How to Convert MKV to MP4 on Mac OS X

A lot of video online is being distributed in MKV format (aka “Matroska Video”).  Not knowing anything about this format, I did a search for ways to convert this to MP4 for the AppleTV/MacMini/iTunes family, but found mostly Windows-based or command-line utilities.

Then this forum discussion popped up, and pointed me to a very cool solution that I had to share.

Basically, you can do it with Quicktime Pro, but only if you download this free extension to Quicktime that adds support for a large number of video formats.

The magic free extension, which is distributed as a System Preference panel file, is called Perian, the Swiss Army Knife for Quicktime. Quick download, mount disk image, double-click on preference panel file, and you are ready to convert.

Once you have Perian, you just open the MKV file with Quicktime, and export it to either MP4 (with specific settings), or use the AppleTV or iPod export settings.  That’s it, really.

This blog had a wonderful, detailed step-by-step process, with screenshots.  I found it invaluable.

Hope this helps.  The only downside to this is that it really is only practical for MKV files out there that already use H.264 for encoding, and that have settings compatible with iTunes.  So far, I’m finding that most do, but your mileage may vary. Also, it takes Quicktime Pro about 30 minutes to convert a 2 minute movie on my PowerMac G5, Dual-2.5Ghz.  So this isn’t really practical with full length pictures unless you are willing to leave it running for hours.

Let me know if you have a better solution.

Update (10/5/2008): The blog that had the instructions is now gone.  There is a new solution posted on tehparadox.com.

Update (12/13/2008): Thanks to the comment below for a pointer to MKVTools 2.1.  Looks like a new alternative for MKV to MP4 without re-encoding.

Update (01/04/2009): Stop everything.  There is a much better solution now.  Handbrake 0.93 lets you specify an MKV file as a source, and then lets you convert to a variety of outputs.  I’m not sure if it introduces any unnecessary compression, but given Handbrake’s reputation, I’d be surprised if they re-encoded when not necessary.  Check it out and post here if you have issues.

Update (11/27/2009): Handbrake 0.9.4 is now out, and it handles MKV to MP4 translation flawlessly.  I highly recommend it.  No other solution comes close for ease of use or quality.  And it’s free.

69 thoughts on “How to Convert MKV to MP4 on Mac OS X

  1. Adam — have you tried using ffmpegX or VisualHub.. or MPEG StreamClip?

    I just tested VisualHub, and it seems like the one you want to use. It has drop-down settings for Apple TV and Apple TV 5.1. On my Mac Pro Quad, 37 minutes for an hour-long program.

  2. I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful – not to mention easy – the QuickTime convert was. All I needed was Perian. I have tried the ffmpegX, and it is messy and hard to understand sometimes. I work on a Mac, and this helps out my projects soooooooooooooooooo much. Thank you for sharing your process.

  3. I can open MKV fils with QT Pro and Perian but cannot export them to another format, Sad. VisualHub can make the conversion.

  4. I used Visual Hub to try to convert a saved .mov file that was originally opened in QT Pro as a .mkv file. QT Pro stalls trying to export the .mkv file and trying to convert to mp4 in Visual Hub leads the minutes remaining indicator to go ridiculously high and never finish. This file also has a subtitles track so maybe that’s the issue but if anyone could enlighten me, great.

  5. Use VLC, choose “File”, then “Streaming/Exporting Wizard”

    If you do not choose to transcode the video, you can just select another container instead of .mkv.

    But most likely you need to transcode the audio.

  6. Just for fun I tried to convert some .mkv files in iSquint. It seems to work very well without any extra effort. The only thing I have noticed is that the frame-rate of the converted file seems lower (video is choppy)
    Still, in a pinch, iSquint did the job, best of all, the program is free =)

  7. YES. a simple easy solution none of this termnal stuff and no reconverting either.
    all along i have been using vlc player and never new it was able to remux and change the container format . so here we have a possible solution to the lack of mkvtovob program for windows
    i have only just found this out and havent tested it yet but the guy that wrote this says it works fine . this is based around getting the file to work on a ps3
    (taken from a forum)

    1. Get VLC.
    2. Open up the streaming and transcoding wizard (its under the file menu).
    3. Click transode/save to file press next.
    4. Then select your stream, press next.
    5. On the Transcode page make sure none of the options are on, turn them off if they are. You don’t want to transcode your just remuxing. Press next.
    6. Chose MPEG PS, press next.
    7. Chose your save destination, press next.
    8. Check if the details a correct and press finish, then wait while it does it business.

    This works on PC and Macs, all you have to do is then transfer it to your PS3.

