Everything you Must Know about the MKV Format

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MKV or Matroska is a project to create a container format capable of holding an unlimited number of audio, video, picture, or subtitle tracks in a single file. It was initially released on 6th December 2002. They’re similar to AVI and MOV files, except they have a more significant amount of storage. MKV is an all-in-one video format.

Windows users can easily play MKV videos on Windows 10 and 11 computers. However, you may run into trouble if you want to play MKV on Mac. This is because macOS does not play MKV files natively, but there are free and paid players like Elmedia Player and Mac Blu-Ray Player to help you run those files.

A Technical Lowdown of the MKV Format

MKV introduces various limitations to the EBML header’s specifications. For instance, the maximum ID length is 4, the document type must be Matroska, and the maximum size must be from 1 to 8.

All the top-level elements must be coded in 4 octets, and they must be per the following principles:

  • Physical types: These mean different things for audio and video files. For example, a ChapterPhysicalEquiv of 60 means VHS, DVD, and laserdisc for video and minidisc, tape, CD, and DAT for audio.
  • Language codes: Matroska’s versions 1 to 3 use language codes with three bibliographic ISO-639-2 form letters and an optional country code. Matroska supports BCP 47 MAY and ISO 639-3 for language codes from version four and up. However, the former is the recommended option.
  • Simple block structure: It is based on the block structure, and the structure adds ‘keyframe’ and ‘discardable’ flags.
  • Lacing: Lacing is a mechanism that saves space when storing data for small data use cases, such as individual frames.
  • Block structure: The block header contains the type of timestamps, lacing, track number, and more.

All Matroska documents must compromise a single EBML document of the Matroska document type. EBML documents start with an EBML header, followed by an EBML root element. It is defined as a segment, and different top-level elements may occur within a segment. The various elements are:

  • EBML header contains the header information of the file, like the document type and more.
  • The EBML document is the file’s wrapper.
  • Seek head defines the position of the segments of the different top-level elements.
  • Segment is the principal element that contains the rest of the high-level aspects.
  • Attachments refer to a component that contains attached files.
  • Tracks describe the various tracks and provide their information.
  • Info offers generic information about the segment.
  • Tags contain metadata describing editions, tracks, attachments, chapters, and overall segments.
  • Chapters define the primary menu and partition information.
  • A cue is an element having the segment’s local entries.
  • The cluster contains the block structure.

Features of the MKV Format

MKV or Matroska is designed with the future in mind. The format incorporates features users would expect from a modern container format. The features are:

  • Chapter entries and fast seeking in the file
  • Full metadata or tags support
  • Modular Expendable and selectable video, subtitle, and audio streams
  • Error resilience and streamable over local networks and the Internet

What are the Pros of Using the MKV Format?

MKV format is considered the best for moving pictures, even though the file size is more significant than other video formats. All the data is neatly combined into a single file so users can enjoy unmatched accessibility.

Other advantages of this format include fast-seeking capabilities, multiple language support, hard and soft-coded subtitle support, chapter/menu/metadata support, and error recovery for playback of corrupted files.

Although the MKV video format seems excellent, it does have a significant drawback. All programs do not support it. Users must use an open-source player like Miro or VLC to view .mkv files.

Despite this, the MKV video format is great if you wish to create videos with multiple subtitles or audio options. It combines everything into an easy-to-use, single file. In addition, most video editors like Adobe Premiere Pro support MKV video files, making it easier to export the entire project.

How is MKV Different from MP4?

MP4 is part of the Motion Picture Expert Group’s video and audio file standards. It is one of the most popular video formats, and MKV has quietly entered the industry and made its mark.

Both formats are different. For instance, MKV is a free standard, and MP4 is a patent-protected format using DRM to restrict copying. The former can store an unlimited number of multimedia content like audio, video, subtitle tracks, and images, but MP4 supports specific video and audio formats and some compression formats.

Although MP4 and MKV can encode the HEVC/H.265 video codec format, the latter supports some codecs that are not allowed in the former.

The Bottom Line

MKV is an up-and-coming video format. Opt for the MKV format if you need high-definition video and do not mind large file sizes.

About the author

Surjo Das

Surjo Das is a Digital Media Publisher and freelance copywriter. He has been working in the publishing industry for over 5 years now, holding various positions at different publishing houses Worldwide. His work experience includes managing marketing campaigns, content development, and website maintenance for various industries including healthcare, IT, finance, and education. He also offers to ghostwrite services to help aspiring authors get their books published while maintaining creative control over the project.

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Surjo Das

Surjo Das is a Digital Media Publisher and freelance copywriter. He has been working in the publishing industry for over 5 years now, holding various positions at different publishing houses Worldwide. His work experience includes managing marketing campaigns, content development, and website maintenance for various industries including healthcare, IT, finance, and education. He also offers to ghostwrite services to help aspiring authors get their books published while maintaining creative control over the project.

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