How to Stream Your Desktop in Video

From one of the better Web designers on the planet comes this question:

Been following your work for years, and totally digging the new live stuff you’re doing. Very entertaining. I was hoping you might have any clues for me as to a problem I’m having, as I have a feeling you’ve come across this situation before in your work.

I’m looking for a codec or some kind of application that will allow me to take a stream of my Windows desktop and turn it into a video source that’s usable for input in other apps. To explain, what I’m trying to do is create a live uStream feed of my desktop, namely for applications like Second Life that I’d like to stream to friends. I know I could just use FRAPs or another screen recording app, archive it and then share it that way, but I’m looking for something a little more real time.

You could go with the free VH Screen Capture Driver – which only gets a mention because of its pricetag, not because of its power. There’s the robust Camtasia Studio with Live Output [disclaimer: they’re one of my sponsors]. A gawdy WebcamMax (with PIP possibilities) offers the most flexibility. NOTE: the much-ballyhooed SuperWebcam has been known to dog even the fastest systems, so it remains on my “not recommended” list.

It’s actually a sad state of affairs with Windows-based webcam software these days. Just about every webcam app for Windows pales by comparison to OS X equivalents. Camtasia Studio is likely overkill for what you’re trying to do here, leaving WebcamMax as your best option (even with its kludgey interface). Maybe we could convince Camtasia to create a watered-down (read: free) app to help jumpstart the livestreaming scene on the Windows platform? It honestly shouldn’t take much to create something fun, functional, clean, and easy to use.

19 thoughts on “How to Stream Your Desktop in Video”

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  3. Chris,

    what OSX equivents are you referring to that makes the PC counterparts pale in comparision? thanks!

  4. I have tried both Camtasia Studio 4.0 and e2esoft’s Vcam. For my purpose, which is streaming my desktop to my webpage, e2esoft’s software worked in much higher detail (users can read text) than camtasia studio. There is a good chance that I did not configure everything correctly with Camtasia, but Vcam was alot easier to get running and I never got the detail problems sorted with Camtasia. To address your question, it allows you to do exactly what you were asking.

    When I was searching for desktop broadcasting software, I did come across the Mac Os X program that you are probably referring to, though I didn’t find anyone that was running it live at the time. I’d appreciate it as well if you could mention the name of that software as my current solution is OK (users can read text, but I have to use a low resolution and bigger fonts), but I would prefer something that displays the entire screen in scale.

  5. I would be interested in the NAME of that OS X software, too, instead of everyone referring to it as “there is a software for OS X”. How hard can it be to actually write down the name and maybe . just maybe – also include a link?

  6. hey this may help me a bit i have a similar problem i wish to stream my desktop into a common media format so i could open it on my xbox and not have to keep changingrooms to fiddle with my xbox live settings. my xbox can open as far as i know any major file type i just got . avi’s working any help would be awesome thx

  7. “To explain, what I’m trying to do is create a live uStream feed of my desktop, namely for applications like Second Life that I’d like to stream to friends. I know I could just use FRAPs or another screen recording app, archive it and then share it that way, but I’m looking for something a little more real time.”

    Good news: I found something like that to use for my own website that goes hand in hand with Ustream, Stikam, and many more. It is called “CAMTWIST”. It lets you do a picture-in-picture of your desktop and your face for people to see (what you look like when you’re working on something, etc.). I am not quite satisfied with the quality and FPS on it but I guess it will do. Check it out and let me know if works for you.

    J

  8. 3rd for osx software… what is it?

    I want to be able to stream my desktop to my media center – so I’ll be able to use my TV and media center as a wireless monitor.

  9. Any thought on the software application, ManyCam (for both Windows & Mac)?
    Framerate isn’t the greatest, max I had was 23fps, but it seems pretty decent and it is free as well.

  10. Are there any screen cap software out there that runs as an embedded applet? Something I can embed into my website so the user can just click the applet, run it, and it captures their screen to webcam driver. This would make streaming desktop to ustream or JTV a breeze! Just run the applet, select the virtual screen camera in the broadcast now sleecttion and you have desktop sharing! Why hasn’t anyone built this?

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