Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Twitch Works

Broadcasting Software

Broadcasting your gameplay via Twitch requires having the right software to capture and encode your video and audio -- as well as at least one video game. The Twitch "Broadcast" page highlights several common broadcasting software tools that you can download from third-party sites and install on your Windows-based PC, including the following:

  • Open Broadcast Software -- This is a completely free and open source broadcasting software that lets you record your gameplay or live-stream to Twitch and several other video sites. You can include webcam video and microphone audio to provide commentary. You have to step through quite a few settings to get it going, but it provides flexibility with arranging what viewers will see on your video stream. And again, it's free.
  • XSplit Gamecaster -- This is one of the simpler choices that will have you streaming in no time. It allows you to record or stream and share via Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and GooglePlus. You have to sign up for a free account with SplitmediaLabs, but once you have the account, install the software and connect it to your Twitch account, you can start streaming in three easy steps. The software is free to use, but if you want some of the more advanced features, like in-game Twitch chat, annotation mode (which allows you to draw on your game screen) and more customization ability, you have to pay subscription fees starting at $14.95 for three months..
  • XSplit Broadcaster -- This is the more robust version of XSplit. It requires more setup and configuration, but allows the user to edit using multiple video sources, mix audio from two sources, display overlays and camera effects and lets you stream at up to 1080p at 60 frames per second (fps). Like Gamecaster, its basic features are free, but a paid version starting at $14.95 for three months provides more of the advanced features, including the highest resolution streaming and greater layout and customization ability. The software allows local recording and streaming to a number of sites, including Twitch,, UStream, YouTube Live and even streaming via a local area network (LAN).
  • Wirecast -- This is a more full-featured streaming production and encoding software for broadcasting a variety of media to multiple servers and platforms at the same time. You can record or stream content to Twitch,, Ustream, YouTube and others. It's the most costly, with a starting price of around $495 at the time of this writing, although you can try it out for free.
  • Evolve -- This is another simple streaming platform, allowing you to include webcam visuals and two audio inputs (the game audio and a microphone). You log into the Evolve client, hit the "Start Casting" button, log into your Twitch account and it broadcasts whatever is on your screen (game or not). You can also find and view other people's Twitch broadcasts, chat from within the Evolve client, find matches to join or create a gaming party yourself. This platform is geared toward multi-playing and connecting with other gamers.

The above allow you to either broadcast your gaming window or a selected portion of the screen, in some cases depending upon whether you are using the paid or free versions. They all adhere to Twitch's current broadcasting requirements, and you can directly connect them to Twitch via either your Twitch login credentials or your streaming key (depending upon which they accept).

There are others not currently listed on the Twitch "Broadcast" page that do support Twitch and for which you can find information and instructions in their support pages, such as:

  • FFSPLIT -- This is another completely free program that allows you to capture and display your entire screen, regions or windows from your screen, audio, webcam visuals and static images to live-stream or record your gameplay. It will upload to Twitch,, Ustream, YouTube and several others. It takes some practice and setting adjustments, but you can start streaming fairly quickly.
  • Overwolf -- This is a Chrome browser-based software that you can use to overlay features and apps onto your PC games or any other applications you have open. One of the available apps is Twitch, created using Overwolf's open SDK. The Overwolf overlay lets you choose the Twitch app, log into Twitch and start streaming very quickly. Drop down menus allow you to change streaming settings, including video, audio and even opacity, and you can toggle what you and the viewers can see (including the chat window and webcam).

Some of the PC broadcasting programs will require you to download and install other software if you don't already have it, such as Java, DirectX, QuickTime or .NET Framework. You can find information on the Twitch support pages regarding setup and optimal settings for your broadcast software.

Broadcasting from a Mac is a little trickier, but doable. According to the Twitch site, the only all-in-one program that works for Mac is Wirecast, which is rather expensive. Other options might require that you also run Adobe Flash Media Encoder along with webcam software like ManyCam or CamTwist.

You can also find advice and scripts online for streaming to Twitch from computers running Linux OS distributions, although as of this writing there doesn't seem to anything official on the Twitch site regarding ways to broadcast via Linux.

Aside from third-party dedicated streaming software, Twitch broadcasting capability can even be worked directly into games and web apps. Continue reading to find out more about the integration tools Twitch provides for software developers.