  8. Awesome, danials solution works perfect, unfortuntately the resulting files are quicktime compatible, but work fine in VLC and to my PS3 (via ushare uPnP server).
    Thanks!

  9. The text (not images though) of the original blog mentioned on this page with instructions on how to user Perian was still available on the Wayback pages at this URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20071231013046/http://blog.kifr.net/2007/12/convert-mkv-to-mp4-with-your-mac.html . Maybe Adam can strip out the text and include it as an update on his blog since the original page is no longer hosted. Also, I found another independent tool called MKVtools 2.1 that will convert from a .mkv file to an .mp4 file with pass-through, meaning that the video and audio don’t need to be resampled.

  10. I tried the Handbrake option and it did not work. Handbrake kept quitting “unexpectedly”. It recognized the file type but could not rip it to m4v.

  11. Handbrake 0.9.3 is bugged like hell on Core Duo 2 Apple computers. Don’t expect anything from Handbrake untill a new and better version is released.

  12. Sigh…Here are my findings with an MKV that contains multiple audio tracks, subtitles, and video in h264…

    iSquint / VirtualHub only support 1 audio track and no chapters… thus these apps have only rudimentary support of the file formats they claim to support. Hardly a 1st or even 2nd class solution.

    VLC transcoding resulted in corrupt file (as .mpg or .mp4).

    Handbrake, didn’t detect the chapters correctly; shows only 1 chapter, despite the file having discrete chapters. Worse, doesn’t do pass through (http://forum.handbrake.fr/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=9179)

    Quicktime + Perian; won’t open the file, says unrecognized for some reason (i don’t have other mkv files to test).

    Trying with the as of yet unmentioned RoadMovie, crashed RoadMovie.

    Also looked at a few other paid apps, but all had the same shortcomings of VirtualHub (rudimentary file format support).

    Am amazed good tools for creating full mp4 files, with subs and multiple tracks, doesn’t exist. Also am amazed me that someone would write a tool, but then not completely support the file format they claim to be a solution for. From what I’ve seen, most couldn’t “bother” to use existing Mac UI instead of rolling their own (worse) version, such I can’t be bothered to buy their app.

    • Hello, I agree with you.
      In fact, I am now using Pavtube MKV Converter and I am satisfied with it. The reason is that their after-sale service is good.
      After I purchasing the program, thier support center delivered an email for greeting and helping. How warm and kind!
      So I think when choosing an appropriate program for ourselves, we should consider not only its quality, functions, but also its after-sale service.
      By the way, its quality is good and there is no spyware.

      So why not go to http://www.pavtube.com/mkv-converter-mac/ to check?

  13. Quit posting solutions for Windows people. Read the title of the article. For those of you that actually wrote about OS X thanks.

  14. Handbrake definitely decodes then re-encodes the movie. I would advise against using it for this purpose! You also won’t get subtitles transferred or chapters. Hope that helps!

  15. Handbrake definitely needs a refresh to better support MP4… soft sub support, faster encoding (discontinued VisualHub is like 50% faster at encodes), auto batching (use 1st instance of lang X) etc.

  16. omg!!! tnx a lot it reallly helps… and because of that i dont need to have a hard time looking for a free direct show tool ^^ tnx a lot!

  17. When I try to use the quicktime solution with certain MKV files it won’t let me select the “pass through” option for the video. Is there any other option that still works for the PS3 but doesn’t screw up the quality too much? I only seem to run into this problem with larger files. I’ve tried using handbrake and exporting through VLC as mentioned above but I always end up with files that can’t be read by my PS3. Please help!

  18. VideoMonkey has risen from the ashes of VisualHub… a little rough around the edges (in alpha & still missing some features), yet for basic [any video -> iTunes] conversion it is already very sweet, and OMG is the latest version fast! Faster than any other conversion utility i’ve seen.

    http://videomonkey.org/

  19. Apple Mac Video Converter is an excellent video converter which can convert video formats from one to another with perfect output quality and high conversion speed for Mac OS X users. It supports all popular video formats including FLV, MKV, WMV, ASF, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MP4, 3GP, 3G2, MOV, AVI, etc. This video converter also supports audio extraction and audio to audio conversion, like MP3, MP2, MKA, M4A, AAC, AC3, etc.

    The output videos and audios can be put on PSP, iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, Blackberry, Zune, Creative Zen, iRiver, mobile phone or other popular digital devices for your enjoyment.

