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The three-step search algorithm has been widely used in block matching motion estimation due to its simplicity and effectiveness. The sparsely distributed checking points pattern in the first step is very suitable for searching large motion. However, for stationary or quasistationary blocks it will easily lead the search to be trapped into a local minimum. In this paper we propose a modification on the three-step search algorithm which employs a small diamond pattern in the first step, and the unrestricted search step is used to search the center area. Experimental results show that the new efficient three-step search performs better than new three-step search in terms of MSE and requires less computation by up to 15% on average.