Broadcasting live streaming video requires a variety of specific tools. There are several types of streaming software, including encoders, live switchers, Simulcasting tools, and more.
Each of these tools plays an important role in enhancing the live streaming experience. HLS streaming software, in particular, is used with live streams that are delivered with HLS technology.
In this post, we’re going to look at several of the best HLS streaming software offerings. We will review some of the top software in the live streaming game, including Wire cast, Switchboard Live, and Restream. What each of the tools has in common is its compatibility with HLS streaming to an HTML5 video player.
Before we get into our comparison, we’re going to discuss the basics of HLS streaming and compare ingest and delivery in the context of live streaming.
HLS Streaming: The Basics
HLS, which stands for “HTTP Live streaming,” is a video streaming protocol that was developed by Apple to deliver content to an HTML5 video player.
This protocol became essential in the industry-wide transition from Adobe’s Flash Player to more modern HTML5 video players. To put it into perspective, HLS is to HTML5 as RTMP was to flash.
As an adaptive bitrate streaming protocol, an HLS streaming server delivers the best available video quality to viewers at any given time.
Over the past several years, HLS has become the most widely used live streaming protocol. Smartphones, desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and many other devices, all support HLS.
The biggest benefits of HLS streaming are improved security and nearly universal compatibility.
Delivery vs. Ingest in Streaming
Before we get into our HLS streaming software comparison, it’s important to clarify the roles of HLS and RTMP encoding in delivery and ingest, respectively.
In most cases, live streaming involves sending data from your capture device to an online video platform (OVP), with a few stops in between. OVPs either use their own content delivery network (CDN) or partner with a CDN to deliver streams.
It is also possible to send the data via your own live streaming server, but this requires more equipment and technical knowledge.
This process of sending the stream from an encoder to the online video platform is known as stream ingestion, or simply “ingest.” Stream ingestion usually occurs using RTMP.
RTMP stands for “Real-Time Messaging Protocol.” As we mentioned, RTMP was previously used to deliver content to the Flash video player. RTMP ingest should not be confused with RTMP delivery.
It is also possible to use HLS for ingesting, but this is not yet widely supported. HLS is used primarily for HLS delivery, whereas RTMP is for stream ingestion.
If you’d like to learn more about RTMP servers and how the two protocols work together, we recommend checking out our dedicated RTMP ingest guide.
What is HLS Streaming Software?
There are several types of software for HLS streaming. Typically, these tools specialize in a specific function that is related to live streaming, but it’s also fairly common for one software to include support for multiple functionalities.
What makes them “HLS streaming software” vs. “streaming software” (which we discuss in other posts) is that they are specifically set up for streaming to an HTML5 video player via HLS delivery.
Some of the main types of HLS streaming software include encoders, switchers, and Simulcasting tools. Let’s break these categories down.
Encoding software is probably the most important HLS streaming software, simply because most broadcasters need it. This software converts the RAW video files that your camera captures into a ready-to-stream digital video file.
The benefit of software encoders rather than hardware encoders is that they are generally more cost-effective. Unlike hardware encoders, software encoders can be updated as the software is improved. That means the lifespan of live stream encoding software lives beyond its hardware counterpart.
Simulcasting, which is short for “simultaneous 스포츠중계,” is streaming to multiple destinations at once. This functionality is also referred to as “multi-destination streaming.”
Simulcasting requires the support of dedicated HLS streaming software.
Many broadcasters use Simulcasting software to stream the same content to their sites, apps, and popular social media platforms, all at once. With simulcast streaming, you can reach a larger audience.
When it comes to live streaming at the professional level, a reliable switcher is a must. Switching software allows broadcasters to switch between different live feeds, on-demand video, and other sources instantaneously.
Using different sources throughout your stream can keep things exciting and engaging.