Live streaming video has proven to be one of the most engaging forms of media on the internet. It has changed the way people and brands communicate with each other and their audiences. 

In this blog, we’re going to focus on the process of live broadcasting video and one particular aspect of the process – encoding.

Encoding is one of the most important parts of the process. Still, not a lot of people pay a lot of attention to it as the best live streaming solutions take care of the encoding automatically, but if you want to take your live video to the next level, it is essential to understand all steps of the process. 

The Process of Streaming Live Video

With the current state of streaming technology, live streaming videos are extremely easy to consume or create. There are a lot of live video streaming services these days that can take care of all steps of the process. But how does live video really work?

Process of Streaming Live Video

Here’s a basic model of how live broadcasting video works:

  • The first step of the process is to capture the video that will be streamed live. This is usually done using high-quality cameras and microphones.
  • The next step of the process is known as encoding. This is where the data we captured is broken down into smaller pieces which are easier to deliver over the internet.
  • The last step is the delivery which refers to sending the stream over the internet using real-time streaming protocols.

What Is An Encoder?

Encoders are used to convert data from a stream into a format that is easy to send over the internet. Encoders can be hardware-based or software-based and depending on the use case, either of the two can be used.

The most commonly used format to stream data by the best live streaming solutions is RTMP (real-time messaging protocol). Encoders take the video and convert it into the right format using a compression/decompression process using codecs. 

Regardless of the nature of the live video content, encoding is a vital step for most live streams and using the best encoder for your stream is one of the most common live-streaming tips you’ll get. It is important to be strategic before you live stream your content in order to get the best results from your live streaming initiatives. 

Software Encoders

A lot of free live video streaming solutions use software encoders. Software encoders are programs that run on computer devices and do not require a dedicated hardware component. 

The reasons why most free live video streaming services use software encoders include a lower cost and more opportunities to customize and upgrade the encoder. While the quality of software encoders cannot match hardware encoders, you probably don’t require a hardware encoder unless you’re a professional.

One of the best software encoders these days is OBS Studio. It is a free software encoder that provides encoding functionality that is suitable for the needs of most people.

Hardware Encoders

Unlike software encoders that use the processing power of the systems they run on, hardware encoders are dedicated processors that run algorithms that convert the data type in real-time. Hardware encoders are assigned machines that specialize in the encoding, which makes them a lot more powerful than software encoders. 

However, hardware encoders are usually a high-cost option and are not really needed for most live streams. Also, due to the specialized nature of the devices, they are generally not that flexible, and they also come with various maintenance costs that are not present in the case of software encoders. Some hardware solutions also come with professional features such as the ability to caption live online video.

Best Options For Software Encoders

These days there are a lot of options when it comes to software encoders, and there is a lot of free and paid software that makes streaming live video a breeze. Some of the best software encoders include:

  • OBS Studio
  • Wirecast 
  • ManyCam
  • VidBlasterX

Do note that software encoders work fine if your live broadcasting needs are limited. If you require a specialized solution or if you want to live stream for professional use, then you would most probably need a dedicated hardware encoder for your live streaming tips needs.

Best Options For Hardware Encoders

A hardware encoder is a device that takes the video and audio feeds and then connects directly to the internet to share the feeds in formats that are more suitable for being transmitted over the internet. Some of the best hardware encoders you can use today include:

  • BoxCaster
  • AJA Hello
  • Taradek VidiU 

Hardware vs Software – Which One Should You Use?

If you want to be strategic before you live stream your content, you need to decide if you’re going to use a software encoder or a hardware encoder in your process.

In most cases, as already mentioned above in the article, a dedicated hardware solution is usually not required. For example, if your sole purpose is live webcasting on social media platforms, you can probably use a software encoder that will work fine.

However, if you’re a dedicated live streaming service provider and you want to stream a big event, you might need specialized equipment like video encoders. For example, if you want to caption live online video, using a hardware encoder is a better option.

Encoders Are Crucial In The Live Streaming World

We hope this blog was informative and that you learned a bit about video encoders and the various types of encoders available today. Choosing the right encoder for your live streaming needs is crucial, for both live webcasting on social media platforms and for major companies live streaming their content over the internet.

Keep reading this space for the latest in the world of live streaming and the best live streaming tips.