Running a Better Live Stream: the Top Tools List for Streamers

Live broadcasting has become a mainstream over the last couple of years. Some luckies have even managed to make a full-time living from it. It is not a secret that streaming success totally depends on a quality of your broadcasts. Today, we provide you with some valuable tools to help you build a greater stream.

Software to Stream and Record With

There are plenty of programs to stream with. Below, we will list only those that seem to be the most convenient, based on the users’ opinions:
  • OBS or Open Broadcaster Software (Windows, OS X, Linux)
PROS: Most streamers choose OBS because this program is free, open source and very easy to use. OBS has a simple interface, various built-in features and the possibility to add plugins. It is the most common software used by Twitch streamers. CONS: You can’t make changes to scene without going to this scene while live. It is a little bit bothering. If compared to XSplit software, it is more difficult to make custom plugins for OBS. 
  • XSplit (Windows)
PROS: It is very convenient and easy-to-use for non-technical streamers. XSplit has a well-designed interface and nice scenes’ transitions. Among the features available with XSplit: you can stream to multiple channels at the same time, pull in direct video from Skype or output to a projector. If you need a software with ability to run custom JavaScript, then XSplit is right for you. It is also perfect if you need to stream big tournaments with multiple streamers. CONS: To use a full set of features, you should pay for the service (for example, 3-month trial will cost you $24,95). A free version of the program exists, but it doesn’t even provide a full screen game capture and puts intrusive ads over your stream. With XSplit, your computer should keep up with high technical demand. 
  • FFSplit (Windows)
PROS: It is a free software to help you stream live or record video content. There are available 3 video formats (.flv, .mkv and .mp4.) and numerous features including hotkeys, webcam and overlays. The software is lightweight, so it won’t slow down your computer. CONS: Many streamers complain that FFSplit produces a poor quality live video. Even a manual settings configuration doesn’t help resolve this problem. However, if you need to record a video, FFSplit will do it in a pretty high quality. 

Donation Services 

Once you has set up your streaming account, you can start to showcase your gameplays and integrate a donation button. There are numerous services to help you accept donations and receive notifications about them. Remember, that regardless the donation service you choose, Paypal will take 3% + 30 cents per donation.
  • Streamlabs
Streamlabs is a cross-functional streaming tool to help you accept donations and set donation goals. It is a proven fact that viewers are more likely to donate when they know that money will help you fulfill the goal (buying new device, raising money for a wedding, whatever). Streamlabs provides its users with wide customization options for images, fonts, animations and sounds. Overall, Streamlabs is a nice free service with attentive customer support and other interesting features for streamers. We’ve devoted the whole post to describing the main Streamlabs features. Take a look, if interested. 
  • Skinsdonut
Skinsdonut is something absolutely new. It can increase the stream quality both for streamer and for viewers. By the way, this service contains its own AI. Skinsdonut uses it to search for the item you are going to send on different marketplaces. It is very useful because it allows the website to choose the most accurate value of your items in order to be either shown on stream or transferred into money.
  • Streamtip
Streamtip is a worthy alternative to Streamlabs. Streamtip is absolutely free to use. It is nicely integrated with other services such as TNotifiers for donation alerts and has a cool application where you can see all donations in one place with the autorefresh option. In addition, Streamtip provides its users with a hosted tipping page where you can display a short message to your supporters. Streamtip is a quality service, however, some streamers consider it being too simple. 
  • Donation-Tracker
Another alternative free service that represents your incoming PayPal donations.  It is not very well-known, but used by many streamers. Donation-Tracker provides you with donation alerts, textfiles formatting options, gravatar user images and Twitchbot. It is also possible to set fundraising goals to motivate viewers. With Donation-Tracker, the donator decides how much goes to donation-tracker and how much to you.
  • Patreon
Patreon is a service created to support individuals and create custom tiers of monthly payments. For example, you can create $1, $2, $3, $5 tiers with different type of on-screen shoutout. You can also manually add whatsoever text or animation to thank you viewers for donation as well as repay the most devoted fans with special rewards. Patreon is more often used by streamers of Twitch Creative. Note, that Patreon takes 5% commission on pledges. 
  • BobDev’s Notification Dashboard
This service offers free donation tracker and a notification system. The advantage of using the Dashboard is that you host it on your web server. The Dashboard is integrated with vMix enabling you to make custom graphical alerts. The drawback of this service is that it is made for technically savvy streamers as the setting up process is not easy.

Followers Trackers 

  • Streamlabs
Streamlabs is in the list again. This all-in-one service provides you with in-stream popup alerts for followers, subscribers and even for situations when someone hosts your channel. 
  • NightDev-Followers
This is one of NightDev’s numerous services that allows you to easy configure notification popups. 
  • Sub-Alert
It is a more featured version of NightDev. Sub-Alert is a desktop program and is available at this link. It doesn’t have recent updates, but still working properly. 
  • Tnotifier
The service is similar to Streamlabs offering fully customizable notifications.

