Simple lossless conversion of mkv files (Matroska) to mp4

Explorer ,
Dec 27, 2016 Dec 27, 2016

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Various threads complain about Premier's inability to import or handle mkv files (also known as Matroska files),

and/or suggest Handbrake as the best software for converting mkv files to mp4 files.

However, the "Handbrake" package recodes things, and confronts users with thousands of options,

with little or no explanation of what those options are, and mean, and do.

So, there is a much, MUCH simpler way to convert mkv files into mp4 files that can be readily handled by Premier,

with >> NO << loss of quality in the video stream.

I discovered it here:

How to quickly convert MKV to MP4 file using VLC?

and have tried it with several test files, showing that it works reliably and consistently.

Basic trick is to realize that both mkv and mp4 files are "container" files, which combine a video stream, and an audio stream (plus any subtitle, metadata, or other streams as well), in a way that keeps them synchronized.

The mkv files contain the "ac" class of audio files, while mp4 files contain mp3 audio files.

The kind and clever folks at VLC (= Video LAN Co.) have incorporated a simple converter, into their free VLC package.

For anyone not familiar with it, VLC is probably the best, simplest, fastest any-and-all-formats video player, anywhere, and it is available in both 32 and 64 bit versions, for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, etc, here:

VideoLAN - Official page for VLC media player, the Open Source video framework!

So, to convert an mkv file into an mp4 file, with no loss in video quality, here's a step-by-step.

It might seem complicated, but if you use it once or twice, it becomes easy and intuitive.

1. Open/load VLC, with no media playing in it.

2. In the main menu select "Media", then  "Convert / Save"

3. When the new window opens, click "Add" button, and choose your mkv file.

4. Click "Convert/Save" button. and when the new window opens, choose, "Convert", name your destination folder and file, and select the profile you want, which probably will be:

"Video - H.264 + MP3 (MP4)"

5. Click on the toolkit icon (i.e., the wrench and screwdriver).

When THAT new window opens, click on the "Video codec" tab.

Make sure "Video" button stays clicked, and click "Keep original video track". THAT step is the key to the LOSSLESS feature.

6. Click on "Save", then choose the audio codec tab, choose the "MP3" option for the codec.

Choose any quality setting you want.

If you match or exceed the bitrate of the original source, you should not have any annoying (or even noticeable) loss in resulting sound quality.

7. Save those settings, which will take you back to the "Convert and Save" window.

8. Click Start, and let it work. You can see the progress, in the small bar along the bottom of the VLC window.

You can choose to watch a video preview while it grinds through the process, or not. I choose not to.

When I ran it (64 bit Windows, 3.5 Ghz machine), it took less than a minute for 20-minute segments.

9. Check the result, in whatever folder/filename you saved it.

If you absolutely cannot get it to work, I would suggest:

(1) unclick the audio box entirely, so that you will get a naked "video only" stream, in one run;

(2) unclick the video box, and get a naked "audio only" stream, in a second run, and

(3) use Premier, to re-combine those two streams, if that is what you want.

Feel free to make comments here, or at the blog page which is linked above.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 27, 2016 Dec 27, 2016

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Thanks for posting this, I've already copied it into my "help" file here for this question. It doesn't come up often, but does at times. Personally, after looking up the mkv filetype and reading about the nature of the files, I've been rather surprised that more companies including Adobe haven't built in usability of that Matroska wrapper. It's rather a nifty tool in the tool box of codecs, and way under-utilized.

Neil

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New Here ,
Apr 01, 2018 Apr 01, 2018

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I tried this, but the quality was reduced.

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 06, 2018 Jun 06, 2018

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I've had no problem with using MKV files in Premiere, except that they come in without audio. 95% of the time I'm using different sound anyway, so no biggy, but for the 5% I want the native audio (not to mention being able to use it to help find my place while editing) it's been a pain. I suspected I would have to convert the files, but was worried about loss of quality & which Handbrake settings would work best.

After endless googling for every variation on "no sound mvk in premiere" I could find, I found my way here. Sadly, follwing the instructions left me with an appropriately-sized MP4 file, that will not play in VLC at, but will import into Premiere with the same quality... but still w/o audio. 😞

But I was able to use the technique to rip a clean mp3 audio from the MKV so I can recombine them in Premiere. Not ideal, but completely doable--especially as deadlines are currently looming. Thank you!

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New Here ,
Aug 02, 2018 Aug 02, 2018

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I tried the method but also faced the problem of quality loss. I searched online for a long time to fix the problem and tried HD Video Converter Factory Pro to convert my MKV files to MP4 with its original quality. This program surprised me. It equipped with powerful functions and easy to use, even for novice like me.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 03, 2018 Aug 03, 2018

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pdk-midwest  wrote

Various threads complain about Premier's inability to import or handle mkv files (also known as Matroska files),

and/or suggest Handbrake as the best software for converting mkv files to mp4 files.

However, the "Handbrake" package recodes things, and confronts users with thousands of options,

with little or no explanation of what those options are, and mean, and do.

Handbrake lets you make lossless files, the are huge but still.....

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Aug 03, 2018 Aug 03, 2018

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On that matter, it is also easy to demux mkv files and remux them into mp4 using ffmeg :

ffmpeg -i myvideo.mkv -c:v copy -c:a copy myvideo.mp4

ffmpeg is an open source command line utility to mux/remux/convert video and audio files. There are various GUI if you're not familiar with command lines on mac/pc/linux.

The line above will change the video container from matroska to mpeg4, keeping the original audio and video tracks intact.

Hope this helps too.

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New Here ,
Nov 05, 2018 Nov 05, 2018

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yenaphe You legend! Thanks for sharing - this is brilliant, just what I needed to get MKVs into After Effects!

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New Here ,
Nov 20, 2021 Nov 20, 2021

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I've used this tool in the past to separate out AC3 streams on a Mac. I'll give it a whirl.

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New Here ,
Nov 27, 2021 Nov 27, 2021

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I'm guessing this somewhat bunglesome procedure must've worked for somebody in 2016, but it's of utterly no use to anybody today. I precisely followed these instructions several times, just to make sure, and none of the methods outlined above worked as of Nov. 27, 2021. If, as I suspect, this has to do with some kind of fresh DRM hell, I would remind Adobe we're long past the days when MKV was the preferred instrument of Russian pirates. Matroska Video is now widely used by many legitimate enterprises such as NASA, which  routinely uses the format to containerize their ISS EVA videos, which is what brings me here today. Adobe is the 800 pound gorilla of video processing. Why they can't be bothered to upgrade their otherwise excellent Media Encoder to handle MKV files is a question to which there is no logical answer.  Come on, ladies, this is ridiculous. As much as we pay annually for the entire suite of Adobe utilities, it really is the least you could do. 

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