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In this chapter the variety of techniques and approaches to building velocity models are discussed. The main factors which distinguish seismic velocity estimation techniques are described and their relative advantages contrasted. In particular the special characteristics of model-based approaches are emphasized.

Velocity model building is the single most important factor determining the success of imaging projects. This is underscored when one considers the results of imaging experiments on synthetic data sets. In these experiments the velocity field is known and so errors and artifacts are attributable only to the limitations of the imaging approach. From these experiments it is generally found, with some important exceptions, that most prestack depth imaging algorithms are able to image most structures without errors. In light of this result, we may infer that, given adequate signal content, the success of prestack depth imaging depends mainly on the quality of the velocity model. With this outlook the bulk of this volume is dedicated to model building issues. Other factors which influence imaging success are discussed in Chapter 6.

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