Maya Embedded Language

Maya Embedded Language

The Maya Embedded Language (MEL) is a scripting language used to simplify tasks in Autodesk's 3D Graphics Software Maya. Most tasks that can be achieved through Maya's GUI can be achieved with MEL, as well as certain tasks that are not available from the GUI. MEL offers a method of speeding up complicated or repetitive tasks, as well as allowing users to redistribute a specific set of commands to others that may find it useful.

MEL is syntactically similar to Tcl and Perl. It provides some memory management and dynamic array-allocation, and offers direct access to functions specific to Maya. The majority of standard Maya commands are default MEL scripts, saved in the Maya Program Files directory.

MEL is fairly limited compared to mainstream scripting languages. It is not object oriented, and lacks advanced features such as associative arrays. Very few improvements have been made to it in recent years, and in Maya 8.5, Python was added to Maya as an alternative to MEL.


Applications of MEL

The tools designed using MEL Scripts generally come under the following categories.

  • Data I/O
  • Motion capture data import
  • Proprietary game data export
  • Scene meta-data for production tracking
  • Geometry creation/modification
  • Custom primitives
  • Third-party renderer specific data type (e.g., RenderMan sub-divisional surfaces)
  • Modeling tools not offered in the base package
  • Animation tools
  • Muscle simulators
  • Rigging/setup controls
  • Crowd AI behavior
  • Lighting /rendering tools
  • Automatic creation of common complex Shader setups
  • Pre- and post-render effects
  • Making calls to third-party renderers
  • Dynamics
  • Custom particle behavior
  • Simulated object emergent flocking and swarming
  • Genetic algorithms
  • Cloth simulation
  • File and Folder Scene Setup and Maintenance
  • User interface customization
  • Custom character controls
  • Removal of invalid Maya commands
  • Custom UIs


This is an example of a script which copies a selected object through its path:

// animated duplicates/instances script
proc animatedDuplication (int $rangeStart, int $rangeEnd, int $numOfDuplicates, int $duplicateOrInstance)
    int $range_start = $rangeStart;
    int $range_end = $rangeEnd;
    int $num_of_duplicates = $numOfDuplicates;
    int $step_size = ($range_end - $range_start) / $num_of_duplicates;
    int $i = 0;
    int $temp;

    currentTime $range_start;     // set to range start

    string $selectedObjects[];    // to store selected objects
    $selectedObjects = `ls -sl`;  // store selected objects
    select $selectedObjects;

    while ($i <= $num_of_duplicates)
        $temp = $range_start + ($step_size * $i);
        currentTime ($temp);
        // seleced the objects to duplicate or instance
        select $selectedObjects;
        if($duplicateOrInstance == 0)
 // Usage example:
 //  duplicate the current selection 5 times -- 
 //  evenly distributed between frame 1 and 240
 animatedDuplication(1, 240, 5, 0);

Expression Language

Maya also offers an expression language that is a super-set of MEL, and results in nodes that are executed as part of Maya's dependency graph. Expressions are developed with Maya's expression editor, and allow scripts to trigger while Maya evaluates the scene file at each change in time, to simulate complex behaviors or perform other useful tasks.


See also

External links

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