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Scalable video coding (SVC) differs form traditional single point approaches mainly because it allows to encode in a unique bit stream several working points corresponding to different quality, picture size and frame rate. This work describes the current state-of-the-art in SVC, focusing on wavelet based motion-compensated approaches (WSVC). It reviews individual components that have been designed to address the problem over the years and how such components are typically combined to achieve meaningful WSVC architectures. Coding schemes which mainly differ from the space-time order in which the wavelet transforms operate are here compared, discussing strengths and weaknesses of the resulting implementations. An evaluation of the achievable coding performances is provided considering the reference architectures studied and developed by ISO/MPEG in its exploration on WSVC. The paper also attempts to draw a list of major differences between wavelet based solutions and the SVC standard jointly targeted by ITU and ISO/MPEG. A major emphasis is devoted to a promising WSVC solution, named STP-tool, which presents architectural similarities with respect to the SVC standard. The paper ends drawing some evolution trends for WSVC systems and giving insights on video coding applications which could benefit by a wavelet based approach.