Helper Manager

5 votes
Date Updated: 
Author Name: 
Lorne Brooks

A support panel containing many methods for adding point or dummy helpers to the scene, as well as options for linking, duplicating existing hierarchies using helpers, constraining them, or replacing them with a Bones System.

Features include...

  • Various methods of helper creation such as: origin, surface, object pivots, picked points, or selected sub-object components.
  • Ability to add helpers to a selection of objects including; linkage, constraints or baked keys.
  • Convert existing bindings (hierarchy links, Link Constraints, Pos/Rot constraints) to an alternative type.
  • Ability to add helpers to (Editable_Poly) Sub-Object faces, average face centers, or elements - based on either direct face selection or pre-defined face selection sets.
  • A shared size setting used throughout all creation methods, to quickly unify all helper sizes.
  • Point helper style toggles (axis, cross, box, x).
  • Toggle display links and trajectories for a selection.
  • Replace selected objects with Bone System bones (unlinked by default), with optional Preserver Hierarchy to transfer existing parent & child relationship to the new bones.
  • Convert helper types from point to dummy or visa-versa.
  • Reset scale on a selection.
  • Link points to dummies via naming.
  • Link a selection of objects to the last selected object.
  • Link a selection of objects into a hierarchy based on their sorted node names. Order can be reversed using CTRL.
  • Link a selection of objects into a hierarchy based on the order in which they are selected. Order can be reversed using CTRL.
  • Duplicate an existing hierarchy of objects with new helpers. You can bake keys on the new hierarchy (point or dummy helpers only) to match the animation of the original selected hierarchy. Or instead add constraints to follow the original hierarchy. Optionally add a prefix to the new helper names, or leave blank to match the original hierarchy names.
  • Constrain an existing hierarchy to another similar hierarchy that shares the same pivot locations for each node. This is independent of how the hierarchies are linked or named.
  • Replace an existing hierarchy with a Bones System. The new bones will have the same pivots as the original hierarchy, even if not forward X-axis aligned. If aligned to another axis it can optionally use an alternative algorithm that aligns the bones to each joint, but creates display-only bones between them. The bones can optionally have animation keys baked onto them from the original animated hierarchy. It will also transfer any skinned meshes to the new bones skeleton, by re-skinning them to a hierarchy of point helpers that are constrained to the new bones. The point helpers will have the same names as the original hierarchy, and will be put into a scene layer and frozen. You can also optionally keep the existing hierarchy, which will be renamed with the prefix "ORIG_".




Version 2.2;

- Added three new methods to the Hierarchies rollout for linking a selection: "Link To Last Object", "Link By > Names" and "Link By > Picked". The link to last method will link all selected objects to the last picked object. The names method will link objects based on the sorted node names, whereas the picked method is based on the order the objects are selected. For both the names and picked methods you can optionally reverse the order when the CTRL button is held, and for all three methods you can optionally not display links when the SHIFT button is held as they are shown by default.

Version 2.1;

- Added new Preserve Hierarchy option when using Replace With Bones in Add Helpers section. If active, relinks the parent and child nodes to the newly created bone.

- When replacing a hierarchy with a Bones System in the Hierarchies rollout, linked skin meshes will now be excluded when building the new hierarchy.

Version 2.0;

- Added new buttons for creating helpers based on sub-object selection: Add To Verts, Add To Verts Average, Add To Edges (helpers are placed at the midpoint of each selected edge), Add To Edges Average. Added radio buttons for adding selection set helpers based on component type.

- Moved buttons for adding to sub-object components to their own rollout.

Version 1.9.1;

- Add To Elements now creates helpers at each selected element without detaching elements from the original object.

Version 1.9;

- Added conversion buttons for changing bindings between hierarchy links, Pos/Rot constraints and link constraints.

- Added a Replace With Bones button for swapping out selected objects to individual Bones System bones (not linked).

- Separated Add To Face selection from adding to sub-object face selection sets. Now only adds helpers to the center of each selected face.

- Added Add To Face Average button to allow creation of a helper at the average center of selected faces.

- Added Add To Elements button to allow creation of helpers at the center of each selected element (note: a selected face will automatically select that element).

- Added Add To SO Selection Sets button (separated from Add To Faces) to allow creation of helpers at the center of any pre-defined face selection sets.

Version 1.8;

- Constrain Hierarchy can now bind a source rig with the exact same object names as the target rig.

- Duplicate Hierarchy now has the ability to add a prefix to the duplicated object names. Also, the new duplicated objects will now have their dispaly links turned on automatically.

Version 1.7;

- Added a new option to constrain one hierarchy to another based on shared pivots (both position and orientation).

- Stopped script from crashing if skin meshes were grouped, while using the Replace With Bones System option.

- New helpers created using the Duplicate Hierarchy method now have their scale transforms reset.

- Reset Scale option now works correctly on hierarchies.

Version 1.6;

- When using the Replace With Bones System option, if no skin meshes are found the new bones will receive the same names as the original hierarchy.

