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This paper addresses the problem of optimal rate allocation for the macroblock-based progressive fine granularity scalable (PFGS) video coding. To solve this complicated problem, the error propagation pattern in the macroblock-based PFGS is first investigated. An effective drifting model is established subsequently for estimating the drifting for each enhancement bit stream segment encoded by the macroblock-based PFGS. The distortion reduction for the current frame and the estimated drifting suppression for the subsequent frames form the actual contribution of the enhancement layer bitstream. The equal-slope argument is then applied to select the best bit stream segments for the given bandwidth. Experiments show that our optimal rate allocation outperforms the uniform rate allocation by 0.3-1.4 dB.