Adding Chapters to Videos Using MKV Containers

Posted by admin on November 4, 2014 under Tech Tips | 4 Comments to Read

If you would like to add chapters to your video files, such as XviD, x264, OGG, etc., simply use the Matroska multimedia container format.

For those of you that have never created Matroska files, visit the Matroska website to find the right software for your platform. If you’re using Ubuntu Linux, install the mkvtoolnix package from the repositories. It contains all the tools you need to start working with MKV files.

sudo apt-get-install mkvtoolnix

The easiest method of creating your chapter definitions is with any text editor, using the following format. Feel free to change the name and time values accordingly. Save the file anywhere you can remember, e.g. chapter.txt.

CHAPTER01NAME=Chapter 01
CHAPTER02NAME=Chapter 02
CHAPTER03NAME=Chapter 03
CHAPTER04NAME=Chapter 04
CHAPTER05NAME=Chapter 05

If you want to create a chapter file from an existing DVD, dvdxchap is a great tool for the job if you’re using Linux. It’s part of the ogmtools package. For more info, check out the OGMtools project web site.

Installation and three examples of how to use the tool are below.

sudo apt-get install ogmtools

dvdxchap /dev/dvd > chapter.txt
dvdxchap ./VIDEO_TS/ > chapter.txt
dvdxchap video.iso > chapter.txt

mkvmerge is the only tool you need to create an MKV file. In the following examples, your source video file is called video.avi, and your destination file is video.mkv.

A simplified version of the mkvmerge syntax is as follows.

mkvmerge video.avi --chapters chapter.txt -o video.mkv

I typically like to set my default language to English, and also turn off header compression for all tracks since some players don’t play nicely with compression enabled. The syntax and example output is displayed below.

mkvmerge video.avi --default-language eng
--compression -1:none --chapters chapter.txt -o video.mkv

mkvmerge v4.2.0 ('No Talking') built on Jul 28 2010 16:47:39
'video.avi': Using the AVI demultiplexer. Opening file. This may take some time depending on the file's size.
'video.avi' track 0: Using the MPEG-4 part 2 video output module.
'video.avi' track 1: Using the MPEG audio output module.
The file 'video.mkv' has been opened for writing.
'video.avi' track 0: Extracted the aspect ratio information from the MPEG4 layer 2 video data and set the display dimensions to 712/416.
Progress: 100%
The cue entries (the index) are being written...
Muxing took 30 seconds.

That’s really all there is to it. Now any media player that supports MKV chapters will allow you to navigate them. My favorites are VLC, Mplayer, and my Western Digital media player, the WD TV Live Plus.

Verify the contents of your MKV using mkvmerge or mkvinfo.

mkvmerge -i video.mkv
File 'video.mkv': container: Matroska
Track ID 1: video (V_MS/VFW/FOURCC, XVID)
Track ID 2: audio (A_MPEG/L3)
Chapters: 13 entries

