Introduction

Regardless how far into the streaming journey you are on - whether you are still contemplating it as a potential hobby, or a fully fledged partner on the streaming platform of your choice - the use of either the Streamelements (SE) or Streamlabs (SL) ecosystem will be on your radar. 

This guide is aimed at anyone that requires a comprehensive rundown of what each platform can do, and hopefully help guide you towards a decision of which platform to use. Both have evolved throughout their multiple years of development, to benefit different communities or streaming styles in varying ways.

We have curated alert setups for approximately 250 creators across both platforms, with OBS scene setups accounting for around 70% of those. So a lot of what is outlined in this guide is based on the first-hand experience we’ve gained from the unique requests over at GETREKT Labs.

So what are they, and what are they used for?

To get straight into it, SE and SL are platforms used to present viewer interactions on your stream. Connect your Twitch, Youtube, and/or Facebook to either platform, read/watch a few guides on setting things up, and everything from; event alerts, labels, chat and an endless collection of widgets, can all be displayed on-screen to reward the viewers interacting with your stream.

Both platforms use a form of Open Broadcast Software (OBS); an open source (community-built and updated) broadcast studio software that is used to handle stream scene building and live encoding to the connected streaming platforms.

-Streamlabs have built a version of OBS into their own studio software, now known as Streamlabs Desktop (SLD). 

-Streamelements uses the OBS Studio build, with a plugin known as OBS.Live to do similar things.

Both software packages are very similar at their core - with some slight quirks to each - which depend on your ecosystem of choice. Because of this, transitioning between the two is quite seamless, with UI, UX, and minor specific features being the only differences to get accustomed to.

We like to compare ‘Streamlabs vs. Streamelements’ with ‘Apple vs. Windows’. One is a closed ecosystem, feature-packed and simple to use (SL/Apple) - while the other can be heavily customized, allowing for far more complex builds (SE/Windows).

These are all features you can expect on both platforms. They may do them slightly differently, but the features are the same nonetheless.

Key Features

Streamlabs

Streamlabs Desktop - an OBS integrated studio software packed with all of SL’s features, including:
   -Scene Collection - overlay importing/exporting
   -Selective Audio Recording
Subscription (Prime) - for their premium features:
   -Overlay, alert, widget and tip page Theme Store - free and prime options are included
   -Multi-streaming - combined with SL’s Theme system which combines all Platforms into one Alert/Chatbox.
   -App store - for premium plugins to SLD
   -Premium merch options
  -Custom tip page
  -Twitch panel creator
   -Youtube thumbnail creator

Streamlabs Deck: a phone app to allow control of your stream from your phone.
Streamlabs Melon: a browser-based streaming studio
Intro creator
Logo creator
Twitch Clip editor
Social reminder animations
Free, Prime and VIP (partners) tiered support system via Discord

Buying into the SL Prime subscription unlocks SL’s full potential, making the process of getting setup and going live very easy.

Remember the ‘Apple vs. Windows’ analogy we used earlier? Well a lot of the same reasons people would opt into the Apple ecosystem are the same reasons they would choose SL over SE; ease-of-use

Closed ecosystems come with a lot of ease-of-use benefits. Buying into the SL Prime subscription unlocks SL’s full potential, making the process of getting setup and going live very easy. Pick a theme, click install, add your game sources & microphone, login to your platform(s) and go live.

This leads up perfectly into the number one demographic of streamers that should pick SL: Beginner Streamers.

If you want all the beautiful displayable features, without the hassle of studying the complicated intricacies, SL is just unmatched due to how well everything is integrated. Don’t forget to check out our collection on the SL store.

Another feature that is often overlooked (it snuck up on us until quite recently!) is their multi-stream feature. If you have ever come across Devin Nash, you’ll know that he is a supporter of ‘spreading your wings’ and streaming on multiple platforms to build a wider community... and we agree! Especially if you are just starting out, or still early on in your streaming career. Each of the streaming platforms have many unique communities within them, so sticking with one early can mean that it takes longer to find your home.

With SL, multi-streaming is a breeze. The only viable alternative currently is Restream.io, which is also a paid subscription just for the multi-stream feature - so it doesn't seem financially smart to go that route in our opinion. 

