Once and for all: MKV to MP4

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by rgomes, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. rgomes macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2010
    What's the best tool to convert MKWs to MP4s (to be played on ATV2)?

    I've used Handbrake for years and it works well but it seems long to encode.

    I tried MP4 Tools and that was quicker but not sure if I am choosing the correct settings.

    From MP4 Tools:

    Should I be choosing "Pass-Thru" under the audio section even though it is solid Red? "If Red, the option is not recommended".

    If I choose AC3 5.1 I don't get an audio.

    I've been selecting Pass- Thru and it seems to work okay but just wondering if I am losing any sound quality....

    Thanks for any help!
  2. hafr macrumors 68030

    Sep 21, 2011
    iFlicks or iVI depending on which one you like better. That's it. No more answers required.
  3. dogbertd macrumors member


    Nov 10, 2011
    Dundee, Scotland, UK
    I tried all sorts of things to convert MKV to MP4 and, like you, I found Handbrake to be good, but incredibly slow.

    I then found Subler, which, rather than re-encoding, simply remuxes the video & audio. This can convert an MKV into an Apple TV2-ready MP4 file in a few minutes. It's not terribly intuitive (recommend reading the online manual at http://code.google.com/p/subler/wiki/UsingSubler ) but this is worth trying.
  4. Seamaster macrumors 65816


    Feb 24, 2003
    Elgato's Turbo.264 HD is faster and simpler to use than Handbrake. Handbrake produces slightly better quality conversions, but the difference is so marginal is not worth the additional time and complexity, IMO.
  5. hafr macrumors 68030

    Sep 21, 2011
    Have either of you tried iVI or iFlicks?
  6. lhjelm macrumors newbie

    Nov 7, 2011
    iFlicks or iVI

    I agree with hafr, iFlicks or iVI is the way to go.

    I use iFlicks since it's less strict when it comes to converting XVID files. iVI fallback to re-encoding if it can't convert with 100% certainty.
  7. Gjwilly macrumors 68030

    May 1, 2011
    SF Bay Area
  8. rgomes thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2010
    Okay, thanks for the links.

    Downloaded the trial version of iVI and liked the interface. Wasn't crazy about the interface of iFlicks but didn't give it that heavy a look.

    I tried a test conversion of a 60min MKV (720p) file into MP4 format using iVI. It took approximately 32 minutes on normal default settings.

    I tried the same MKV file in MP4 tools and it was done in less than 7 minutes.

    Not sure what the time difference is.

    I know Handbrake would have taken about the same time as iVI.

    What is one doing that the other is not?

    My goal is to output the highest audio/picture quality on Apple TV 2.

    Any input is helpful....
  9. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    In terms of encoding speed vs. quality things seem somewhat clouded in this thread.

    Here are the facts:

    elgato turbo : has a hardware accelerator that worked well on macs up through g4 maybe g5 in terms of a speed boost (offloaded the encoding to the turbo h.264 device). however .... the biggest boost is that its software uses very watered down h.264 options which make the settings very fast. Basically iirc in a nutshell using the same settings on a C2D mac ... elgato vs. HB (again "Same Settings") the HB x264 encoder was as fast or faster just using the c2d's cpu. Any setup better than a c2d hb (x624) is faster again, same options and therefore quality.

    iVI uses the HandBrake CLI for h.264 encoding (albeit an older one than HB 0.9.6) therefore ... same settings .... at best a wash on speed vs. quality.

    IFlicks, not really sure in terms of transcoding.

    Subler: Written by one of the best HB devs ritsuka. Fantastic but does not transcode video. But is a fantastic remuxer.

    Any of these programs (besides HB) when it is just remuxing (remixing the video and audio track into a new container) is *much* faster than actually transcoding video (which is what slows HB down as its only a transcoder, not a remuxer).

    *If* you can be sure your MKVs Video and Audio tracks are compatible for the device you want (atv3, iPad 3, etc etc.) and *just* need to be in an mp4 container ... then just remux via subler ,etc. it will be much faster than actually re-encoding the video.

    If you want to re-encode the video and properly sync it to the audio and have it compliant for sure (including framerates and decombing any combed frames). There is no shortcut. And I can GUARANTEE you that all settings being equal there is no faster h.264 encoder than x264 used in hb. ... and yes, that definitely includes any QuickTime based encoders.

    Remember the old addage for video encoding : Speed, Size, Quality .. Pick two. ;)
  10. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Thank you for that summary!!!

    There really is no better transcoder/remuxer/metadata tagger combo out there than Handbrake/Subler. Believe me, I've tried most of them and all of the ones mentioned above (a few multiple times, thinking I just did not get it). And on top of that, both are free and easy to use.
  11. dynaflash, Apr 16, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012

    dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Well, its quite possible. Realize this, ritsuka is a HB dev, did a lot of work on HandBrake and when the project decided to stop scope creep at massive tagging and remuxing and concentrate on its best attribute, encoding ... ritsuka was good enough to fill in the blanks as it were with a small but wickedly powerful app of his own ... Subler. It originally picked up where HB left off (though HandBrake does have chapter title capabilites) with advanced subtitle muxing (hence the name) but as he went on and with some input from others (including other HB devs) it became *much* more than a subtitle muxer. Including phenomenal tagging and remuxing almost any mkv track into a *compliant* mp4. Both Subler and HandBrake user the libmp4v2 muxer for mp4's. Subler kind of takes off where HB leaves off. As it were.

    Just a bit of background ... not that it really matters. :)

    Edit: for those that don't know though ... Subler is mac only.
  12. rgomes thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2010
    I guess that's where my ignorance sets in -- not knowing the difference between what transcoding vs encoding vs remuxing is.