mkvinfo video.mkv
+ EBML head
|+ EBML version: 1
|+ EBML read version: 1
|+ EBML maximum ID length: 4
|+ EBML maximum size length: 8
|+ Doc type: matroska
|+ Doc type version: 2
|+ Doc type read version: 2
+ Segment, size 1325519138
|+ Seek head (subentries will be skipped)
|+ EbmlVoid (size: 4029)
|+ Segment information
| + Timecode scale: 1000000
| + Muxing application: libebml v1.0.0 + libmatroska v1.0.0
| + Writing application: mkvmerge v4.2.0 ('No Talking') built on Jul 28 2010 16:47:39
| + Duration: 5004.680s (01:23:24.680)
| + Date: Thu Aug 5 00:26:03 2010 UTC
| + Segment UID: 0x81 0x4b 0xc4 0xf1 0xf4 0x5b 0x6d 0xda 0xc5 0x40 0xc1 0x03 0x3f 0x36 0x0f 0xd9
|+ Segment tracks
| + A track
| + Track number: 1
| + Track UID: 1318207700
| + Track type: video
| + Lacing flag: 0
| + MinCache: 1
| + CodecPrivate, length 40 (FourCC: XVID, 0x44495658)
| + Default duration: 40.000ms (25.000 fps for a video track)
| + Video track
| + Pixel width: 480
| + Pixel height: 416
| + Display width: 712
| + Display height: 416
| + A track
| + Track number: 2
| + Track UID: 3206714560
| + Track type: audio
| + Codec ID: A_MPEG/L3
| + Default duration: 24.000ms (41.667 fps for a video track)
| + Audio track
| + Sampling frequency: 48000
| + Channels: 2
|+ EbmlVoid (size: 1099)
|+ Chapters
| + EditionEntry
| + EditionFlagHidden: 0
| + EditionFlagDefault: 0
| + EditionUID: 585228242
| + ChapterAtom
| + ChapterUID: 4059317607
| + ChapterTimeStart: 00:00:00.000000000
| + ChapterFlagHidden: 0
| + ChapterFlagEnabled: 1
| + ChapterDisplay
| + ChapterString: Chapter 01
| + ChapterLanguage: eng
| + ChapterAtom
| + ChapterUID: 3065648262
| + ChapterTimeStart: 00:05:00.000000000
| + ChapterFlagHidden: 0
| + ChapterFlagEnabled: 1
| + ChapterDisplay
| + ChapterString: Chapter 02
| + ChapterLanguage: eng
| + ChapterAtom
| + ChapterUID: 2388361707
| + ChapterTimeStart: 00:10:00.000000000
| + ChapterFlagHidden: 0
| + ChapterFlagEnabled: 1
| + ChapterDisplay
| + ChapterString: Chapter 03
| + ChapterLanguage: eng
| + ChapterAtom
| + ChapterUID: 1448933008
| + ChapterTimeStart: 00:15:00.000000000
| + ChapterFlagHidden: 0
| + ChapterFlagEnabled: 1
| + ChapterDisplay
| + ChapterString: Chapter 04
| + ChapterLanguage: eng
| + ChapterAtom
| + ChapterUID: 1319721142
| + ChapterTimeStart: 00:20:00.000000000
| + ChapterFlagHidden: 0
| + ChapterFlagEnabled: 1
| + ChapterDisplay
| + ChapterString: Chapter 05
| + ChapterLanguage: eng
|+ EbmlVoid (size: 101)
|+ Cluster

Extract Audio from Video Files to WAV using FFmpeg

Posted by admin on December 15, 2009 under Tech Tips | 4 Comments to Read

Previously, I described how to Extract Audio from Video Files to WAV using Mplayer. Another method using FFmpeg instead of Mplayer was also pointed out in the post titled Add Stereo Audio Tracks to MKV Files, and I figured it would be useful to outline the quick one-step process in a post all by itself.

Here’s an example of extracting the audio from a video file called video.mkv and saving it to a file called audio.wav. This very well could have been an AVI, MPEG, or any other video format that FFmpeg can decode.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv -acodec pcm_s16le -ac 2 audio.wav

It should also be mentioned that your source video file may have multiple audio channels or streams. For example, you may have both English AC3 and DTS channels, but you may also have other audio streams for other languages, directors comments, etc. If you want more control over which stream you are using, first identify them all with ffmpeg.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv
[snipped for brevity]
Input #0, matroska, from 'video.mkv':
Duration: 01:30:38.78, start: 0.000000, bitrate: N/A
Stream #0.0(eng): Video: h264, yuv420p, 1280x720, PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9, 23.98 tbr, 1k tbn, 47.95 tbc
Stream #0.1(eng): Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1, s16
Stream #0.2(eng): Subtitle: 0x0000
Stream #0.3(heb): Audio: mp3, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16
Stream #0.4(heb): Subtitle: 0x0000
Stream #0.5: Attachment: 0x0000
Stream #0.6: Attachment: 0x0000
At least one output file must be specified

From the example above, you see that Stream #0.0 is labeled as being an English video stream with h264 encoding. Stream #0.1 and #0.3 are both audio streams, but #0.1 is English AC3 5.1 and #0.3 is Hebrew MP3 stereo. Simply reference the stream id with the -map option in the following format.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv -map 0:1 -acodec pcm_s16le -ac 2 audio.wav
[snipped for brevity]
Output #0, wav, to 'audio.wav':
Stream #0.0(eng): Audio: pcm_s16le, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16, 1536 kb/s
Stream mapping:
Stream #0.1 -> #0.0
[snipped for brevity]

