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Using mkvmerge to Split/Combine Video Files

I’m a firm believer in physical media but I also archive parts of my personal collection for local device streaming via Plex. Typically I use software to create an mkv file and then use Don Melton’s handy CLI tools for video transcoding. That usually covers about 99% of my needs, but I recently had to tackle a couple of trickier situations, and this is where mkvmerge comes in. It’s part of the MKVToolNix1 collection of tools, and I found it helpful for splitting or combining different files (or specific audio/video streams from those files). Here’s two scenarios:

Splitting video files by chapter #

This seems to come up sometimes with tv episodes, where multiple episodes are encoded as a single file. To split the file apart, note the chapter stops where each episode begins, and you can feed those in to mkvmerge as a comma-delimited array:

mkvmerge -o destination-file.mkv --split chapters:8,15,22,29 source-file.mkv

mkvmerge will split before each chapter stop you specify. You feed in an output file name pattern using the -o option; mkvmerge will append digits after the operation runs.

Combining video/audio streams into one file #

This scenario is a bit less common—I had a tv episode with two versions, each with the same video stream but different audio streams. The first file had the regular episode audio, and the second file had a filmmaker commentary. (Why these weren’t simply encoded as multiple audio options on the same file is beyond me). In this case I wanted to pull just the audio from the second file, and merge it with the first. This meant passing two options for the second file: -D (don’t copy the video track) and -S (don’t copy the subtitle tracks).

mkvmerge -o destination-file.mkv file-01.mkv -D -S file-02.mkv

This obviously only really works if both files have the exact same video stream with the same length, otherwise you will get audio/video sync issues.

The full mkvmerge documentation is here.

  1. If you’re a Homebrew user you can run brew install mkvtoolnix. ↩︎