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M4V vs MKV: How to Choose Between Them?

By Kelsi Gillan

June 04, 2020

Knowing different types of video formats can actually save you a lot of time and energy when you want to rip videos or use them for your own projects.


Take M4V and MKV as examples, they are two common formats that many people encounter. Do you know the exact difference between these formats? Are you curious about how to choose M4V and MKV when it comes to compression and storage? In this post, let's investigate the comparison of these two formats to optimize your video encoding.



CONTENT


Part 1. M4V vs MKV: Video Formats Explained

What is MKV?

Matroska Multimedia Container, better known as MKV, is an open standard free container format extended from MCF (Multimedia Container Format) and EBML (Extensible Binary Meta Language).


This format is named after the Russian traditional stacking dolls. As its name suggested, MKV is able to contain different codecs and additional information. Video streams, audio, picture, or subtitles tracks can be all included in an MKV file. It has become a popular video format after Windows announced plans to support the format in 2014.


    Pros

  • It supports lossless quality.

  • It can achieve high compression.

  • It has high flexibility.

  • Cons

  • It may not be available with some devices.

  • It is often considered to be more complicated to use than common formats like AVI or MP4.


What is M4V?

M4V is a container format mostly used in iTunes videos and attached to Apple's copy protection. If you are familiar with MP4 format, then you can quickly get to know M4V format as the two formats are quite similar to each other. That said, M4V format can store multiple video and audio streams and many other types of media in one file. Besides, Handbrake uses it as the default video conversion format.


    Pros

  • It can work with AC3 tracks, SRT subtitles, and chapter markers.

  • It is also of high quality and flexible to use.

  • Cons

  • The DRM-encrypted M4V file is not highly accepted by many software and devices.


Part 2. M4V vs MKV: Their differences

To help you directly understanding the two formats, the following is all the differences between M4V and MKV that you may be curious about.

MKV

M4V

Extension Name

.mkv

.m4v

Owner/Creator

CoreCodec, Inc

Apple Inc

Video coding formats support

H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC), H.265, MPEG-2 Video and VP3 (Vorbis)

H.264 (AVC)

Audio coding formats support

MP3, FLAC, ALAC, AC3, AAC, DTS, or PCM

MP3, AAC, AC3, and others

Additional Features supported

chapters, metadata, 3D, Closed caption, soft subs

chapters, closed caption, soft subs

Supported Media Players

Mainstream media players like VLC.

QuickTime Player (if it is DRM-protected)

Supported Devices

The format is not friendly to portable devices.

Apple's own devices such as iPhone, iPad, iPod, and etc.


Part 3. M4V and MKV, Which is Better for Your Video?

You may find it confusing on how to choose a video format for your output video. Well… Whether to choose M4V or MKV largely depends on your usage of the video because both of them are file containers but not encoding methods. A container enables you to choose and combine different codecs, essentially video codec, audio codec, and subtitles, in the same file.


Before you decide which container to use and compress your video content for viewing or video making, perhaps you can consider about three aspects, video quality, file size, and compatibility.

M4V vs MKV


For Video Converting and Viewing

If the video content is majorly for viewing, then video quality should be your focus, as you may want a lossless video with sharp color and noticeable details. But remember, the quality of a video file is actually determined by the quality of your source. If your video stream or audio stream is of low quality, then your viewing experience will not be desirable no matter if you choose MKV or M4V.


However, when it comes to flexibility, as you may see in the comparison chart above, MKV offers wider support for audio and video formats than M4V. In addition, MKV is open source. Using the MKV container can get your video near-lossless. And therefore, picture details can be retained and easily perceived. The downside is obvious as well. The more the details, the larger the file size.


In terms of compatibility, it seems that both MKV and M4V are restrictive. One thing is certain that M4V runs perfectly on Apple's devices. So, if you wish to play your videos on Apple products, just stick with M4V. And if you are inclined to use video players like VLC or PotPlayer to play your files, then MKV is the way to go.

For Video Editing

For those who primarily use the video content for editing, the decision should be easy to make. Unprotected M4V files are more user-friendly than MKV files. Popular video editing software such as Adobe Premiere supports importing M4V footage but not working with MKV. Probably it is due to that MKV is still in its initial stages of evolution. As a result, M4V shows a good advantage if you have the need for video editing.


What is more, comparing with MKV, M4V file dimensions are reasonably small. Therefore, if the platform supports the format, M4V should be a preferable choice for uploading to a video sharing platform after editing.


Conclusion

After all, whether you should go with M4V or MKV depend dramatically on your personal preferences and your purpose of using it. If you want an apple-compatible video and all you plan to use is h.264 codec, then can't go wrong with M4V. And if you prefer high quality in the end and don't care about file size, choose MKV.


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