If you have ever tried to import downloaded video files intro iTunes you would have discovered that most files will not work. This is a problem if your primary reason for importing the video into iTunes is to be able to transfer it to your various “i” devices or if you just want to leverage the organisation of the iTunes library.
Now you might think I’ll just use HandBreak or Quicktime with Perian installed, but what you may not realise is that in using these programs you are wasting time. Not wasting time in the sense of converting them to the m4v file that iTunes needs but wasting time because you don’t need to re-encode the files to work with iTunes. You may ask what the difference is between conversion and re-encoding. Well, it’s quite simple actually; converting entails extracting the already present h.264 video (which iTunes likes), and whatever audio is present in the file and then just placing them in a different container format, in this case m4v. Re-encoding on the other hand takes your mkv file and transforms the data into the proper format for iTunes.
Re-encoding takes time which you do not need to spend because the only difference between most mkv’s and m4v’s is container format that is used. This is where MKVtools comes in handy. What the program does is extract the h.264 encoded video and audio and then places it in the m4v container (please note that this is generally only the case of 720p versions as the SD versions are usually encoded with XviD for video MPEG for audio which will result in the program encoding it like HandBreak or Quicktime with Perian installed). This process takes a fraction of the time and you are not losing any quality because you are not re-encoding, just changing the format.
The process works as follows
Once you open MKVtools you will be shown this window.
The three tabs across the top allow you to either convert the file to another format (Conversion)
Edit the video (Edit), i.e., split the video into portions
And to join, mux, or change the aspect ratio (Tools)
First either drag the desired file into the “Drop Video Files Here” section or select browse to find the file on your hard drive.
Then select the audio and video stream that you would like to use. This is the beauty of mkv in that you can store multiple video, audio, and subtitle streams in the one file.
Then select one of the “Quick Conversion” options and click “Go.” I tend to stick with the iPad preset because it keeps the resolution the same, 1280x720, which means I am not losing any quality in the process.
MKVtools will then go about extracting the video and audio, and finally it will mux them together.
I find a handy option in the properties is to specify a save location. This will place all converted files in a predetermined folder so that you can use a program like Hazel to then auto import the file into iTunes. If if a save location isn’t specified, the converted file will be placed in the folder where the original lives.