Now that you have a PCM WAV file, you can manipulated it however you like, e.g. encode to MP3, OGG, FLAC, etc.

lame -V0 -q0 --vbr-new audio.wav audio.mp3
oggenc -q6 audio.wav
flac audio.wav

Add Stereo Audio Tracks to MKV Files

Posted by admin on September 26, 2009 under Tech Tips | 17 Comments to Read

If you have Matroska Video (MKV) files encoded with AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS audio tracks, you may want to simply extract the audio, convert it to a 2-channel stereo format like WAV, MP3 OGG, etc, and then add it back into the MKV as a separate audio track. This is useful when your media player (e.g. Western Digital Media Player WDAVN00) will not downscale the audio from a digital format like AC3 or DTS to stereo when you don’t have a receiver or TV with a built in Dolby Digital decoder.  Now you’ll have the choice of either audio format depending on your technical requirements.

The great thing about the Matroska multimedia container is that you can easily manipulate these files without having to re-encode, saving lots of time. I’ll be using mkvextract to extract the AC3 audio, ffmpeg to convert ac3 to mp3, and finally mkvmerge to add and remux the new audio track to the MKV container. All of these are available to a number of platforms, but in my examples, I’m using Linux.  Check out the MKVToolnix and FFMpeg websites for more info on the software.

If using Ubuntu Linux, install the relevant mkvtoolnixmkvtoolnix-gui and ffmpeg packages.

sudo apt-get install mkvtoolnix mkvtoolnix-gui ffmpeg libavcodec-unstripped-52

To view the existing tracks of the MKV, use the mkvmerge -i option. In the following example, you see my “Cool.Video.mkv” file has an MPEG4 video in track 1, an AC3 Dolby Digital audio file in track 2, and subtitles in track 3.

mkvmerge -i Cool.Movie.mkv
File 'Cool.Movie.mkv': container: Matroska
Track ID 1: video (V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC)
Track ID 2: audio (A_AC3)
Track ID 3: subtitles (S_TEXT/UTF8)

Using mkvextract, extract the AC3 Dolby Digital audio from track 2, saving it to a file called audio.ac3.

mkvextract tracks Cool.Movie.mkv 2:audio.ac3
Extracting track 2 with the CodecID 'A_AC3' to the file 'audio.ac3'. Container format: Dolby Digital (AC3)
Progress: 100%

ls -lh audio.ac3
-rw-r--r-- 1 gmendoza gmendoza 432M 2009-09-26 11:58 audio.ac3

Convert the 6-channel ac3 file to a 2-channel stereo MP3 using ffmpeg. If you prefer a higher audio bitrate, adjust the -ab value as desired. e.g. 256, 384, etc, and adjust the audio rate to your liking as well.

ffmpeg -i audio.ac3 -acodec libmp3lame -ab 160k -ac 2 audio.mp3
[output omitted for brevity]

ls -lh audio.*
-rw-r--r-- 1 gmendoza gmendoza 432M 2009-09-26 11:58 audio.ac3
-rw-r--r-- 1 gmendoza gmendoza 87M 2009-09-26 12:08 audio.mp3

To simplify things, you could actually skip the digital format extraction process by running ffmpeg against the MKV file directly.

ffmpeg -i Cool.Movie.mkv -acodec libmp3lame -ab 160k -ac 2 audio.mp3

If you prefer encoding with more advanced options, you could extract the audio as a 2-channel WAV file instead, and then process it with LAME, Oggenc, or some other encoder of your choosing. The following shows the extraction to WAV, and then conversion to various formats for fun, e.g. MP3, OGG, and FLAC.

ffmpeg -i Cool.Movie.mkv -acodec pcm_s16le -ac 2 audio.wav
lame -V0 -q0 --vbr-new audio.wav audio.mp3
oggenc -q6 audio.wav
flac audio.wav

Use mkvmerge to combine the original MKV with the MP3 audio track to create a new file called Cool.Movie.New.mkv. Make sure you have enough disk space for both the original and new MKV file.

