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Live broadcasting software and hardware converts your video feed into a suitable format for live streaming. Let’s take a look at our tech experts’ favorite live encoders for churches streaming video.

There are two types of live encoders, software and hardware.

In order to use live encoding software, you generally need to install and run it on a desktop. For mobile streaming situations, you can use a laptop computer. You need a computer with a consistently fast internet connection and an up-to-date processor. Once your computer is in place, you can easily connect video cameras via video capture devices.

Hardware live encoders are dedicated physical devices (rather than a downloadable software) that functions in some of the same ways as a software encoder. Hardware encoders tend to be much pricier than software encoders but since they are dedicated devices, they are typically more effective.

Keep reading for our favorite software live encoders followed by our favorite hardware live encoders:

Software Live Encoders

  • Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) – Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s free because it’s open source and has regular updates. OBS is easy-to-use for beginners, able to work on computers that have smaller processors, and able to function on lower-quality internet. This is a solid live encoder, especially for those just starting out. Additionally, with a StreamingChurch.tv account, you can use our mobile app to control OBS from your phone.

  • vMix – We like vMix because it has its roots in a local church in Australia. They have plans for every budget with a 60-day risk-free trial and users rave about switcher functions. The downside is it’s only available for Windows PCs. However, it is possible to run it on a Mac using a certain technique. While vMix cannot be installed directly on OSX, the solution when using a Mac is to install it on Windows via Boot Camp.

  • Wirecast – This software comes in two versions for live production and streaming. Wirecast Studio for enhanced production pricing is $599 with a free trial. Wirecast Pro for advanced production pricing is $799 and also comes with a free trial. The best part of Wirecast is how easy it is to use. Being able to set up and plan a live stream is very simple. The user interface is intuitive. Wirecast offers a lot of video solutions and flexibility of its set up.

  • Manycam – Can be used on Windows and MacOS computers and allows for quick video production that incorporates various layouts and integrations. It's easy to set up pre-production various screen designs and easily switch while recording or doing live streaming. For ManyCam Standard, lifetime will run you about $60 – $80; for ManyCam Studio the lifetime fee will be around $140 – $180.

Hardware Live Encoders

  • Epiphan Pearl Nano – We like Epiphan because they have great customer support. Nano is the low end of their products, but it has a portable design with 12G-SDI and HDMI 1080p60 inputs. Epiphan Pearl Nano can be used for simple encoding productions or much more complex setups thanks to its expansive feature set, versatility, and 4K streaming/recording are expected via a future firmware update. The price tag is $1,495.

  • VidiU Go – Made by Teradek, this device seamlessly connects with both consumer and professional cameras via its HDMI and SDI inputs, as well as popular video switchers from Newtek, Roland, vMix, among others. They have simplified the boot up and configuration process enabling the VidiU Go to be up and running quickly. You can set your streaming parameters from VidiU Go's web and OLED interface, or pre-configure your device with the free VidiU app for iOS and Android. Once powered on, VidiU Go is ready to stream in under 10 seconds. Like Ephiphan, they have other products you might consider. VidiU Go costs $1,490.

  • Magewell Ultra Stream SDI – This device accepts an SDI input and allows you to output up to two livestreams over Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or a hotspot. You can send a main stream and a substream to popular CDNs such as Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitch, or to custom RTMP servers. It supports up to 2048 x 1080 2K60 resolution, encodes the signal in up to 1080p60, outputs a main stream in up to a 10Mb/s bitrate, and substream in up to 2Mb/s. You can also record the stream to 32GB of internal storage or to an optional USB flash drive in up to 720p30 resolution. Price is $399 and they also have an HDMI version for $359.

Today, there are many more live encoders out there; these are the ones we like best for churches, although we are always open to more suggestions. We do encourage you to check with your streaming provider before you spend money on a live encoder. Sometimes they can save you time, trouble and money on an encoder that might not meet your needs or might be over your head when it comes to set up.

We are always willing to help you with all your tech needs. Live chat on the bottom right of your screen, email, or call us (866.852.6648).