IMPORTANT NOTE : matroska is a general use container format, and as a result of that MKV files can contain many tracks with different audio and video compression formats. We try to provide most of the necessary decoders in our full playback pack for Microsoft DirectShow, but for some formats we are not allowed to do this because of licensing problems. Typical examples are all codecs of RealNetworks Inc. ( Realvideo, Realaudio, RV 9, RV 10 ) and ON2 ( VP 4, VP 5, VP 6 ). All these formats can be stored fine in MKV files, but for playback it is necessary to have the right decoders installed on your PC. To help all our users to identify the codecs that were used in their MKV files, especially in case when the matroska full pack will not provide the right decoders and the files wont play, we provide a new tool called matroskadiag.exe . The tool will check your MKV file and report if you have the right DirectShow decoder filters installed or not, and point you to the right place where you can obtain the necessary filters, in case they are missing. If your files still dont play, you are likely facing a problem with your DirectShow installation ( too many filters installed ). In this case all we can recommend is a new installation of Windows, or the use of players like VLC ( Videolan ) or Xine, which dont need an underlying framework like DirectShow for movie playback, but will provide decoders for most formats with the player itself.
How to play MKV files on Windows :
In principal you can play matroska files on almost every Mediaplayer on Windows if you have the latest CCCP playback pack from our Download Page installed,as most of these players are based on Microsoft DirectShow (TM). Examples for these basic players, relying on DirectShow only, are
Windows Mediaplayer 6.4/7/8/9/10
But there are several very good players right now who can make more than just support basic playback of matroska files on Windows, but also offer specific support for the more advanced features of it, like
- switching of audio streams without the need for 3rd party filters like
Morgan Stream Switcher
- automatic Aspect Ratio Correction for anamorphic encoded movies
- Reading/Writing matroska tags
The Core Media Team are great supporters of matroska , and they invested a lot of time to help one of our team members, Jory 'Jcsston' Stone, to add specific matroska support with a so-called CDL plugin. Of course, its coming with a built in audio stream switcher. TCMP is currently the only player with support for 'nested chapters' in MKV files.
Using the CDL plugin, the users can currently
- read/write all the available tags in matroska audio and video files, such as title, artist, creation date, etc.
- automatically correct the display aspect ratio depending on the values stored in the video track header, for anamorphic encodings ( like DVDs, SVCDs )
and there are are even more functions planned for the future.
It was a big honour when Fenrir from the Videolan team added matroska support to this player, and more or less over a ( looong ) night. VLC has great streaming possibilities, as it can act as a streaming server also, and is not based on DirectShow. Because of that, it doesnt need installation of any other filters or codecs, as its coming with support for the most used video and audio for-mats already built in. We strongly recommend this player if you don't want to mess with installation of any codec packs or the like, just to be able to play a matroska file a friend has sent to you ;-).
Gabest, the subtitles wizzard, has made a Mediaplayer of his own based on DirectShow also, and he recently added matroska support to it with a self made DirectShow parser filter that will work on all other players named above also, but does allow a few specific functions in conjunction with his player, like switching audio streams, etc..
Important Note : MPC is still a great mediaplayer with excellent matroska support. However, as Gabest doesnt have the time to update the player anymore ( Real Life Issues ;-) ), the internal matroska parser in MPC is outdated. This is not a big problem, just make sure to de-activate the internal matroska parser and subtitles renderer in MPC's advanced settings, so that the external matroska parser from the latest matroska packs will be used. If you don't do this, newer MKV files will maybe not play correctly.
Blight, who made his hobby a profession and is coding this player for his living, recently added specific matroska support to his player ( since ver. 3.30 ), using the possibilities that the newest matroska splitter filter offers via a special, extended 'track info interface', created by Toff from the CorePlayer team. His player now supports AR correction, and has a built in audio stream switcher. Zoomplayer is DirectShow based, like TCMP.
This great Linux player has matroska support meanwhile, thanks to the hard work of thibaut, and is available as a Windows compile also. Other than the VLC guys, its developers will also add support for proprietary formats like RealVideo or ON2, using the specific Windows DLLs. For this very reason, Xine is your first choice if you have to play a MKV file with a proprietary codec, but you dont plan to install any more DirectShow filters than you already have.
Another very good and powerful Linux player with matroska support, for a good while mainly maintained by Mosu himself, and there is a Windows compile also. Also has support for RealVideo and ON2, using the specific Windows DLLs, like Xine, offering a true alternative to using DirectShow players for such MKVs.
