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One file type that has been gaining in popularity as of late is MKV, or Matroska Video.The Matroska Multimedia Container is an open standard free container format capable of hodling an unlimited number of video, audio, picture, or subtitle tracks inside a single file, and while that certainly has its advantages, MKV files aren't going to be recognized by your iPhone, iPod touch, or Zune player.
But don't go throwing your media player out with yesterday's garbage. It's pretty easy to convert an MKV file into an MPEG-4 video file that these and most other portable devices will be able to play without a hitch. Here's what you need to do.
Download and install Handbrake from here. This free, open-source transcoder works on all varieties of Windows from XP on up to Windows 7, and also boasts support for Mac OS X and Linux. It's also incredibly easy to use. When you open up Handbrake, you'll notice a Presets column on the right hand side. If you own an iPhone or iPod, go ahead and select it and the necessary settings will be filled in. You can also use this setting for your Zune, or select the High Profile preset to select a custom width.
To begin transcoding, click on the Source>Video File and locate and open the MKV file. Next, mash the Browse button in the main window to select an output location. Make sure the Container pull down menu is set to MP4 File and press the Start button. Depending on the file size and how powerful your PC is, the actual transcoding can take anywhere from a few short minutes to much, much longer. But once it's finished, you'll be in possession of an MPEG-4 video file compatible on just about any portable media player!
A lot of purchased videos come in the WMV (Windows Media Video) format, including ones recorded from Windows Media Center, but not all WMV files are the same. First let's go over the differences:
ASF: You may run across files with the .asv extension, which stands for Advanced Systems Format (previously Advanced Streaming Format). Microsoft devised ASF as a proprietary digital audio and digital video container format, and it's part of the Windows Media framework. The ASF container most often contains WMA (Windows Media Audio) and WMV file types. Microsoft originally intended for ASF to run over networks like the Internet. It's also worth mentioning that while the WMV codecs don't contain any DRM, the ASF container can.
WMV7 and WMV8: Don't let the number scheme fool you. While it seems natural to assume that WMV7 is the seventh iteration of the WMV, it's actually the first. WMV started off as a proprietary, low bitrate codec, although it's widely believed that WMV7 was built upon Microsoft's own non-standard version of MPEG-4 part 2. WMV8 offered a higher bitrate than WMV7, but it too was proprietary.
WMV9: In 2003, Microsoft released WMV9, the third (and current) version of the codec. No longer proprietary, the new codec introduced native support for interlaced video, non-square pixels, and frame interpolation.
WMV-HD: This is basically Microsoft's marketing name for high-definition content encoded using WMV9 codecs.
PlaysForSure: Any online stores or devices bearing the PlaysForSure certification must be compatible with the WMV codec. Other requirements also apply, such as DRM support, compatibility with Windows Media Player, synchronization performance, and more.
Transcode WMV to MP4
There are few different ways you can convert a WMV file into a more manageable MP4 file for installing on all sorts of digital devices. You can follow our previous instructions for using Handbrake (preferred), or if you use the popular VLC Media Player, then another easy method is to use the program's built-in conversion tool.
First, open up the WMV file you want to convert. Next, click on Convert / Save... or press CTRL+R. In the pop-up window that appears, mash the Add button and select the WMV video. Once you've selected the video, press the Convert / Save button.
In the next pop-up window that appears, press the Browse button to select a new destination and input a file name. Be sure to give your new file the proper extension, which in this case would be .mp4. If you don't do this, you'll end up with the .ps file extension by default. In the Profile pull-down menu, select MPEG-4 + AAC (MP4) and click Save. If you receive an error message, you'll need to back up a step and in the first pop-up window, click the Capture Device tab and change the Capture mode to Desktop.