Helper Manager

2 votes
Date Updated: 
Author Name: 
Lorne Brooks

A useful tool containing many methods for adding point or dummy helpers to the scene, as well as duplicating existing hierarchies using helpers, or replacing them with a Bones System.

Features include...

- Various methods of helper creation such as: origin, surface, object pivots, picked points, sub-object faces.

- Ability to add helpers to a selection of objects including; linkage, constraints or baked keys.

- Ability to add helpers to sub-object faces or elements, based either on direct face selection or sub-object 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.

- Convert helper types from point to dummy or visa-versa.

- Link points to dummies via naming.

- Reset scale on a selection.

- 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.

- 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 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 2008-2017
lbtools_helper_manager.mzp16.03 KB


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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.

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