The secret sauce here though is SL’s Theme system. Once you login to multiple platforms, you will have just one single theme that displays all your alert sets/data from all platforms, in one place. Displaying multi-stream data then becomes much more manageable, as all platforms get merged into a single alert queue, and all your chats are collated into one chatbox. Trust us when we say this (as we’ve done the setup for both) it’s just easier with SL!

KEY FEATURES

Streamelements

OBS.Live: Allows a chat and event feed dock natively in OBS:
  -The use of OBS Studio means that you have access to all community-built plugins on the OBS Forums
  -OBS Studio uses a docking system. Undock any part of the software to any screen or area of a monitor

Overlay Editor - a browser-based editor that lets you build your scenes online and export it as a single browser source into OBS:
  -Alerts/labels/videos/images/widgets can all be added into an SE canvas
  -Custom widgets allow you to build and display anything you want on-screen, providing you have some html/css/javascript knowledge.

Community driven Discord server-
  -Community and SE staffed support system
  -Community-built free widgets
  -Partner-level support

-Mercury : a tool suite specifically for Youtube, used to add live interactive functionality to Youtube videos
  -Dynamic thumbnails, descriptions and channel banners that can be updated with live poll results, channel goals and milestone data
  -On-screen shoutouts to quickly display a list of channel supporters
  -Weekly analytics report of your channel

As you grow and more people interact with your stream, creatively rewarding your viewers can be a key factor in differentiating you from the competition.

Opposing the ‘SL = Apple’ analogy, SE is like a Windows PC - modular, customizable and generally community-driven. Whenever we have a client that has a more complex brief, we usually set them up with SE, because of how much easier it is to implement custom data with widgets.

As you grow and more people interact with your stream, creatively rewarding your viewers can be a key factor in differentiating you from the competition. We recognise this at GETREKT Labs, “Show them how you’re different” is our motto after all!

Custom widgets unlock the power to create unique interactions for your viewers. Historically, custom widgets and tiered alert systems we’ve created have paid for themselves within the first few hours of the client going live. 

Whether you want to create a custom ‘HypeTrain’ for a platform like Facebook (that doesn’t natively support one) - or you want an illustrated version of your own forehead to expand as people feed you donations, until it eventually explodes (yes you read that right!) - it’s all possible in SE.

As we said earlier, creativity is your limit here. We have another extremely talented coder (not me), that's not been truly challenged yet.. So we dare you to come up with something!

Another benefit of the SE Editor, is how much neater it can make your OBS scenes. Being able to organize and layer things such as; Camera Overlays, Labels, and Integrated Alerts all together into a single browser source, means that your OBS source and scene collections don’t overwhelm you everytime you want to stream. 

Combining widgets with OBS.Studio plugins can become a really powerful tool for creating highly interactive and unique looking streams. 

Using SE alongside plugins like; ‘Move Transitions’, ‘Transition Table’ and ‘Advanced Scene Switcher’, we were able to create a complex stream production for Marckoz. It included a full stream rebrand with; background TV screen alerts, on-stream tiered alerts, and fullscreen 3D alerts - combined with a transition system that seamlessly transitioned sources between each scene. This led to us being able to create a unique production that combined multiple plugins and techniques that perfectly complimented his brand new stream room. 

Streamelements’ ecosystem allows for truly bespoke streams, and is why we highly recommend it to people that have already developed their community, and are looking to take the next steps in upgrading their streams with a rebrand - just to make use of the extra interactive functionality you just can’t get on SL right now.

In Conclusion

We suggest

Streamlabs

-New to streaming

-Someone that likes everything to be in one place

-Someone that is or contemplating multi-streaming

-Someone that does not have a defined brand yet, and would use the huge library of stream themes to choose from

-Someone that needs Facebook Gifted Supporter Alerts

we suggest

Streamelements

-Someone looking to organize their scenes better using the Editor

-Someone that is interested in custom widgets and everything they bring

-Someone looking to create more complex productions with a new rebrand

So to conclude, which one should you choose? Well that’s not for us to decide - we’re just here to present the facts and our expert opinions, to provide you with a better understanding of both options. Ultimately, we hope that the information and suggestions we’ve provided can help you make a more calculated decision in deciding which platform to use… and if not, you can always switch, or mix them up which is also an option.

TL;DR

For all those that saw the essay and scrolled here to get the TL;DR… 

-Streamlabs if you are new or multi-streaming

-Streamelements if you want to do some advanced things

Keep an eye out for the video version of this guide - coming soon!

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