Maya 2012 Tutorial
How to Animate a Shape Blend in Maya
Shape Blending is often used when you have multiple shapes with the same poly count and construction. By blending the shapes you morph from shape to shape.
To use this technique for a talking head, you would create a series of heads with the same poly/point count that placed the mouth and facial expressions in different configurations. Over time you would blend from one face to the next to create your animation.
In this example we will create two similar shapes and demonstrate the morphing process.
Add a polygon plane to the workspace by choosing Create > Polygon Primitives > Plane. Be sure to include the options.
Set the Width to 10, Height to 10, and Divisions in both directions to 10. Press the Create button to add your plane.
Right-click the plane and choose Face. Delete the interior faces in row seven. Right-click the plane and choose Object Mode (F8) to return to Object mode. Try switching to smooth shade mode when working with faces (5 key).
Select the plane and choose Edit > Delete by Type > History. This removes the object's Construction History.
With the plane still selected, choose Edit > Duplicate and drag the duplicate in the x direction so the planes are side-by-side.
Click the first object, then right-click it and choose Vertex.
Using the Move and Scale tools reshape the hole so it looks like a smile. It helps to turn on the Move tool's Reflection option (see note to right).
Repeat the process with the second plane to create a frown, then return to the Object mode (F8).
To make the objects more organic, select both planes and press the 3 key to activate Smooth Mesh for both objects. Once you are finished, deselect both objects.
Select the frown, then shift select the smile. The last object you select will be your base object.
Create a blend shape by choosing Create Deformers > Blend Shape from the Animation menu set. Be sure to include the options.
Reset the settings in the dialog box and name your BlendShape node, mouth. Press the Create button.
Delete the frown shape from the workspace.
Select the smile shape and choose Window > Animation Editors > Blend Shape.
Click frame one of the Timeline and click the Key button in the dialog box. This sets a key at frame one.
Click frame 24 of the Timeline and move the slider so the frown shape appears. Press the Key button to set another keyframe.
Click the Controller Play button to view your animation.
Try Reflection Modeling
Reflection modeling is handy if you have a model with symmetric points. To activate the reflection feature, select the Move tool (w key) and open the tool options (click the Tool Settings icon in the upper right corner or the screen). Click the Reflection checkbox in the Reflection Settings section.
Smooth Mesh and Rendering
In Step Nine, we converted our object to a Smooth Mesh object. Smooth Mesh objects require Mental Ray rendering. If you are using the Maya Software rendering engine and wish to smooth your object, try converting it to a subdiv surface (Modify > Convert > Polygons to Subdiv).
Morphing Several Shapes
Instead of just two shapes consider using several shapes. The process is the same. Make sure you select your base shape last in Step Ten.