Brief summary of video files and how to "convert" some without re-encoding


Denoted by the file extension and often mistaken for being a "Video format". They "contain" video and audio streams encoded with various formats. This is why you may encounter a video that you cannot play even though it's the same file extension you've always used.

File extension



Seems to be the most common file you'll see online when downloading videos, probably because it's freely licensed and not encumbered with patents They're named "Matroska" from the Russian hollow dolls that open to reveal another smaller doll

Often contains the high definition h.264 video codec and audio channels encoded in Dolby Digital AC-3 (but not always)


From the same people who invented MP3

Contains high definition h.264 video with AAC audio channels

Playable on the vast majority of devices


Made by Microsoft and popularized in the 90s Usually not suitable for portable high definition


Evolved out of a hacked version of AVI

High definition DIVX used MKV containers to separate themselves from .divx extension I used to avoid MKVs years ago because of this, since at that time not many devices supported DIVX and attempting to install codecs led to malware and phishing attempts


The purpose of this is to understand that it's super easy (barely an inconvenience) to get that MKV to play on your iPhone or whatever. The vast majority of MKV video today actual contains the the exact same video and audio codecs that are found in the near universal MP4 video files, you simply have to "remux" those MKV into MP4 which barely uses any CPU resources (as opposed to re-encoding an entire video).