Converting MKV to WTV

Jan 26, 2010 by

mkv Windows 7 was a big step forward for acceptance of certain codecs and containers by Microsoft.  Prior to the release, Media Center users had a lot of issues getting their movie files to play on extenders.  Even AVI wasn’t supported within the extender UI basically locking you down to some very difficult to obtain formats.  Windows 7 changed most of that.  The AVI container became supported as well as several other popular file formats.  One that was left out however was MKV.

Seen by some as nothing more than a container used to pirate movies, the Matroska Multimedia Container is an open standard free container format that can hold, well basically anything.  A single file can contain an unlimited number of video, audio and subtitle streams.  This makes it extremely versatile.  Microsoft has ignored it however, more than likely due to what I mentioned above about piracy.  There are literally thousands of movies available online in this format.

So what’s a Media Center user to do?  You have several options and even one that will get the MKV container to play on your extenders.  None of these are perfect however.  I’ve had issues using the Divx solution as certain files wouldn’t play.  Just installing a splitter on your HTPC isn’t going to help the extender situation.  The best thing you can do, though it involves a bit more work, is to get your files into a format that will play within Media Center natively as well as on extenders.  In steps WTV.

Starting with the (technically) OEM only TV Pack in Windows Vista, Microsoft decided to replace the DVR-MS container format with WTV.  WTV allows the use of AVC/h.264 which is typically what you’ll find inside of many MKVs.  This makes switching to WTV a quick and easy with the right tools.  Luckily, Andy VanTil has provided them for us.

Let me just say a few things here first.  Number one, I’m doing all of my conversions on a spare PC.  It’s an underpowered laptop but because we’re just doing a container swap, you don’t need a ton of overhead.  Depending on your setup, you’re going to be installing filters and these can seriously hose your HTPC if you’re not careful.  I’d recommend this method to anyone who has the chance.  Your other option is to setup a Windows 7 virtual machine on your HTPC so the two systems don’t touch each other.

Secondly, this method will not get you subtitles.  If you’re watching movies that have non-English parts or if you want foreign language subtitles, you’re best bet is to use DVR-MS Toolbox and the “Convert MKV or AVI to DVR-MS” profile.  With a properly named subtitle file in the same folder as your video file, you’ll get hard encoded subs in your output.

To get the files that your MKV contains into the WTV container, the first thing you’re going to need to do is use Haali Media Splitter.  Andy Van Til has laid out the best method for installing this without totally screwing up your system.  (Just scroll down past the Anti-pack installation instructions)  This is the procedure I used, including the installation of MediaInfo and Graphstudio.  These tools will allow you to see exactly what your MKV files contain as well as which filters your PC is using to render them.  Great tools to have.

There are two other tools you’ll need to get this going on.  The first is DVRMS Toolbox (DTB).  I don’t actually use DTB for the container swaps.  That’s handled by Andy’s Todvrms software.  Having DTB installed does provide you with two things however.  First, the audio in your MKVs needs to be AC3.  DTS simply isn’t supported by Media Center extenders so trying to shove it into a WTV container is pointless.  If your MKV files contain DTS, you can use a profile created by Ben Drawbaugh to flip the audio to AC3 before using todvrms for the container swap.  (Ben’s provided full instructions at the above link to help with this.)

The main application we’ll be using is todvrms version 1.0.0.9. (todvrms version 1.0.1.3 is now available and should supersede version 1.0.0.9) While it’s possible to do this whole process using DTB, it simply has never worked for me.  Whether it’s my hardware or what, I have no idea but every time I’ve tried, I’ve gotten unusable output files.

todvrmsshot This long write-up comes down to a pretty simple process once you have everything installed.  Simply open todvrmsgui.exe  Double click the space next to ‘in file’, add the MKV you want to convert.  Then simply double click the space next to ‘out dvr-ms’ and name your output.  Be sure and check ‘verbose’ and ‘wtv’.  Click ‘Go’ and let her run!  At this point you’ll see a command window pop open and two files will appear in your output folder:  filename.sbe and filename.wtv.  There’s no completion percentage in the command window so you won’t really know your progress but todvrms has finished when the command window closes and the .sbe file disappears.

