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A query language for Maya scenes

This project aims to cut down on the large amount of boilerplate involved in finding objects in a Maya scene. There are several commands -- ls(), listRelatives() and listHistory() are the most obvious but not the only ones which have to work together when you're attempting to find an object in a maya scene. For example, if you wanted to find all the IK handles attached to right the right hand (but not the right foot) of a character in your scene you'd have to try something like:

iks = = 'ikHandle') or []
for ik in iks:
    parents = cmds.listRelatives(ik, p=True)
    for p in parents:
        if p.split("|")[-1] == 1:
            return p
return None

Which is a bit much for such a simple idea. It's particularly annoying because different commands use slightly different result formats: you need to remember to or [] after ls() so you can iterate the results; you if you want unambiguous paths ls expects the long flag but listRelatives uses fullPath for the same thing.

The goal of minq is to provide a less wordy and more declarative way to look for things in the maya scene. The idea is that you state your goals up front and then execute them at later, rather than creating and storing intermediate results. This is both faster to execute and also cleaner to read.

The key is that the queries are not commands: they are descriptions of commands you'll run in sequence. The simplest query is no different from an ls() call:

q = Scene(['top'])

This would produce a query object (technically a minq.Stream object) -- but as of yet it has no results: it's a description of a query you could call, not a list of objects.

To get the result call its .execute() function:

print q.execute()

but the main use pattern is to iterate over it: the query is automatically executed when you try to loop over it:

q = Scene(['top', 'front'])
for item in q:
    print item

# u'|top'
# u'|front'

It's often convenient to turn the results directly into a list or a tuple:

# Result: (u'frontShape', u'perspShape', u'sideShape', u'topShape') # 

# Result: [u'polyCube1', u'polyCube2', u'polyCube3', u'polyUnite1'] # 

You can also check for contents using built in python checks like in, any, or all:

u'|top' in Cameras()
# True

u'|pCube1' in Cameras()
# False

# True

Doing this runs the query, of course, but it's a readable way to make it clear what you're really hunting for.

Query chaining

The real power of this setup is that the expressions can be expanded in place without loops and temporary variables. This works quite similarly to linq, or the database query system in peewee: rather than creating a series of operations and storing the intermediate results you create a chain of operations that can be optimized and evaluated at once.

In minq, the minq.Stream class and its derivatives allow you to chain conditions off any expression instance. A simple example might be

Meshes() # get all the polyMesh nodes in the scene
Meshes().get(Parents)  # get the immediate parents of all the meshes in the scene
Meshes().get(Parents).like('wall')  # get all mesh parents with 'wall' in their names

which would find all the meshes in the scene whose parents were named "wall". Under the hood that expression would translate to something like:

results = []
meshes ='mesh') or []
if meshes: 
    parents = cmds.listRelatives(*meshes, p=True)
    for item in parents:
        if'wall', item):
return results

As with a simple query the chained query does not actually evaluate until is iterated or executed. It will re-evaluate when called again:

cubes = Meshes().get(Parents).like('cube')
print cubes.execute()
# [u'pCube1']
print cubes.execute()
# [u'pCube1', u'pCube2']

At the risk of being repetitive: a stream is not a function that returns a list: its an object that can be iterated over to perform a particular search in the maya scene.

Ordinarily the last item in a query chain is determines the results. For example


will give you the selected transforms, but not their shapes. The append() function will add the results of a new query operation to an existing stream: So


Will give you the selected transforms and all of their children, including shapes. For more complex combinations of queries you can also use set operations (see below).

Occasionally you'll want to start a query with one or more objects whose names you already know, In that case the using() function creates a stream with whatever objects you pass in explicitly. For exaample:


will return all of the ik handles under character_root. using accepts multpile arguments if you want to start the query with multiple objects.


A lot of scene query involves whittling down to a smaller set of results. There are three main ways to filter a list of objects in minq:


The like() function of a stream is a regex filter: it will pass every incoming value which matches the supplied text expression.

print Cameras()  # Cameras() is a stream object 
# Stream([u'frontShape', u'perspShape', u'sideShape', u'topShape'])

print Cameras().like('top')
# Stream([u'topShape'])

like() is similar to the wildcard functionality in but it has two important differences.

First, it defaults to a subset match rather than a full patch, and it is case insensitive. In the example above, 'top' matches 'topShape' without the need for an additional "*". If you're trying to do exact matches you can add the exact flag:

print Cameras().like('top', exact=True)
# Stream([])

Second, like uses full regular expressions, so you can do things like this:

print Joints().like('Left(hand|foot)$')
# Result: Stream([u'Character1_LeftFoot', u'Character1_LeftHand']) 

which will match Character1_LeftHand but not Character1_LeftHandIIndex1.


