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MKV File Format: MKV Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

Based on the File Format Chart, this table presents the condensed pros and cons of the MKV file format for preservation in and of itself. The follow list contains the features MKV has in common with other file types that have influenced their use as access and preservation formats.

Pros Cons
Highly flexible: can contain almost any video or audio coding format, and supports all major video and audio formats; it contains more features than most other file formats Best used with FFV1 Codec, which is not yet standardized, but sill powerful and open-source and recommended by Library of Congress and PREFORMA)
Lossy or Lossless option Modestly adopted
Non-proprietary Need a DirectShow parser filter for Windows machines (although this filter is a Windows default and an uncommon issue)
Well-documented Still evolving
Transparent, easily accessible digital and self-documentation More complicated than AVI, which means a larger file size
Can hold an unlimited number of video, audio, still pictures, and subtitle tracks as well as other arbitrary files such as XML Reputation is tainted by it's online origin
Various technical and descriptive metadata located in the wrapper and in the tagging section  
Can add metadata without re-writing the entire file  
Supported by the PREFORMA project in addition to Library of Congress and FADGI  

This list contains useful attributes the MKV file format shares with other similar file formats in addition to its other features.

Supports 3D objects
Capable of running on PC and MAC OS's
Can contain both audio and video data
Contains its own metadata and a level of self-documentation
Supported and Used by Library of Congress and FADGI



In referencing the File Format Chart and the Pros and Cons chart, MKV is the strongest preservation format for moving images. First, it contains necessary elements of other popular file formats, such as it's interoperability and ability to contain both audio and video and its own metadata. This brings MKV up to par with other file formats on a basic use level.

Furthermore, MKV is the most universal and flexible because thus far it can hold any type and number of video or audio codecs in addition to an unlimited number of still pictures, subtitle tracks, and metadata files. It also has transparent documentation and contains its own self-documentation, which increases its accessibility for users. 

Finally, most of the major disadvantages of MKV are in the process of being solved or can be avoided with the proper configuration. Based on the blogs and forums noted on the Resources page, it is clear that MKV is gaining a greater user community despite its online origin rather than an origin with an established company, and has recently been endorsed by the PREservatiom FORMAts (PREFORMA) project as a preservation format. The technical disadvantages can also be avoided by ensuring the us of the popular FFV1 Codec and by knowing a DirectShow parser needs to be enabled on any Windows OS, both of which are easily solved online. 

Part of Matroska's mission is to be "designed with the future in mind" and contain "features you would expect from a modern container format" (Matroska). Given the above discussion and the fact that MKV is non-proprietary, lossless, and maintains a grower user community, it is the strongest preservation file format for moving images. See the Resources section for additional references and dicussions.