Why do I need a live streaming encoder?

The ability to fit more data into less space has changed the way video is stored and distributed. What once required renting VHS tapes or purchasing DVDs can now be accomplished by simply streaming video content over the top (OTT) or storing it in the cloud. Video encoders make this possible by compressing streaming data into a manageable size.

No matter the industry or use case, encoding is a key step in the video delivery chain. Looking to build immersive online fitness experiences like ClassPass? You’ll need an encoder. Hoping to distribute breaking news online by swapping out expensive satellite trucks for a remote streaming setup? Your live encoder will play a vital role. Simulcasting to multiple online video platforms (OVP) like YouTube and Facebook? Great, here are instructions for connecting an encoder to each platform:

What about simple broadcasts that don’t require additional software or hardware?

Encoding may seem like an unnecessary step given that anyone can go live using their smartphone. But it’s always taking place in the background. And even when you have the option to stream directly to a site without using an encoder, doing so sacrifices quality and control. That’s why most social media sites offer live encoding software integrations like Instagram Live Producer.

Above anything else, implementing one of the recommended encoders below paves the way for more professional live broadcasts. Most encoders allow you to manage complex productions by switching between cameras, microphones, and media assets. What’s more, advanced solutions allow you to add special effects and graphics for a more polished end-user experience.

Luckily, free software encoders and low-cost hardware encoders exist. That means there’s no need to break the bank when designing your live streaming setup. It’s up to you to decide whether you need all the bells and whistles or if free software encoding does the trick.

Let’s look at some of the considerations that might sway you in either direction.