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Distributed video coding (DVC) is a coding paradigm that entails low complexity encoding by exploiting the source statistics at the decoder. To improve the DVC coding efficiency, this paper presents a novel adaptive technique for mode decision to control and take advantage of skip mode and intra mode in DVC initially proposed by Luong et al. in 2013. The adaptive mode decision (AMD) is not only based on quality of key frames but also the rate of Wyner–Ziv (WZ) frames. To improve noise distribution estimation for a more accurate mode decision, a residual motion compensation is proposed to estimate a current noise residue based on a previously decoded frame. The experimental results, integrating AMD in two efficient DVC codecs, show that the proposed AMD DVC significantly improves the rate distortion performance without increasing the encoding complexity. For a GOP size of 2 on the set of six test sequences, the average (Bjøntegaard) bitrate saving of the proposed codec is 35.5% on WZ frames compared with the DISCOVER codec. This saving is mainly achieved by AMD.