Version 1.5;

- UI is now a floater with collapsable rollouts.

- UI rollouts (except Main and About) remember which rolled up state they were last in.

- Changed Toggle Display Links to be explicit on and off buttons.

- General UI cleanup and clarity improvements.

- Bones can now be baked to follow the original hierarchy if animated.

- Bones can be resized using a spinner (based on selection).

- Dummies added using the script now have the prefix DM_ instead of DUM_.

- Added an option to Add To Selection to allow linking from the selected object to the added helper (as the parent).

- Removed previous checkboxes for "Create Bones" and "Nubs".

- Added a toolbar icon for the macro.

- Added new buttons for displaying trajectories for a selection.

- Added a new button called Reset Scale: basically the same one as found in the Hierarchy > Link Info panel.

- Added a new button called "Replace With Bones System" which duplicates a picked hierarchy using a Bones System. If any skinned meshes are found, it will re-skin them to a matching hierarchy of point helpers that are constrained to the new bones. The skin helpers will be added to a new scene layer called #__SkinHelpers__# then frozen. The old hierarchy can be deleted or kept. By default, the bones are created pointing down the X-axis. If the original picked hierarchy does not do this (i.e. they point down Y or Z), then there's a checkbox to process using a different algorithm so that the bones hierarchy matches the original joints, but has "display only" bones pointing from parent to child (Reason: 3ds Max bones can only point down the X-axis and have geometry to match that alignment). The display bones will be added to a new scene layer called "#__DisplayBones__#" then frozen.

Version 1.4;

- Duplicate Hierarchy should now create a properly aligned hierarchy of bones with the same names as the original selected hierarchy. Assumes the selected hierarchy is perfectly aligned for bones (as though originally created using bones).

- Using Duplicate Hierarchy with the Bake Keys option should now bake keys properly for each new bone.

- Changed the Duplicate Hierarchy checkboxes to radio buttons to indicate exclusive modes only.

- Fixed toggle display links to actually toggle properly.

- Removed button images (due to 3ds Max 2017 UI changes).

- UI change: moved Toggle Display Links and Select All higher up the interface.

Version 1.3;

- Duplicating a hierarchy now uses a namespace identifier in the new hierarchy to allow for multiple duplications of the original. Also, duplication now links nodes properly - matching the original hierarchy structure.

Version 1.2;

- Contact email changed.

Version 1.1;

- When using the AddHelpers method the point sizes will now use the Size setting and their colours set to red. Also the new points and dummies will have their respective prefix's added (PT_ or DUM_). The checkbutton will now disable when the create helper is right-click cancelled. Autogrid will now work as a toggle during helper creation.

Version 1.0;

- First release.



Additional Info: 

The script can be found in category “LB Tools”.


Drag the MZP file into your Max viewport.

Files will be copied to...





Version Requirement: 
3dsmax 2010-2022
old_2-1_lbtools_helper_manager.mzp20.68 KB
lbtools_helper_manager.mzp21.49 KB


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
unrealprojects's picture


Thanks for this tool, it helped alot!

lbrooks's picture

Re: Copying weights


If you simply want to transfer skin weights from an old rig (helpers) to a new one (that's replacing it with Bones) you can use the built-in Skin Utilities tool in Max. Note that it helps if the new Bones share exactly the same names as the helpers they're replacing.

Lorne Brooks

Sandman19031980's picture

Copying weights

Is there a way to copy the weights from helper objects and paste them to the newly created bones if skinning was done using the helper objects. I'm refering mainly to Daz characters imported into 3ds Max.


My try with Max 2018

- Installing OK with prompt window
- adding to Custom toolbar also
- converting dummies to bones, get an error on line 1644 (check screenshot in attachment) but does complete the conversion !
- the created bones have wrong orientation(check screenshot in attachment#2)

lbtools01.png 184.44 KB
lbtools02.png 154.37 KB
oswaldoluna87's picture

Thank you very much!

I was stuck on a school project. Now I can finish it. You saved my day!

lbrooks's picture

Re: A bug?


I've improved how the duplication works. The duplicated hierarchies are now created with an identifier in the name... e.g. PT_Dup-1_Box001, PT_Dup-2_Box001 etc.

Also there was a problem with the linking of them, which should be fixed now.

Lorne Brooks

fferro's picture

A bug?


When duplicating a hierarchy, get different results depending on the order you select de original rigg.

Create bones: On
Click on 'Duplicate a Hierarchy'

If you select the original bones starting from the root, you get the right result: The new hierarchy replicates the original one by one.
If you select the same all original bones from the viewport, the hierarchy stops at certain point.
All bones are created, but some not linked to any bone.

fferro's picture


Thank you for the script, and make it .ms, and not .mse
that let me edit some code to change the name of the bones created.
Very useful!

lbrooks's picture

Re: installation

Thanks for the tip.

I've replaced it now with the MZP format.

Lorne Brooks

miauu's picture


Why you not make an installer for your scripts?
No need to install all files manually, when a simple .mzp installer can do it automatically.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.