Back in the old days of the internet, before the enormous crackdown on piracy, downloading digital video files could be a minefield. Navigating fields of file extensions, any of which could hide viruses or malware, was a serious hassle. If your preferences lay with foreign media, you’d often see MKV files lining such sites.
What are MKV files? What can you do with them? How do you open, play, and convert them to other file formats? These questions and more, we’ll answer below.
What Is an MKV File?
First things first, what is an MKV file? MKV files are something of an anomaly among video file extensions, as they contain video, audio, and subtitles. They can do this because they are not, in truth, audiovisual compressions. Instead, they act as multimedia containers.
MKV files, also known as Matroska files, got their start in Russia in 2002. By nature, they are open-source and free to download. (This is one of the reasons why the format was so popular on piracy websites.) They’re also future-proofed, which prevents them from becoming outdated and incompatible with programs that can read them.
What Programs Can Open MKV Files?
As we discussed above, MKV files serve as multimedia containers rather than proper video file extensions. So, what programs are capable of opening this type of file? There are two main types: Video editing software and specialized video players.
Video Editing Software
While most mainstream video editing software like Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere doesn’t offer support for the MKV file format, there are some freeware programs that do. These programs include, but are not limited to:
- Wondershare Filmora
- Aimersoft Video Editor
- Movavi Video Editor
Many of these programs are either free, open-source, or both. As such, it makes sense that they would run a file format designed to be open-source.
Specialized Video Players
In order to open files with an MKV extension, you may need specialized video players. While you can find programs that open only the MKV format, it’s better to opt for something that can run multiple types of files that are hard to open.
How Do You Play MKV Files?
Speaking of, how does one play an MKV file? Some of the best methods include:
Download Video Codecs
Video codecs, in essence, allow you to play files that your computer doesn’t run natively using your main video player. The only downside is that these codec packs often come from sites that are infested with viruses and malware. So, make sure that your antivirus protection is up to date before you go this route.
Use VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is a freeware program that’s available for all platforms, both mobile and desktop. This media player can open MKV files, but also runs other hard-to-parse file extensions like OGG files. All you need to do to use it is download the app from the website and install it.
Once it’s installed, run the program. Then, you can drag and drop any MKV file you want to play into it and enjoy.
Use DivX Media Player
Another media player that’s capable of running MKV files is the DivX video software. You can use this program for file conversion, high-quality playback, and simple file playing. As a bonus, it also comes with a program that lets you cast these MKV files to your TV!
To play MKV files with it, you just need to download, install, and run it. Then, click Open Files and track down the MKV files you wish to open. If for some reason, the file won’t work, you can always…
Convert the MKV to Another Format
DivX comes with file conversion options on hand. However, if you decide not to use DivX but still want to play or edit with the MKV file, you might need to convert it to another file format.
How Do You Convert MKV to Other File Formats?
On that subject, how do you convert MKV files to other file formats that your computer or video editing software can parse? You can learn more about converting MKV files to MP4 files specifically from this link. For the other file types, you can:
Use a File Conversion Website
File conversion websites are a godsend for those who deal with tricky file formats on a regular basis. For these websites, you upload your MKV file, which the site’s programming then converts to your chosen format. After that, you re-download the converted file.
The major downside to these websites is that, like codec packs, they can come loaded with malware. Plus, the conversion coding on the site could break the file, preventing it from working properly.
Download a File Conversion Program
The safer alternative to a website, then, is to download a file conversion program. DivX, as we mentioned above, comes with file conversion capabilities by default. However, you can also download other dedicated file converters to get the job done. Freemake and Handbrake are two of the best options for Windows and Mac, respectively.
Re-Render the File in a Compatible Video Editor
While this method is a bit more complicated than straight-up conversion, it can save you the minefield of phony file conversion programs and websites that fills the internet. Using one of the open-source video editing programs above, you can import the MKV file. Then, render the project as a file type that’s compatible with your main media player or video editor.
Let’s Review What You Need to Know About MKV Files
MKV files are future-proofed multimedia containers that contain more metadata than most other video file formats. Because of this, they can be difficult to open. With the right software or a file type conversion, almost any computer can run these exceptional files. Just make sure you’re using legal downloads and a well-tuned antivirus program.
Did you find this article about MKV files informative? Would you like to read more about video file formats and how you can use them today? If so, then check out the Technology section of our blog for more content like this.