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The selection of an optimal regular-shaped pattern set for very low bit-rate video coding, focusing on moving regions has been the objective of much recent research in order to try and improve bit-rate efficiency. Selecting the optimal pattern set however, is an NP hard problem. This paper presents a generic variable pattern selection (GVPS) algorithm, which introduces a pattern selection parameter that is able to control the performance in terms of computational complexity as well as bit-rate and picture quality. While using a sub-optimal variable pattern set, GVPS obtains a coding performance comparable to near-optimal algorithms, such as the k-change neighbourhood solution, while being much less computationally intensive, so that it is able to process all types of video sequences in real-time, with minimal pre-processing overheads.