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Trading-off computational complexity and quality is an important performance constraint for real time application of motion estimation algorithms. To address this issue, a distance dependent thresholding search (DTS) algorithm has been proposed for fast and robust true motion estimation in video coding/indexing applications (Sorwar, G. et al., Proc. ICASSP. 2002; IEEE Asia-Pacific Conf. on Circuits and Systems, 2002; 6th Int. Conf. on Signal Processing, 2002). DTS encompasses both the full search (FS) as well as fast searching modes, with different threshold settings providing various quality-of-service levels. The main drawback of DTS is that the threshold value is defined manually. The DTS algorithm is extended to a fully adaptive distance dependent thresholding search (FADTS), a key feature of which is the automatic adaptation of the threshold using the desired target and the content from the actual video sequence to achieve a guaranteed level of quality or processing complexity. Experimental results confirm the performance of the FADTS algorithm in achieving this objective with minimal additional computational cost.