestream efforts.
Explore ProPresenter for yourself and see if it’s right for you: Start your unrestricted two-week trial now!