Magic Trails

by Kolupsy in Addons


Starting out:

  • In the 3D View space, open the side panel by pressing 'N'
  • Open the 'Magic Trails' category

  • Press the 'New Trail' button to add a new trail. From the popup, choose your desired settings:
    • Name: Name of the new trail. This will become the name of the object and prefix of subcomponents
    • Length: The amount of segments and frames required for the last segment to catch up with the trail controller
    • Generate Mesh: Toggle if the new controller should also generate a new mesh. Recommended to leave on for most usecases but can be disabled when working with followers for example
    • Use Preset Material: Toggles between adding a preset material or reusing a material contained in the file
    • Alternatively use the new menu item when adding new objects to perform the same function (default: Shift-A)
  • Use 'Follow Controller' to parent an object to a Magic Trails Controller. To use this button, select the follower and then the controller so that the controller becomes the active object. The parented object will become a Magic Trails Follower. 

    Navigating the Trails Panel:

    • Active Magic Trails Object: Shows the settings for the active object in the scene if it is a Magic Trails object
    • Magic Trails components are split into 3 types: Controller, Mesh, Follower with different settings and icons. The image above shows a controller as the active object. Below it, all dependencies are shown as well. In this case, the controller is the parent of a mesh, which means the options for the mesh are displayed as well
    • Contoller Options:
      • Length: The amount of supported simulation steps. Can not be changed when the controller has child components and is therefore hidden most of the time.
      • Add Trail Mesh: Create a new trail mesh and bind it to the controller. Its length will be the controller 'Length'.
      • Bake: Bakes the animation of the current controller. This is not needed most of the time, only when the motion is simulation-based (for example when the controller is parented to another Magic Trails component)
      • Clear Bake: removes all keyframes from the controller. Watch out! This will delete manually placed keyframes too.
    • Mesh Options:
      • Material: Open a popup similar to the 'New Trail'-Button to change the material of the mesh. By using this button, material instances will get created.
      • Smooth: Controls a Subsurf modifier for the trail. Displays the subdivision levels for the viewport (left) and render (right)
      • Bake: Bakes the animation of the trail mesh. Do this before rendering your animation! It will create a new armature and parent the trail mesh to it. The armature is hidden but can be revealed through the outliner. When exporting, use the generated armature.
      • Clear Bake: clears the baked animation and deletes the hidden armature. This is a non-destructive option. Use this when you have updated your controller animation to recalculate the motion of the mesh.
      • Material Properties: Shows the properties of the material instance of the trail mesh. Properties for the preset materials are exposed by default.
        • Exposing material properties on custom trail materials: Group your trail shader into a node group and label it 'MTRAIL_GROUP'. Expose changable properties as inputs of that newly created node group. The names of all properties that are supposed to show up on the magic trail panel need to start with a colon (":"). Use the preset trail materials as reference.


    • Follower Options:
      • Offset Mode: Follows the root of the parent controller with a frame offset.
        • Frame Offset: controls how many frames the follower lags behind. Limited by the length of the controller.
        • Loc/Rot/Scale: Limit the motion to a selection of the different transformation attributes
      • Follow-Through Mode: Follows the root of the parent controller with a frame offset. Overshoots the controller when it stops once.
        • Frame Offset: (see: Offset Mode)
        • Delay: Frames it takes to perform the overshoot and return to the controller root
      • Wiggle Mode: An inertia-based motion that accelerates the follower towards the controller. When the controller stops, the follower will overshoot.
        • Wiggle: Amount of inertia. 0 = follower will be static and not move at all, 1 = no visible wiggle.
      • Lerp Mode: Eases into the controller position by traveling a fraction of the distance between the follower and the controller
        • Frame Offset: Controls which offset location of the controller to target
        • Lerp: Controls the previously mentioned fraction that the follower travels. 0 = follower wont move at all, 1 = follower will not drag behind at all
      • Velocity Mode: Takes on the direction of the controller motion as rotation and will represent the current controller speed as its scale. Great for analysing and processing the controller motion.
        • Frame Offset: From where the speed and direction are being sampled. A greater offset means a smoother but more inaccurate reading.
      • Real-time Velocity Mode: Similar to the Velocity mode but represents the current speed in units per second and not units per frame.
      • Bake: Bakes the motion of the follower to keyframes. Works similarly to baking a controller. Make sure to bake followers before rendering!
      • Clear Bake: removes the keyframed motion from the follower and returns to realtime calculated motion.

      Filter Panels:

      • Below the 'Active Magic Trails Object' settings are more panels that are collapsed by default. They show selections of components with minimal UI.
        • Dependencies: Shows complete graph of component dependencies.
        • Controller: Shows all controllers without any children components.
        • Meshes: Shows all meshes and their material selection.
        • Follower: Shows all follower and their motion models and options.
        • Misc: Shows useful tips for quick problem solving that are related to common issues. Use the 'Feedback / Report Issue' button as a preferred method of reaching out for support. The button is a 'mailto' link with a template email to help describing potential issues to get them fixed as soon as possible.

        Alternative Trails Panel:


        • A near copy of the trails panel can be found in the Properties Window under the object tab. It shows the options for the active object and its dependencies. Additionally it has several buttons to perform special actions.
          • New Trail on Object: Adds a new Magic Trail (similar to the 'New Trail' button) and parents it to the active object. 
          • New Trail on Bone: Adds a new Magic Trail on the active pose bone of the active armature object. Is only visible if the active object is an armature object.
          • Local Coords: Modifier for the 'New Trail on Bone' button. When enabled, aligns the new trail with the local coordinates of the bone. When enabled, the parenting will be more 'intuitive' in some cases.
          • Make Controller: Converts the active object into a Magic Trails Controller. Does not turn the active object into an Empty but simply enables the controller options for that object.
          • Disconnect: Active object will no longer be a Magic Trails component. For Magic Trails Meshes, this means that when using the button, the geometry of it will become 'locked in' and will no longer follow a controller. Can not be re-parented to a controller except for using Undo. 


        Sales 50+
        Customer Ratings 2
        Average Rating
        Dev Fund Contributor
        Published about 2 years ago
        Blender Version 2.93, 3.0, 3.1
        License GPL
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