Peter Pawlowski, a former member of the winamp development team, has created
his own audio player project, and got a huge group of fans for it meanwhile.
His player has support for almost all existing audio compression formats,
can transcode from one audio format to another, and was one of the first
apps that supported the new matroska tagging system.
It's very convenient to be used as a converter for audio streams embedded in MKV video files, offering the ability to open them directly, without any time consuming extraction process beforehand.
Although not being as complete as our full pack with respect to supported formats, as its mainly dedicated for anime MKV playback, this special pack can help if your DirectShow setup is messed up and you don't manage to play MKV files after installation of our full pack. It is coming with a very smart installer that is checking for the existence of several filters on your machine which are known to cause problems, like the old DVobSub filter coming with vobsub, and will deinstall them automatically. The CCCP pack is slim and neat, and can help you even in cases when no other tool can help anymore.
Additional playback Information :
As stated above, matroska files can contain a big number of different audio and video compression formats. We are trying to list the most used formats here, and also give links to the necessary decoder filters you have to install to be able to view your movies :
h.264 (AVC ; MPEG 4 Part 10) : the new, top notch video compression standard, offering incredible picture quality at extremely low file sizes. Its one of the allowed video compression standards in the new upcoming Blue ray and HDTV DVD standards. It's standard container is MP4, but only matroska will allow to combine it with AC3 audio and DVD or Text subtitles. Playback of h.264 video streams is rather CPU intensive, the best playback decoder is offered by our friends from Corecodec Inc., its called CoreAVC and will allow playback of a DVD res h.264 stream with a 1.4 GHz AMD Athlon only !
Realvideo : The biggest number of confused users turning to us with playback problems are trying to play MKV files containing tracks with the Realvideo codec. The matroska full playback pack can use the DLLs from Realplayer ( RealOne ) if this player was installed. Alternatively, you can google for RealAlternative, an unlicensed, free distribution of the Realvideo decoder DLLs.
XviD Video : This project is opensource also, and as they are not paying license fes to the MPEG consortium they are not allowed to distribute the binaries of their codec. On some pages you may find compiled binaries for testing purposes sometimes, alternatively you can again use FFDshow to display those files.
AAC Audio : This great new audio compression standard is also subject to license fees, but the company 3ivX is offering a free AAC audio decoder filter for Stereo tracks on their homepage. For playback of 5.1 surround AAC tracks there is a free project again, called CoreAAC, but again these people can not distribute binaries of it as they cant pay the license fees for AAC. Please check some very up-to-date sites about the latest information on CoreAAC ;-) ...
Ogg Vorbis audio : The Xiphophorus people gave a great free and patent free audio compression standard, called Ogg Vorbis. Vorbis audio can be stored fine in matroska files, and for playback we recommend the very well written CoreVorbis decoder filter. The latest binaries with a little installer are always available here on this link.
Multichannel ( 5.1 surround ) audio : Both AAC and Vorbis audio can be true 5.1 Digital surround also. The two decoder filters mentioned above can play this fine, but need some help if you dont have a 5.1 capable soundcard. You will need the outstanding channel downmixer filter from Gabriele to play those audio streams on a normal Stereo soundcard. If you have ffdshow-audio installed (coming with our full pack), this downmixer is already included.
Dolby AC3 audio : This compression format is the most used on DVDs, and can be stored fine in .mkv. For playback you need a AC3 decoder filter installed. All DVD Player applications, such as PowerDVD or WinDVD will install such a filter on your system. If you dont want to install such software on your PC, try to buy the AC3/MPEG2 decoder filter pack from Moonlight/Elecard. Alternatively, there is a free project for such a filter here. Again, ffdshow-audio also has support for this already, so the matroska full pack will also put you on the safe side here.
MP3 audio : The playback filter for MP3 are installed by default on every Windows PC.
MPEG4V1/2/3 video : These old, non-MPEG4 compliant Microsoft codecs can be stored in matroska files, for playback the decoder filters from Microsoft have to be used, they are installed with WindowsMediaplayer 7 or newer.
General sidenote about playback of audio and video in matroska files :
Thanks to the so-called 'Video For Windows' ( VfW ) compatibility mode of matroska it is possible to store and play every VfW video codec in it, and the same is valid for ACM audio codecs ( only CBR ). Just install the codec on your Windows PC, and VirtualdubMod will be able to open any AVI video using this codec and mux it into a .mkv file. For playback the normal VCM decoder, or DirectShow decoder filter will be used from the matroska DirectShow parser.