    I simply want to convert MKVs (x.264) into something that I can watch through my ATV2. I suppose I just need to "remux" and in that case MP4 Tools or Subler should suffice?

    I am not sure when I would need to transcode video?

    Thanks for enlightening us! (or at least me!)

    So, my new question might be -- what's the best Remuxer? Stick with Subler?
  13. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    If all tracks of the MKV file are Apple TV-ready, then Subler could be your solution. If you need anything else*, then I've found MP4Tools to be excellent.


    * Anything else: You need a DTS audio track to be converted to AC-3. You need to add an AAC track to go with the existing AC-3 track. You need to do both of the above, etc.
  14. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Encode == Transcode for this purpose.

    Apple devices in general cannot playback DTS audio. Most MKV's found in the wild have DTS. Depending on the IOS device (atv3, iPad3, Ipod Touch, Iphone) they will all playback h.264 video ... but ... that does not mean at the "level" that is found in your MKV. So, basically if your want to just remux (remix) the existing audio and video into a new mp4 container ... you must take your chances or know what the tracks are in your source ahead of time and know that they will work for your target device/platform.

    Or you can transcode (encode) it so you know it will work.

    Most advanced users can tell but still it can get tricky. Depends on what your source is and where it comes from.

    Pretty much a subject for another thread. I painted with *very* broad strokes.
  15. rgomes thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2010
    That's where my dilemma begins. When I work in MP4 Tools, and I load up a MKV, in the audio section, the PASS-THRU selection turns Red (and the program recommends you DO NOT choose this option). Should I be choosing AAC (5.1) or AC3 (5.1)?

    Now, under the video tab, Pass-Thru or H.264 (Pass 1) or H.264 (Pass 2)?

    Or, are you all telling me just to transcode to avoid any conflicts?
  16. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    First of all, remuxing with MP4Tools should only take a few minutes, so a little experimentation on your part should not be out of the question.

    I generally build for Apple TV, so first I make sure that I choose Apple TV in the Device pulldown.

    If you load up a movie with a DTS audio track and choose audio pass-thru, that selection is going to turn red because the Apple TV can't play it. Choose AC3 (5.1) and check the box that says 'add 2-Ch. Track', as the Apple TV expects a 2-channel AAC track at a minimum, with an optional AC3 track.

    Likewise, if you load up a video track that the Apple TV can't play, then video pass-thru will be red (in this case I would revert to Handbrake because I understand its transcoding abilities). The MKVs that I have created in the past have all had video compatible with the Apple TV so I've always used pass-thru.

    In the end, your goal is to always use pass-thru if you can and never transcode unless you have to. Sometimes, especially with audio, there's no avoiding it.

  17. Zudeo macrumors member


    Jul 29, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    Thank you!!!

    Thanks to the OP, and thank you to those who contributed. I just tried Subler and while I have to agree with dogbertd, it makes mkv to mp4 conversion a walk in the park! For roughly a 1:30 hour file on my MBA it took me a half hour, and now it takes mere seconds.

    Mint. :) :D
  18. MacinJosh macrumors 6502a

    Jan 29, 2006
    You wanna walk in the park? Get the latest iFlicks. Ever since ATV3, I haven't re-encoded anything. Just throw in an MKV to iFlicks and it'll re-mux it super fast. It's got awesome tagging and 1080P tag support as well. Much faster and stabler than Subler. Subler is superior when you want to get into the nitty gritty which I seldom do.

    I mean, iFlicks will take any XVID AVIs and remux them without re-encoding if you like!

    MKW? Must be from Finland, lol.
  19. hafr macrumors 68030

    Sep 21, 2011
    Why do people try software once without even going through the settings first? You need to activate pass thru video conversion in iVI.
  20. muledogus macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2009
    I'm new to this stuff too and still don't know what all of the technical stuff is but what works for me is simple. Remux with Subler and test it on my Apple TV. If that didn't work, I run it through handbrake. Then sometimes I can't change metadata on a file in iTunes without a crash and corruption so in that case I'll use Subler again for metadata changes.
  21. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Pretty much my process as well. If I'm ripping from blu-ray, I generally rip with MakeMKV and dump the rip into HB as I prefer a more manageable file size for use with :apple:TV, iPad, or iPhone. Otherwise, remuxing with MP4Tools is a breeze. FWIW, I prefer iDentify for my tagging--also super simple and very quick, especially for entire TV seasons.
  22. skate71290 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2009
    Enable Pass-Through on iVL

    iVl is by far the best as it helps with Meta-Data, and also, if you are using true 720/1080 MKV files then enable Pass-Through and conversion is instant with no quality loss! i love iVl and couldn't recommend it enough
  23. GarrettL1979, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012

    GarrettL1979 macrumors 6502

    Feb 15, 2012
    I'm still a little confused about which audio setting should be selected within make mkv when ripping a blu ray. If I just have a stereo setup, should I select DD 3/2+1? Or something else?

    I plan to convert the mkv using handbrake for viewing on an apple tv 3. Any advise would be much appreciated.
  24. rgomes thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2010
    You can rip Blu-rays on a MAC? I thought MACs didn't support Blu-rays. Man am I out of it. I am assuming you need some kind of external burner? What are people buying and using these days?
  25. benh911f macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    Macs don't natively play Blu-Rays, but yes, with an external drive and a program like MakeMKV, you can rip a BD to an MKV file and play in on the Mac, encode it to put into iTunes and play on ATV, etc.
    Here's the drive I bought a couple months backhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/cr/B004ZCHULQ/ref=aw_d_cr_electronics?qid=1334723673&sr=8-7
    Note: Any negative reviews are mostly from people who thought they were buying a drive that would play BDs, not simply one that reads them.

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