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Guide To Encoding Software

When it comes to live streaming, encoding software is vital. The encoder reads the information from your camera as you film and translates it into a format that can be embedded onto websites through a professional video hosting platform, such as Zidivo. If you’re live streaming, encoding software is essential.

There are both hardware and software encoders which each have different advantages that make them helpful in different contexts. Read more about both kinds and discover the best encoding software for live streaming.

What Is Encoding Software?

Encoding is a process that compresses video files so they can be uploaded to the internet for streaming. The encoder reads the video as it’s recorded on your camera and outputs a format that can be published online.

There are a few different formats that are acceptable for video streaming but RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) is the most commonly used.

The encoder takes information from the camera and converts it into ‘codecs’, which allows it to read the data and transform it into a new file format, compressing the video. For example, the standard video compression format is H.264, which is great for HD streaming.

Every video file has to be translated into codecs through encoding software in order to be streamable.

Hardware vs Software

Encoders come in two varieties: hardware and encoding software.

Hardware encoders use a physical box to read the information from your camera (visual and audio). It’s connected directly to the internet where it uploads the feed to produce your watchable video.

Software encoders aren’t a physical item, but are software that is downloaded onto a computer. The video source sends information to the computer, the encoder reads it and compresses it into the right file format and it’s then uploaded via the computer’s internet connection.

For professionals who live stream very frequently, a hardware encoder could be more useful as it’s a single item designed purely for encoding, making the latency speed faster and the process more streamlined. 

However, a software encoder gives more ability to customise bitrate and video quality, as well as being able to tweak different elements of the codecs. They’re also a lot cheaper than hardware encoders, which makes them very popular — you can get some encoding software for free.

It will depend on your needs as to which would work better. Encoding software is the most popular choice, but hardware is good for those who do a lot of live streaming.

Things To Consider When Choosing Your Encoding Software

There are a number of encoders out there. To decide which will work best for you, you might want to consider:

  • Shooting requirements: how many camera feeds do you need?
  • Editing requirements: does the encoder have all the features you need?
  • Compatibility: is the encoding software compatible with your operating system?
  • Pricing: is it within your budget?

The Best Encoding Software For Streaming

Zidivo has a lot of experience with different encoders, so we have pulled together some of the best ones out there.

Remember that once you’ve found your encoding software, you have to find the right professional streaming platform! Zidivo is designed for people with all levels of live streaming experience, with unlimited support and prices starting at just £20/month.

OBS Studio

OBS Studio, or open broadcast software, is a very popular choice. It’s an open-source encoding software that’s ideal for people new to live streaming as it’s really easy to use. Because it’s open-source, it’s free too!

It’s available to download for Windows, Mac and Linux, and has loads of community-generated plugins available too so you can customise your experience even more.

OBS Studio is the encoding software that we would recommend to anyone starting out with live streaming and looking for an easy, low-cost solution.


Wirecast from Telestream is a more professional form of encoding software that’s designed to cater for the bigger needs of professionals. It’s compatible with a range of different professional streaming platforms, including Zidivo, to help you get the highest quality video out across the web.

It’s a US-based programme, which means the price is in dollars, but as computer software this doesn’t impact its performance for customers around the world. With different levels of packages from Wirecast One through to Pro, there’s one to suit every professional including features such as multiple camera inputs and numerous graphic overlays.

Skipping the Encoder…

There are a few situations in which you don’t need encoding software (or hardware) to live stream at all. These are through IP cameras. 

Used primarily for security, IP cameras compress the video automatically and transmit the information over a network (wired or wireless). IP cameras don’t require an encoder, because it’s built into them already.

Zidivo can stream IP camera feeds directly to wherever you want them.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve got your encoding software sorted, you need to look at finding the right live streaming platform!

Zidivo is ideal for any small business, religious organisation, production company or event venue. If you want to live stream, then explore more of our website.

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