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Motion estimation (ME) is a multistep process that involves not one, but a combination of techniques, such as motion starting point, motion search patterns, and adaptive control to curb the search, avoidance of search stationary regions, etc. The collective efficiency of these techniques is what makes a ME algorithm robust and efficient across the board. This paper proposes a ME algorithm that is an embodiment of several effective ideas for finding the most accurate motion vectors (MVs) with the aim to maximize the encoding speed as well as the visual quality. The proposed algorithm takes advantage of the correlation between MVs in both spatial and temporal domains, controls to curb the search, avoids of search stationary regions, and uses switchable shape search patterns to accelerate motion search. The algorithm yields very similar quality compared to the full search but with several hundred times faster speed. We have evaluated the algorithm through a comprehensive performance study that shows that the proposed algorithm achieves substantial speedup without quality loss for a wide range of video sequences, compared with the ME techniques recommended by the MPEG-4 committee.