We propose a video coding scheme to improve moving-target detection at very low bit rate, based on two key features: energy-based quantizer formation, and optimized interquantizer and intraquantizer prioritization. Rational Embedded Wavelet Video Coding (REVIC) is a fully implemented software video codec of low complexity and without motion compensated filtering to provide additional simplicity, adaptivity, and error resilience. It is shown to be quite effective in video coding of moving targets (e.g., military vehicles) at very low bit rates, while retaining the attributes of complete embeddedness for progressive transmission and scalability by fidelity and resolution. The proposed coding technique improves the explanatory power of decoded sequences (to achieve maximum target detection versus bit-rate performance) for a video compression system. The explanatory power of compressed sequences is important in surveillance applications, where trained video analysts may utilize decoded sequences to support decision processes in strategic, operational, and tactical tasks.