Browser Extensions For Twitch Streamers

If you use Twitch for streaming or watching games, you have probably noticed that Twitch is lacking some features. Luckily, the Twitch community has elaborated its own solutions, including numerous Chrome and FireFox browser extensions to make your streaming experience more easy and enjoyable. 
  • BetterTTV
It is one of the most popular NightDev extensions available for both Chrome and FireFox browsers. From anonymous chat abilities to the dark mode, BetterTTV fills some major gaps in Twitch site. For example, with BetterTTV you will be able automatically translate foreign languages, hide any chat messages from banned users, easily host a channel on Twitch, etc. There is also a same-name desktop application for Twitch. 
  • FFZ (FrankerFaceZ)
FFZ has some distinguishing features that make this extension popular among streamers. With FFZ, everyone, even not Twitch partnered, can create and share their own emotes previously submitting them to FFZ’s public library of emotes. Why is it important? Because unique emotes associated with a specific channel are a great way to build a strong community. FFZ also provides its users with a stream uptime counter, group chat and the option to block unnecessary features in Twitch layout (for example, it is possible to block social-media features if you find them intrusive).
  • Twitch Live
This extension is the simplest way to track live channels without entering directly Twitch site. When having Twitch Live installed to your browser, you will see an icon in the top-right corner showing how many Twitch channels that you are following are online at the moment. Clicking the icon reveals the full list of the live broadcasts. It is also possible to manually add chosen channels to Twitch Live without having to follow them. Note, that there are two almost similar extensions with the same name. Our advice is to choose the one by “bipycxp”: it offers more features and info about them.
  • TwitchNow
It is almost the same as Twitch Live. The extension allows adding an icon to track channels you follow. But, unlike Twitch Live, Twitch Now can be used to browse different gamers, search for new channels and view top streams live - all at the same time.
  • Twitch Mini Player
One of the Twitch layout disadvantages is that it is very inconvenient to watch the gameplay, keep up with chat while having other windows open (unless you have two monitors). With this extension, you can set a tiny version of a chosen Twitch stream and chat over the top of any window you are currently working with. It is possible to move the player on the screen, resize it or get it off the screen switching to the audio only. 
  • Plays.TV Chrome Extension
With this extension, you can save 30 seconds of a stream gameplay: they will be automatically uploaded to the Plays.Tv website. It is also possible to create your own highlights: it can be a good alternative to Twitch highlight system, if you don’t like it for some reason. The extension is available for Twitch and YouTube Gaming.

Audio Software for Streamers 

The following audio tools will help make your streaming routine more comfortable and enjoyable. With these applications you can easily combine streaming, private talk and listening to favorite music without interrupting your gameplay. 
  • Virtual Audio Cable
The software is used to divide and control audio streams. For instance, with this tool you can listen to music or have a talk in a mic so that nobody in your stream can hear that. Bad news is that all cool  features are available only in a paid version.
  • Snip
It is a simple application that allows you to display the info about audio tracks you are currently listening to. Snip supports Spotify, iTunes and Winamp.
  • AutoDuck
Talking in your mic while streaming can fade out the sound of music or game volume. This application helps duck the audio from another source in real time. AutoDuck is available in a free-trial, then you should pay to use it.

Other Useful Tools for Streamers

  • StreamElements is a new all-in-one streaming platform to make the life of a streamer easier. On their website, you can find anything from super easy-to-use streamer dashboard to detailed chat statistics and leaderboard. StreamElements’ professonals create customized overlays to fit any taste. One of their latest features is a Night Mode available for any chosen overlay: it looks pretty nice and creates less pressure on your eyes. If you have an active chat and are suffering from trolls’ attacks, the platform also offers a chat bot to help you keep order and filter out the audience. Moreover, the guys from StreamElements are currently working on the revenue system to help you reward viewers with extra goodies.
  • OBS-Overlay - plugin that helps create personalized overlays.
  • Snaz -  a free extension to OBS, FFSplit, Xsplit or other streaming software you use. It helps import and read text from text files allowing you to stream elements that are not integrated by default (for example, keeping counters and other time options).
  • Streamlink Twitch GUI (better known as Livestreamer Twitch GUI, was renamed in 2016) - an application that provides a useful graphical interface. With Streamlink, you don’t depend on browser and flash, you can watch multiple streams at once, customize channel settings and upgrade your chat options.
  • TwitchWantsGames - a site that aims to create link between gamers and game developers. There you can directly connect with developers from all over the world, propose your ideas, give your opinions and play new games for free.

Take Away

If you love streaming or watching other people playing, then you have something in common with millions of people. We hope that our top tools list will be useful for you and are waiting for your comments and preferences: what software and extensions do you use? Are there any that we’ve missed?