H.264, in spite of its high quality, is very time-consuming due to its complex motion estimation. A fast motion estimation (FME) algorithm called valid-region-based FME (VRF) was proposed by exploring the motion continuity property in multiple reference frames (RFs). VRF used 3-step search(3SS) FME in the first RF and restricts 3SS FME in other RFs to select the best RF. Due to motion continuity, it employed full search in the best RF only in a much smaller area, called valid region. Experiments were done to justify the motion continuity property. Results show that, compared with H.264 full search, VRF reduced the number of search pixels for motion estimation up to 82% while it decreased peak signal to noise ratio(PSNR)0.24?dB and increased bit-rate 8.81% averagely. Compared with another FME, VRF reduced the number of search pixels for motion estimation up to 39% and bit-rate 5.17%, with the PSNR decreased 0.08?dB averagely.
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