The .only() function limits the contents of a stream to one or more particular kinds of Maya objects. It's almost identical to calling on a list of strings. Thus:


will return all the camera and light nodes in some_stream. Note that this is a type match and not a name match -- it's equivalent to, type =('camera', 'light'))

For convenience, minq includes subclasses of Stream dedidcated to particular Maya node types: Cameras() and Meshes() mentioned above are examples. You can used these classes to start a stream containing all the objects of a particular type:


or you can pass them to the .only() function for use as filters: thus

some_stream.only(Meshes, Cameras)

is equivalent to

some_stream.only('mesh', 'camera')

This is usually significantly faster than piecewise methods like checking maya's nodeType() function on objects one at a time.

only() also supports a keyword parameter to specify a namespace. If used, it will limit the stream to only items in the supplied namespace. You can specify a namespace using either partial or complete namespaces. A partial namespace argument will match any namespace containing the name you supply thus:

Transforms().only(namespace = 'test')
# Stream(['|test:pCube1',  '|nested:test:pCube1'])

A complete namespace begins with a leading colon and only matches the exact namespace. Thus:

# Stream(['|test:pCube1'])  # 'nested:test is' excluded
# Stream(['|nested:test:pCube1'])  # 'test' is excluded

The namespace flag can be combined with other only() specifiers, such as DagNodes().only('skinClusters', namespace="export").


For more complex filtering you'll want to run tests on all of the contents in a stream. In typical Maya programs you'd do something like this:

# get all the meshes whose translateX is larger than 50
result = []
for item in = mesh):
    parent = cmds.listRelatives(item, p=True)[0]
        if cmds.getAttr(parent + ".tx") > 50:

The minq equivalent to this kind of filtering is the .where() function. .where() takes a callable argument and applies it to every item in the stream, passing only those for which the callable returns a truthy value:

tx_over_fifty = lambda p: cmds.getAttr(p + ".tx") > 50

The callable argument to where() can be any callable object that takes one argument (the item in the stream) and returns a value that can be truth tests. For example you could find connected nodes like this:


because listConnections returns an empty list for objects with no connections, so unconnected objects won't pass the filter (it's probably not good practice to rely on this behavior here because the intent of the code is not very explicit, however).

Since calling a function on every item in a long stream can be very expensive, minq includes a facilty for doing one common class of tests in bulk. minq includes a special class called item (note the casing!) which generates queries on attributes. For example:

tx_over_fifty = lambda p: cmds.getAttr(p + ".tx") > 50

is equivalent to

Meshes().where(item.tx > 50)

under the hood item.tx > 50 is evaluated to produce an anonymous callable function that does the same test as the lammbda: in fact you can use it without where

test = item.tx > 50
print test('pCube1')
# False

More importantly, using the item class to generate this kind of query tells minq to bundle up all of the getAttr commands in a single call, rather than issuing them one at a time. This significantly speeds up large queries. When in doubt, of course, you can still use a regular function, the item syntax is intended as a convenience for common cases and not the answer to all possible problems.

item also allows you to do simple checks for parents, children, connections or history using this sort of idiom:

has_kids =Transforms().where(item.has(Children))
no_connections = DagNodes().where_not(item.has(Connections))

item.has takes the same kinds of arguments as .get() and returns true for any object where the get() would find a non-empty resul; thus item.has(Children) will return true for any object which has children in the outliner, and false for anything that doesn't.

Related is item.has_attr(), which returns true for any objecth has a given attribute. This is the same behavior as having() (see below) but it can be useful for writing a cleaner query. having() is faster, however, since it works in bulk

where() also comes in the form where_not(), which works in the same fashion but negates the test -- this helps you avoid writing a lambda just to invert a test function.


having() finds objects using the existince of attributes (it does not, however, test their values). For example to find all of the objects in a scene with a custom attribute called "exportable":

export_set =  Transforms().having('exportable')

Implementation note: results of having() are always unique (as if you'd run query.having('attrib').distinct

Expanding and transforming

Some operators change the data which is passing through, rather than filtering a stream of values as they fly by. For example, you can convert a list of shapes into a list of transforms, of get all of the nodes in the history of your current stream. In minq this is done with the get() function and a series of classes which apply these transfomations streams. Here are a few examples:

camera_transforms = Cameras().get(Parents)
# Result: Stream([u'|front', u'|persp', u'|side', u'|top']) # 

sphere_history = Meshes().like('sphere').get(History)
# Result: Stream([u'|pSphere1|pSphereShape1', u'polySphere1']) # 

skinned_meshes = Scene().only('skinCluster').get(Future)
# Result: Stream([u'|characterMesh|characterMeshShape']) # 

Some get() operations don't produce object names. For example:

mesh_translates = Meshes().get(Parents).get(Attribute, 't').get(Values)
# Result: Stream([(0,0,0), (10,0,0), (0,20.2123, 11)]) # 

where Attributes is a Stream type that turns object names into object.attribute names and Values runs a maya getAttr on a stream of values -- this is a fast way to query for all of the values on a particular set of attributes in bulk with a single maya call, much quicker than iterating over a list can calling getAttr many times.