mkvmerge -o Cool.Movie.New.mkv Cool.Movie.mkv audio.mp3
mkvmerge v2.4.1 ('Use Me') built on Dec 13 2008 21:03:46
'Cool.Movie.mkv': Using the Matroska demultiplexer.
'audio.mp3': Using the MP2/MP3 demultiplexer.
Warning: 'audio.mp3': Skipping 32 bytes at the beginning (no valid MP3 header found).
'Cool.Movie.mkv' track 1: Using the MPEG-4 part 10 (AVC) video output module.
'Cool.Movie.mkv' track 2: Using the AC3 output module.
'Cool.Movie.mkv' track 3: Using the text subtitle output module.
'audio.mp3' track 0: Using the MPEG audio output module.
The file 'Cool.Movie.New.mkv' has been opened for writing.
Progress: 100%
The cue entries (the index) are being written...
Muxing took 270 seconds.

Verify that the audio track has been added. You can see Track ID 4 has been successfully added.

mkvmerge -i New.Cool.Movie.mkv
File 'New.Cool.Movie.mkv': container: Matroska
Track ID 1: video (V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC)
Track ID 2: audio (A_AC3)
Track ID 3: subtitles (S_TEXT/UTF8)
Track ID 4: audio (A_MPEG/L3)

That’s really all there is to it. There are quite a few options available when editing MKV container files. For example, I wanted nice descriptions for my tracks since various media players will read and display them for you during menu navigation. I recommend using the mkvmerge gui application as shown in this screenshot.


It’s really just a front-end application to mkvmerge, and the following text shows the commands that were used to specify the language for each tag, re-order the audio tracks, disable subtitles by default, and give useful descriptions to each Track ID.

mkvmerge -o "Cool.Movie.New.mkv"
--language 1:eng
--track-name "1:Cool Movie (MPEG4)"
--default-track 1:yes
--display-dimensions 1:40x17
--language 2:eng
--track-name "2:Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3)"
--default-track 2:yes
--language 3:eng
--track-name "3:English Subtitles"
--default-track 3:no
-a 2 -d 1 -s 3 Cool.Movie.mkv
--language 0:eng
--track-name "0:2-Channel Stereo (MP3)"
--default-track 0:no
-a 0 -D -S audio.mp3
--track-order 0:1,0:2,1:0,0:3

mkvmerge -i Cool.Movie.New.mkv
File 'Cool.Movie.New.mkv': container: Matroska
Track ID 1: video (V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC)
Track ID 2: audio (A_AC3)
Track ID 3: audio (A_MPEG/L3)
Track ID 4: subtitles (S_TEXT/UTF8)

Convert MKV to Xvid with Mencoder

Posted by admin on April 9, 2009 under Tech Tips | 2 Comments to Read

I recently wanted to convert some of my 720p and 1080p Matroska Video (MKV) files to the Xvid format so that I can play them on my Xbox 360 (check out ushare). I really wanted to make sure that the video quality and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio would remain intact, and was pleased to get the job done with mencoder.

In the following example, I decided to use a single pass, fixed quantizer value of 4. The audio will simply be copied.

mencoder movie.mkv -channels 6 -ovc xvid -xvidencopts fixed_quant=4
-vf harddup -oac copy -o movie.avi

The Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) output was a major pain to figure out because by default, mencoder (and mplayer) only will select 2 audio channels. So increasing the value to 6 ensures you receive them all. Otherwise, you end up getting standard stereo out all channels.

There’s a ton of options that you can use, so just be sure to read the man pages for mencoder.

NOTE 1: This is not an exhaustive or definitive post on quality retention. This is just an easy way to re-encode a source video file to Xvid.

NOTE 2: MKV is only a container file format, meaning that you store audio and video tracks within an MKV file, as well as a number of other data types. e.g. Subtitles, Pictures, Fonts, etc. Many times, these video and audio tracks may already have been encoded with a codec supported by your media player. You could potentially extract the appropriate audio and video tracks with mkvextract (a component of the mkvtoolnix package), and recombine them into a container format supported by your platform. This is a great option because you would not have to re-encode, saving time and quality loss. I’ll update with more examples later.