That’s all there is to it.  Since you’re only doing a container swap and not actually converting any video, the process usually takes less than five minutes and there’s zero loss in quality. Provided you start with AVC/h.264 video with AC3 audio, that’s exactly what you’ll get out but in a container format completely compatible with Media Center and Media Center extenders.  It’s a lot of work to go through but the end result is well worth it.  Full resolution, extender compatible files are what we all want as as long as certain file types aren’t supported, this is the process we’ll have to go through.

If you have another method for converting video files to DVR-MS or WTV files, be sure to share in the comments!  Next up?  Getting hard-coded subtitles into a WTV!

Thanks to Andy Van Til for his help with this write-up.  I hope you find it helpful!

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  • A. White

    Thanks for the write-up. Very helpful. One questions though, I installed the Divx solution hoping to play .mkv’s (.H264 w/ 5.1 AC3 audio) on my xbox 360. It plays fine and looks great, but if I try to skip ahead or skip back, the video will sometimes freeze (but the audio keeps playing). Will installing the Haali Media Splitter over the Divx one cause problems? It sounds like the Haali is needed to do the container switch from .mkv to .wtv…

  • oguime

    Hello Adam,

    Any news on hard-coded subtitles into a WTV?

  • curtis104

    My problem with converting MKV to WTV is when using Xbox 360 as an extender you have to have Xbox Live running on the Xbox 360. What is one to do who has multiple Xbox 360 as Extenders?

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  • jpollarddmz

    Can't you just an Xbox Live Silver account on the other extenders?

  • curtis104

    Yes I just figured that out earlier today. Sucks I have to create another account to accomplish this. But a small annoyance.

  • Matt Brown

    After trying to get all MKV's to work smoothly by converting or using divx, this is the first method that really makes sense to me. And it works. Thank you for writing this guide in a way that an idiot like me could understand.

  • Matt Brown

    After trying to get all MKV's to work smoothly by converting or using divx, this is the first method that really makes sense to me. And it works. Thank you for writing this guide in a way that an idiot like me could understand.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7GT3GMWUWZVTIM2KNFUX6D2YIM DanceGeekRob

    What you have posted here is *great* for the second step of my overall plan for my DVR-MS videos, but I have a more detailed question that someone like you could probably answer, though this may be the wrong forum for this, so where could I post a detailed question to you about converting from DVR-MS to MKV? (I am already doing this, but I am having some issues with various software that is not readily explained by the software authors. In addition, I had never realized that AC3 was needed for use with Extenders, which is great to know.)

    I have been doing conversions for a long time, but I was hoping to be able to get some input from someone who is knowledgeable in real world usage, and is able to explain things more like a layman, rather than a video format guru's tech-speak.

  • jpollarddmz

    You can try asking here, or you could use the Contact button to send us an email, and we'll talk about it on the Entertainment 2.0 podcast. Or you could try the forums over at http://thegreenbutton.com

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  • http://www.budget-home-insurance.co.uk/age-concern-travel-insurance age concern travel insurance

    Good read. Will take a close look into this, thanks

  • http://convert-wma-to-mp3.biz/convert-protected-wma.html Richie

    Is WTV format good for HD videos?

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely. WTV is just a container. The codec that is used is still what determines the video quality.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FBFRUJTDDDTBXLPOADGE54MFRM Emily Henry

    google search
    Easy Method to Convert HD WTV to Other Video Formats and Compress WTV to Smaller File Size

    you will find an easy to convert wtv to mkv

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  • Amanda

    What’s the differences between this tool and Bigasoft WTV COnverter? I used to convert my MKV files to WTV with Bigasoft Tool.

  • newyear2016happy

    I use iDealshare VideoGo to convert MKV to WTV or convert WTV to MKV. It also can convert between MKV, WTV, MP4, AVI, MOV, WMV, MPG, FLV, VOB, H.265 etc.

  • shuidiaosha

    I often use Avdshare Video Converter to Convert MKV to Xbox 360 supported AVI, WMV, H.264 or MPEG-4.You can also have a try,I hope this will help you.