    Import converted files to some popular applications like QuickTime, iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, etc. on Mac OS X. Video Converter for Mac Lets you upload converted video to YouTube, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, etc. for sharing with others.

    http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/video/tanbeevideoconverterformac.html

    [b]How to convert videos on Mac OS X?[/b]

    * Step 1: Load video/audio files to be converted – Click “Add File” button to import files, will be shown in the file list..
    * Step 2: Select the ouput format – Click Profile drop-down button, select an output format for selected files in the drop down list that opens.
    * Step 3: Advanced Setting – To adjust output settings, you can set the detailed parameters of output format.
    * Step 4: Edit your videos – Click “Trim”, “Crop” or “Effect” button to edit Videos.
    * Step 5: Converting – Click “Convert” button to start converting.

  20. Handbrake is probably your best option. The newer versions will only convert to MP4s, which are playable on your PS3. Older versions converted to AVI and are out there on the net if you Google enough :]

    I”ve heard of some people having success simply renaming .mkv files to .avi or .mp4. MKVs aren’t necessarily different types of files, they’re just containers with more options for mencoder/ffmpeg/divx files. I *think* higher quality video encoders are starting to use MKV because it has the option of including more dynamic menus/subtitles all packaged within the file. But if the file is simply a divx video enclosed in an mkv, renaming it might work.

    There’s also PS3 media server, which will stream and encode almost any kind of video on the fly from your computer to your PS3. Hi def video can be a little bumpy if your processor isn’t up to encoding it fast enough to watch, though.

  21. what i use is brorsoft MKV converter which is easy and fast to use.
    i like brorsoft because the following reasons:
    1)it can convert MKV to almost all other video formats,like avi,mp4,wov,mav,tod,mod,hd,vob,acc,flac,acf and so on.
    2)it has wonderful editing functions such as crop,trim,watermark with text,image and special effects.

  22. Does anybody know how to convert MKV on a mac with soft subs inside it: to an mp4 or m4v with those subs hardcoded into it? Because Handbrake wont let me do that. I am watching Japanese fansubs and I neeeed the soft subs from the mkv to be hardcoded into the mp4 because well,. my Japanese sucks.

  23. No one has answered Madison’s question and I really want an answer to it as well. Reposting:

    Does anybody know how to convert MKV on a mac with soft subs inside it: to an mp4 or m4v with those subs hardcoded into it? Because Handbrake wont let me do that. I am watching Japanese fansubs and I neeeed the soft subs from the mkv to be hardcoded into the mp4 because well,. my Japanese sucks.

    • zac & Madison
      Use MKVtools to extract the subs (.srt) then you can use Handbrake to convert, selecting the ripped sub file to be hardcoded during conversion. There are other apps that will do the final stage as well but Handbrake is the fastest by a long shot.

  24. Pingback: Psychohistory: 2010 in Review « Psychohistory

  25. Yay!
    Thanks… I had some of these
    such as handbreak and MKVtools, but when I reformatted, I could not for the life of me remember what they were called.

  26. Why not try Bigasoft MKV Converter for Mac which can convert MKV, HD MKV (720p MKV, 1080p MKV) to AVI, MP4, MPEG-4, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, WMV, FLV, 3GP, 3GPP, WebM, DivX AVI.

    With it, you can easily import MKV video to iMovie, Final Cut for further edit, upload MKV video to YouTube, insert MKV into PowerPoint, play MKV on all kinds of portable players and more.

    For more info at http://www.bigasoft.com/mkv-converter-mac.html?xada

    • I subscribed to this thread almost one year ago and I believe I can provide a stop to it once and for all. It might not be a solution to everyone’s problem but it was to mine.

      http://www.mirovideoconverter.com/

      There it is people. A free application that I just used to convert an .mkv file to an .mp4 file and it plays perfectly on my PS3. You’re welcome.

  27. A little piece of advice if going the Handbrake route: when compressing 25GB Bluray MKV rips down to 5-8GB M4Vs, you need to check the “Large file support” option. AFAICT, what this does is use 64-bit ints instead of 32-bit, thus allowing the entire file to be addressable.

    If you don’t do this, neither Plex nor Boxee (nor, I think, iTunes) can play the resulting m4v. You will know that you messed up when the file, in Finder, does not show up as a preview thumbnail.

    Hopefully this can save someone 6-12 hours of encoding time.

  28. I started using the tool Subler for making my MKV files to MP4.
    It doesnt make a real conversation but builts the mp4 via passthru, wich is a lot faster that converting it via Handbrake e.g.

    Subler is originally made for adding subtitles to movies but by this method i get an 90min Movie done to mp4 in about 20 Minutes. (and I only use Dual 2,4 MBP 13″)

    http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/31647/subler

  29. Thanks, Adam. This is exactly what I needed to know and I’m glad I didn’t have to spend the next 30 minutes digging through dead-end forum posts to get the information.

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