Streaming games and other types of content is becoming increasingly popular, and many people are even making a living from it. So in this article and video above we’re going to be taking a look at the best free software for live streaming on Twitch, YouTube and other sites.
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#1 Open Broadcaster (OBS)
There’s really only one good entrely free program for streaming, and that’s OBS, or Open Broadcaster. OBS is an open source streaming and screen recording program for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
There’s basically two versions of OBS, the Studio version and the Classic version. I recommend using the Studio version because the Classic one is no longer being actively updated and it is only available for Windows. However, if you have a 32-bit system running Windows, then the Classic version may be a better choice. But most computers run at 64-bits these days.
With OBS you can either stream, record your broadcast to a file on your computer or do both at the same time. However, doing both consumes a lot of computer resources and is often redundant because most streaming services like Twitch or YouTube will actually record and archive your live streams.
You can set OBS up to broadcast your entire desktop, a game that you’re playing, a specific program window, webcams or multiple sources combined. For example gameplay footage with your webcam overlayed. You can also add images as overlay graphics to create a cool looking interface. You can add text, webpages and a number of other things. OBS does also support Chromakey, so you can use a green screen on your webcam to remove the background for example.
With OBS Studio you also have multiple scenes and you can switch between them while you are streaming. For example, if you are going off screen to the toilet or if you have a technical problem, then you can switch to another scene where it says something like “Be right back!”. When everything is sorted, then you can go back to the main scene.
OBS is a pretty good streaming app, however it can be a bit complicated to use for beginners and migh take some time getting used to.
#2 Nvidia ShadowPlay
If you have a Nvidia graphics card you can use the built in broadcasting and recording options included in the Nvidia GeForce Experience driver management software. This part of the package is called Shadowplay, previously known also as Nvidia Share. For Radeon graphics cards there’s Radeon ReLive which has some similar streaming and recording features.
You can use Shadowplay to both stream gaming footage and record it to a file on your harddrive.
With Shadowplay you can live stream gaming to both Twitch and YouTube, as well as some other sites. You can also add image files as overlays on your stream. You can also include stuff like your webcam, viewer counter, comments and so on.
But it does not support any more advanced features like OBS, such as Chromakey or other effects. You can’t use third party services which include donation alerts, tickers and stuff like that.
Overall Nvidia Shadowplay is a decent and simple recording and streaming program.
#3 XSplit Broadcaster
Finally we have XSplit which has two applications, the XSplit Broadcaster and the XSplit Gamecaster.
The Broadcaster can stream or record desktop, webcam or game footage, or a combination of those. It can stream to websites like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and Dailymotion.
The Gamecaster is obviously more geared toward streaming console games.
The XSplit Broadcaster interface is similar to that of OBS in some ways. For example it has scenes and sources that you can combine and arrange to fit your own needs. You can add text, images to use as overlays, webpages, various widgets and a bunch of other stuff.
But the free version does come with many limitations. For example, local recordings will have watermarks if you are using Xsplit just for screen recording. Maximum streaming and recording resolution is 720p. Maximum frames per second is 30. You can only setup 4 scenes. You won’t be able to use the YouTube Live plugin. Although you can still stream to YouTube by setting up a custom RTMP stream using YouTube’s servers and so on.
EXTRA: Stream Overlays & Alerts
A lot of streamers like to use graphic overlays, alerts and other widgets to pimp up their stream, to make it more entertaining and interactive with their followers. This is pretty simple to do with the streaming apps listed in this video. But OBS and XSplit have the most versatility.
An overlay graphic is added simply by adding an image file into the scene sources, and then placing it in the appropriate position. Check out the download link below for some free stream overlays and graphics.
You can use a third party services like Streamlabs.com to make custom alerts and add other types of widgets. For example, whenever someone subscribes to your YouTube channel, donates to your Paypal, the service will display an alert on the stream. There’s a whole bunch of other widgets available as well.
Streamlabs is free to use, and there’s also other sites like StreamPro.io and LivestreamAlerts.com which offer similar features.