Articles Written By: Henrik Englund

Some of my favorite MEL scripts

If you are not a user of Maya I dont think you will get much satisfaction from this blogpost. This post is made for all true Maya gurus! ;)
Recently I made a re-install of windows on my workstation so I started to backup all my old MEL scripts. It’s crazy how my workflow is tied up around MEL scripts. I will now list some of the scripts I have integrated into my workflow.

AeSkinWeightsTransfer is a MEL script built by Anders Egleus. It’s core use is to save and load smooth skin weights. I have never meet Anders but he is one of my biggest heroes. I have been using this script for almost 10 years now. I think that almost all my rigs have benefited from this script in one stage or another. It’s a must have!

OutlinerPlus is a script similar to the standard version of Outliner that comes with Maya by default. In OutlinerPlus you can filter the list to only show cameras, joints, lights, material and so on. This is very convenient when working with larger scenes. I think the most used feature in this script for me is the list of animation curves. No more hunting for lost animation curves. One feature I would love to add to this script is the possibility to make custom “View modes”. This MEL script is free but dont forget to ask Tim for permission if you are using this commercially.

Correction, I just got a mail from Tim: Making custom “View modes” is a main feature of OutlinerPlus. Check the documentation for a detailed description. You just need to edit the OutlinerPlus.ini with a text editor to create new view modes or edit the predefined ones. No programming know how requiered.

timeScale is a home brewed script by my old animation mentor Rickard Söderström. The script select all animation curves in the scene and scale it to the specified time. I have been using this simular to how I use the animation curves view mode in OutlinerPlus. I don’t think that I’m allowed to spread the script but don’t forget to take a look at Rickards homepage.

Edit: I have been given permission to distribute the script from Rickard! Thanks!

cometRename is a renaming script that allows basic Search & Replace, Add Prefix, Add Suffix and Rename & Number. I don’t have much to say but this script have saved me a lot of time through the years. The script is developed by Comet Cartoons. He has bunch of nice scripts on his homepage and some tutorials.

softModManipulator is a handy script to get more control over your facial rigs. The script will add the possibility integrate the Soft Modification tool into the rig so you can make tweaks to the Blend Shapes when animating. I remember that Jeff Lew (the creator of the old classic Killer Bean short) made a tutorial back in the day but I can’t find it. Anyhow, it’s a good script.

Rapid Rig: Advanced is an auto rig that will setup joints and a complete setup in minutes, a process which can take up to several days if you build it by yourself. I have used this for some of the characters in The Journey Down.
I like the rig a lot. The only problem I have found yet is that the setup is missing limitations of the knees joints. That makes it slow to animate and sometimes produces ugly results to the lower part of the body. If the knee problem is solved I would absolutely recommend this rig for everyone.
The price tag is 40 USD, that’s just pocket money for this kind of advanced rigs.

djRivet is a simpel script that constrain things to deforming surfaces using follicles. Perfect when you want buttons or buckles on your character.
The creator of this script is David Johnson. His blog is one of my favorite blogs for technical Maya geek stuff.

Don’t hesitate to comment on this post if you know about a script that would fit me or if you have any questions.
Good advice is always appreciated! :D

How to setup a realistic 3D bird wing

Some days ago an email arrived from an artist, asking me how to setup a realistic bird wing in 3D.
I was planing on replying his email with a short tutorial but then I realized that there maybe be more artists out there that have the need of a bird wing tutorial.

I have always been inspired by birds and the complexity of their wings. So about one and a half year ago I adopted a budgie for the sole purpose of animation studies. Pretty soon we were best friends and she learned to speak a few simple Swedish words. At first glance it seems like birds have a totally different bone anatomy than a human, but in fact bird joints are not very different from human joints at all. The tricky part in a bird rig is all the freaking feathers everywhere. The feathers are not randomly placed and do not have the same shape, so study pictures of wing anatomy before you start, and remember that different birds have different types of wings.

A bird wing has two main types of feathers that are good to know about. Primary flights and Secondary flights. Primary flights are parented to the Corpomatacarpus joint and the Secondary flights are parented to the Ulna joint. Don`t forget that you want the pivot point to be placed at the feather bracket. If you move the Corpomatacarpus joint in the rig you should have two groups of feathers that are not connected to each other. So the next step will be to get the feathers connected to each other. To do that I select 3 feathers ( A, B, C in the picture to the right) and use a rotate orientConstraint, so if I rotate A or C, the B feather will stay in between. Just keep on repeating the last step so that every feather is constrained to its neighbor. This step can take some time but it shouldn’t be to hard to make some sort of script to speed up the process. Now the core of the bird rig is finished and if you now move the Corpomatacarpus joint the folding and unfolding should work! If you want a more lifelike bird wing you might want to add dynamics to the feathers or some sort of bend controller.

All the small feathers covering the body of the bird are a bit more tricky to achieve. If you google for pictures of feather tracts you will get a basic understanding of where to put the small feathers. Nothing is random as I mentioned before. Basically the best way I have come up with is to make nurbs planes that are skinned into the rig and filled with small feathers connected to controllers so you can have control over the feather surface. My advice is to paint a regular texture for the body and skip the body feathers if you don’t have any close up shots. Its not worth the time it will take to get a good result and your computer will most likely cry rivers if you try modeling out every single one of them.