Open Broadcaster Software
As streaming plays a big role in the StarCraft and Dota 2 communities, I figured I'd post a blog about this. Open Broadcaster Software (usually referred to as just OBS) is a fairly new program to the streaming market that lets you stream and record your gameplay in a manner very similar to xsplit. However unlike xsplit, OBS is completely free to use and is even open source, allowing anyone to help contribute to the development - I've personally submitted quite a few pieces of code to help improve the network code and fix various bugs. There are no restrictions on things like resolution, bitrate, frame rate, etc so as long as your PC is good enough, you can stream however you like.
OBS was first announced just under six months ago by Jim, the main developer, in this reddit thread. Since then, the program has grown to support all kinds of new options and devices. The current version, 0.47a, is fresh off of a major update that improves synchronization of things like webcams and microphones, adds support for more capture cards and a mode to help reduce network latency caused by streaming.
Look at all the things OBS can do!
One of the main features OBS offers over other solutions is the built-in game capture plugin. Compared to xsplit's "game source" feature, the OBS game capture performs much better and is generally even better than using DXTory to capture your games. OBS also has a fast single-window capture mode and supports high speed full screen capture on Windows 8. The program is designed with performance in mind and written entirely in C++ with no fancy UI or other bloat. Some functions like color space conversion and blending are offloaded to the GPU to further minimize CPU use.
I've been encouraging streamers to switch to OBS for some time, and many people report better frame rates and reduced CPU usage compared to xsplit. The TL Dota 2 team and some of our SC2 players are also streaming with OBS full time now. If you're interested in trying it out, check out obsproject.com for downloads. If you're new to OBS, be sure to stop by the great support forum for some good setup guides.