A novel technique for rank estimation in 3D multibody motion segmentation is proposed. It is based on the study of the frequency spectra of moving rigid objects and does not use or assume a prior knowledge of the objects contained in the scene (i.e. number of objects and motion). The significance of rank estimation on multibody motion segmentation results is shown by using two motion segmentation algorithms over both synthetic and real data. © The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2008.