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The Matroska Multimedia Container is an open standard free Container format, a file format that can hold an unlimited number of video, audio, picture or subtitle tracks inside a single file. It is intended to serve as a universal format for storing common multimedia content, like movies or TV shows. Matroska is similar in conception to other containers like AVI, MP4 or ASF, but is entirely open in specification, with implementations consisting mostly of open source software. Matroska file types are .MKV for video (with subtitles and audio), .MKA for audio-only files and .MKS for subtitles only.

Matroska is an English word derived from the Russian word "matryoshka" (матрёшка, mɐˈtrʲoʂkə), which means "nesting doll" (the common Russian egg-shaped doll within a doll). This is a play on the container (media within a form of media/doll within a doll) aspect of the matryoshka as it is a container for visual and audio data. The transliteration may be confusing for Russian speakers, as the Russian word "matroska" (матроска) actually refers to a sailor suit.


The project was announced on December 7 2002 as a fork of the Multimedia Container Format (MCF), after disagreements between MCF lead developer Lasse Kärkkäinen and soon-to-be Matroska founder Steve Lhomme about the use of the Extensible Binary Meta Language instead of another binary format. This coincided with a long coding break by the MCF's lead developer, which caused most of the community to quickly migrate to the new project.


The Matroska project developers believe that the use of EBML brings them a number of advantages, including making it easier to extend the format for decades into the future as new developments occur and/or as the project goals change. The format has been designed from the ground up for longevity and extendability (unlike formats such as AVI). The Matroska team has spoken openly on and about some of their long term goals, including:

  • creating a modern, flexible, extensible, cross-platform multimedia container format;
  • developing robust streaming support;
  • developing a "DVD-like" menu system based on EBML;
  • developing a set of tools for the creation and editing of Matroska files;
  • developing libraries that can be used to allow developers to add Matroska support to their applications;
  • working with hardware manufacturers to include Matroska support in embedded multimedia devices;
  • working to provide native Matroska support in various operating systems.

Software support

Listed below is software that has native Matroska support.

Hardware support

A number of settop boxes such as the Popcorn Hour and Tvix media players have stated publicly in user forums that they are considering or pursuing Matroska support. Some end users in these public forums report partial success in use with certain codecs and files. The first chipset to include Matroska Video support has been released by Texas Instruments under the name "DaVinci". It is used in the Cowon A3 portable media player.


The Matroska homepage indicated in an April 2006 posting that playback on settop devices would be forthcoming starting with the release of the Zensonic Z500 media player, but the company never implemented Matroska support. To date no Zensonic device supports Matroska video.

Sigma Designs

Sigma Designs, manufacturer of the majority share of hardware MPEG decoder chipsets used in media playback devices has released 3 new chipset designs in the previous 2 years; the SMP8650, 8630 and 8620L, all of which explicitly support the most common high-definition video formats, H.264 and the MP4 container, as well as the VC-1 codec and AVI format but do not contain any built in support for Matroska, though some OEMs do provide support in their firmware packages.

Sigma based hardware which supports Matroska

Company Model(s) Website
PopcornHour A-100, A-110, B-110
Egreat EG-M31A, EG-M31B
Kaiober K007
HDX HDX900, HDX1000
Dune HD Ultra
iStar HD Mini (HDMI 1.1), Mini (HDMI 1.3)


The Cowon A3 supports MKV as well as many other formats, including the Ogg Vorbis and FLAC open audio formats.

Content in Matroska

Initially the uptake of the format was low. It was initially used almost exclusively for DVD rips of anime, as the container allowed the viewer to choose between the original language track and a dub. In recent years, however, Matroska has seen wider use due to the scene adopting it as a format of choice for high definition content ripped from HDTV and next generation video discs (HD DVD and Blu-ray). It usually carries H.264 video, one or more AC3/AAC/DTS audio tracks and sometimes one or more subtitle tracks (sometimes coupled with one or more embedded TrueType or OpenType font). Before H.264, most MKV files from the above mentioned scene contained RealVideo (RV9, RV10) encoded video tracks, which at that time was slightly superior to MPEG-4 Part 2 (used e.g. by the DivX, Xvid and FFmpeg MPEG-4 codecs), especially for anime material, in combination with MP3 or Vorbis encoded audio streams and soft-subtitles.


Matroska is an open standards project. This means it is free to use, and that the technical specifications describing the bit stream are open to everybody, including companies that would like to support it in their products. The source code of the libraries developed by the Matroska Development Team is licensed under GNU LGPL. In addition to that, there are also free parsing and playback libraries available under the BSD license, for proprietary software adoption.

See also


External links

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