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The Video Format Battles: MKV vs MP4

When it comes to video formats, there are two that stand out: MKV and MP4.

In premise, one differs from the other substantially, even though an end-user might not be able to tell the difference when watching both, as they are equally capable of encoding and delivering video.

In this article, we will cover both in-depth, so that you can understand which serves what purpose and how they differ.

So keep reading to learn more about these video file formats.

About MKV – Matroska Multimedia Container

Matroska Multimedia Container has the file format of MKV. It’s an open-standard free format, which means it is free to use by anyone, anywhere. MKV is very similar to other formats, such as MP4, AVI, etc (they are all container formats). The most common extension for MMC is .mkv for videos with audio and subtitles. However, .mka is for audio-only files, .mk3d for stereoscopic video, and .mks for subtitle files only.

The term Matroska comes from Матрешка, which means nesting doll in Russian. The term is a play on the fact that container format is media within media. The format was first proposed in 2002, which makes it reasonably new. 

Because of this, MKV has features that other formats do not. First and foremost, it supports many various codecs. Next, it supports features for several streams of video, audio, chapters, and subtitles. 

Thus, a single file can show a movie that is dubbed in several languages. The biggest advantage of MKV is the support for AVC/H.264, which is not supported by AVI. This codec is used for HD playback. 

However, the most common encoding in MKV is still x264. It’s an open version of H.264, which is the standard for today. It’s also commonly used in MP4 formats.

Because of the ability of a single file to have several streams of data, the size can be quite large. This is the only downside of the MKV format, which makes it less useful to the average user. However, due to the support of other features, MKV is still beneficial to professional users who need those options.

About MP4 – MPEG-4 Part 14

MPEG-4 Part 14 has the official extension of MP4. MPEG-4 is a definition of compression for visual digital and audio data. It was proposed in 1998 by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). It was developed for a group of video and audio formats with related technologies.

MPEG-4 is used for compression of AV data, CD distribution, voice broadcast, and streaming media. Part 12 was developed by the Apple MOV file and resulted in Part 14, which in fact is the MP4 format. 

This means it can be used to store video and audio data simultaneously. It can also be streamed over the web. MP4 uses specific codecs, such as Advanced Audio Coding that dictate how audio is compressed.

MP4 has no standard codec. Each MP4 file varies on the basis of the codec that is used for compression and video quality. 

Thus, two files can be similar when using the same codec, or entirely different if using different codecs. MP4 can also store subtitles for a video file. MP4 has no concern for how the images are compressed and converted. It is simply concerned with how the data for the audio and video is stored within the file. MP4 can also have metadata, as well as Extensible Metadata Platform information.

Compatability of Platforms

MKV was a commitment to replacing AVI and devoted by a personal team. MP4 was committed to replacing MPG as an industry-standard for next-generation formats. As the standard, MP4 has better compatibility in playback devices and video editing software.

When uploading videos to YouTube, MP4 is of preference. That’s also why mobile devices make use of MP4 more often. You can play MP4 on a variety of portable devices, such as iPad, Android phones, iPhones, etc – without any limitation. 

On a mobile device, if you have downloaded a third-party player, you might be able to play the MKV format.

Audio/Video Support

The primary standard for MP4 is H.264/MPEG4/Xvid + MP3/AAC. MKV has FLAC lossless audio, which is better than any other audio format. 

MP4 can support ALAC lossless, but it’s significantly less efficient than FLAC. MKV also supports subtitle customization via SSA/ASS, and selectable audio tracking. When ripping a CD, people always prefer to rip to MKV, because it can keep the tracks selectable, which MP4 cannot do.

That’s really useful for people who are ripping CDs to deliver to a broader audience and allow them to watch content in their native tongue.

Quality Production

Even though MKV has a greater file size than MP4, primarily because of audio tracks, subtitle tracks, and other features, this does not mean that the quality of MP4 is worse. 

Because both are container formats, and they can be encapsulated the same audio and video, they are equally the same in many cases. 

For instance, both can be encoded with x.264 and AAC, if the settings are equal in all retrospect, the audio and video quality will be entirely identical. In any case, you can always learn how to convert MKV to MP4.

Formats Done Right

Now that you know the differences between MKV and MP4, you are well on your way to determine which is better for you. In any regard, both serve a purpose and are great at doing so. 

If you’re interested in similar tech-related articles, feel free to check out our filtered categories at the top of the page.

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Lakisha Davis
Lakisha Davis
Lakisha Davis is a 20-year-old business studies student who enjoys watching tv shows, stealing candy from babies, and listening to the radio. She is creative and friendly, but can also be very boring and a bit selfish.
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