If you read my Blu-Ray ripping guide you know that this process can be time consuming and involve trade-offs between the high quality of MKV files and the broad compatibility of MP4 files. As it turns out, you can have it both ways, and instead of converting MKV files to MP4 files, a process that takes hours per movie file, you can stream copy or “remux” them. And that process takes only a few minutes for a full-length movie.
I know, it sounds too good to be true. And yes, there are downsides. But it works.
MKV and MP4 are just container formats, files that are somewhat like ZIP files or mobile app packages in that they wrap, or “contain,” other files. MKV and MP4 of course contain both video (typically H.264 format) and audio (typically AAC format) content, among other things.
As I wrote in How to Rip Blu-Ray Videos, I use MakeMKV to create MKV files. These files offer the best in video and audio quality, but they’re enormous, and not broadly compatible with portable devices. My preferred DVD ripping tool, Handbrake, meanwhile creates MP4 files. These files offer excellent video and audio quality as well, and they are compatible with any modern device. Movie buffs may wish to rip their Blu-Ray movies with MakeMKV for use in a PC-based home theater set up, but they may also need to create MP4 files for mobile use.
You could use Handbrake to convert an MKV file to MP4, but that process is time consuming, and in fact can take almost as long as ripping the original Blu-Ray disc. But instead, you can use a different utility to stream copy (or remux) an MKV file into MP4 format. And as noted, doing so only takes seconds or minutes, depending on the size of the original.
To test this, I stream copied two MKV files, a 1.7 GB TV show episode and a 35 GB movie (“Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith.”) Both videos were created with MakeMVK and the Star Wars film took about an hour and 15 minutes to make. (Which actually isn’t that bad.)
For the remuxing process, I used a utility called ShanaEncoder, which is an updated version of an application called Kirara, which was apparently abandoned by its author. Both files remuxed into perfect—and very compatible—MP4 files very quickly. The TV show episode was done in about 6 seconds. And the movie—which again, was humongous—took a few minutes. Yes, really.
To do this, launch ShanaEncoder and click the third menu item, which is named User Preset by default.
Then, select (Copy) and then Stream Copy to MP4 from the menu that appears.
Now, drag the MKV file(s) you wish to remux into the application and click Start. After just a few seconds, bam, you’re done.
The net result here is a perfect MP4 file that will work everywhere, assuming you don’t mind the size that accompanies full 1080p quality: the resulting file is just as big as the MKV original. And since ripping Blu-Ray discs is faster with MakeMKV than it is with Handbrake—and is free, and doesn’t require a separate decryption utility—this solution emerges as an interesting one for those who want perfect quality combined with the compatibility of MP4.
Is there a downside to this process? Yes, of course. The MP4 remux is a 1:1 copy of the original video, so it’s huge. When I used Handbrake to rip “Sith” the resulting MP4 file was 6 GB big, but the MP4 I remuxed from MKV is over five times as big at 30 GB. And you can’t use this process to transform, say, a 1080p MKV file into a 720p or SD MP4 file that will be even smaller and thus be better suited for low-capacity portable devices. If you wish to make this kind of change, you will still need to actually convert the file—using Handbrake, ShanaEncoder, or the tool of your choice—and that process will still take quite a long time, sorry.
Also, while MakeMKV is configured to use the H.264 video format by default, it is possible to create an MKV file that uses other video formats. I don’t have such a file on hand, but I’m not sure you could remux it to an MP4. My guess is that you’d have to convert it instead.
As for me, I’ll continue to use AnyDVD HD and Handbrake for my own (admittedly rare) Blu-Ray rips. I just don’t need or want files this big and unwieldy. But testing this was an interesting way to spend a Saturday.