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In this paper, we propose a fast algorithm designed for the hierarchical prediction structure in H.264/MPEG scalable video coding (SVC). It can efficiently reduce the heavy computational burden in performing the bi-directional (BI) prediction. We carefully examine the correlation of motion-rate costs and distortion values between BI and FW (forward) and BW (backward) prediction types. Then we construct an adaptive threshold to remove the unnecessary BI calculations. Comparing to JSVM 9.11, our method saves the encoding time from 44% to 54% for a number of test videos with negligible coding loss.