You can also use the .foreach() function to produce streams from arbitrary functions run on a stream. A simple but useless example might be:

print Cameras().short().foreach(lambda p: p.upper())

foreach can be used for sophisticated filtering or transformations: for example:

def connected_shaders(object):
    sgs = cmds.listConnections(object, type='shadingEngine') or []
    return tuple(set( cmds.listConnections(*sgs, type = 'lambert') or []))

print Meshes().foreach(connected_shaders)
# Result: Stream([(u'lambert1',), (u'blinn1',), (u'lambert1', u'phong1')]) # 


Sometimes you'll want to collect information in a tabular format: list all of the object's positions by object, for collect all of the shaders attached to meshes in the previous examples. Streams offer a tabulating function called '.join()' which allows you to merge multiple streams into a single stream of 'rows' -- as long as all of the streams line up the result is effectively a table.

For example, the connected_shaders function above returns the shaders for each mesh -- but not the meshes themselves. However you can get the data in a more useful format using .join():

mesh_stream = Meshes()
shader_stream = mesh_stream.foreach(connected_shaders)
table = mesh_stream.join(shaders = shader_stream)
for each_row in table:
    print each_row

# dataRow(index=u'|pCube1|pCubeShape1', shaders=(u'lambert1',))
# dataRow(index=u'|pPyramid1|pPyramidShape1', shaders=(u'blinn1',))
# dataRow(index=u'|pSphere1|pSphereShape1', shaders=(u'lambert1', u'phong1'))

Since the 'dataRows' are really just namedtuples, you can also convert them to dictionaries:

print dict(table)
{u'|pCube1|pCubeShape1': (u'lambert1',), u'|pPyramid1|pPyramidShape1': (u'blinn1',), u'|pSphere1|pSphereShape1': (u'lambert1', u'phong1')}

This example is not particularly optimized, because both mesh_stream and shader_stream will execute the original Meshes() query. In performance-intensive situations you could avoid exdcuting the query again by using the .split() function of a Stream to split the Meshes() call into two:

meshes, shaders = Meshes().split(2)
m = meshes.join(shaders= shaders.foreach(connected_shaders))
# {u'|pCube1|pCubeShape1': (u'lambert1',), u'|pPyramid1|pPyramidShape1': (u'blinn1',), u'|pSphere1|pSphereShape1': (u'lambert1', u'phong1')}

This version will perform better because split() will not force multiple evaluations of the same query.


It is often useful to be able to group the data in a stream. For example, you might have a stream containing a set of meshes and you like to sort them into high, medium and low poly-count groups. The group_by() operator allows you to subset a stream into groups of related items:

def poly_category(obj):
    count = cmds.polyEvaluate(obj, v=True)
    if count > 512: return 'high'
    if count > 256: return 'med'
    return 'low'

for category, meshes in Meshes().group_by(poly_category):
    print category, ":", meshes
# high : [u'|pHelix1|pHelixShape1']
# med : [u'|pSphere1|pSphereShape1', u'|pSphere2|pSphereShape2']
# low : [u'|pCube1|pCubeShape1']

If the incoming stream consists of dataRows you can pass an integer or string key to select based on the appropriate 'column' in the dataRows, rather than a grouping function.

Set Operations

Queries can be treated like sets. So, for example:

cube_parents  = nodes().of_type('polyCube').parents
red_lights = lights().where(item.colorR > .5).where(item.colorG < .5)

combined = cube_parents + lights
for item combined:
    print item

# |pCube1
# |ambientLight1|ambientLightShape1

Like the queries, the set operations will be evaluated only when called. The sets can be combined with the same operators as python sets:

q = Cameras()                                   # all cameras
o = Cameras().where(item.orthographic == True)  # only ortho cameras

(q + o).execute() # union:
# Result: (u'|side|sideShape', u'|top|topShape', u'|front|frontShape', u'|persp|perspShape') # 
(q - o).execute() # difference --  in q but not in o
# Result: (u'|persp|perspShape',) # 

(o - q).execute() # difference is order dependent!
# Result: (,) # 

(q & o).execute() #intersection  -- in both sets
# Result: (u'|side|sideShape', u'|top|topShape', u'|front|frontShape') # 

(q ^ o).execute() # XOR : Items not in both sets
# Result: (u'|persp|perspShape',) # 

This can be an economical way of doing big operations in bulk instead of using for-loops, and it's also a clear way of expressing ideas like I an looking for an object which is both a shape and a child of this assembly or I am looking for a mesh which is not skinned and not templated.


Minq is a standard python package with no dependencies. place the minq folder where it will be found on your python path. The module id designed to be star-imported, though you can do limited imports if you preefer.


This project is provided unter the MIT license: you're free to use as you like, providing you retain the copyright information in