Shape Blending

Shape Blending

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.


Step One

Add a polygon plane to the workspace by choosing Create > Polygon Primitives > Plane. Be sure to include the options.

Step Two

Set the Width to 10, Height to 10, and Divisions in both directions to 10. Press the Create button to add your plane.

Step Three

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).

Step Four

Select the plane and choose Edit > Delete by Type > History. This removes the object's Construction History.

Step Five

With the plane still selected, choose Edit > Duplicate and drag the duplicate in the x direction so the planes are side-by-side.

Step Six

Click the first object, then right-click it and choose Vertex.

Step Seven

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).

Step Eight

Repeat the process with the second plane to create a frown, then return to the Object mode (F8).

Step Nine

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.

Step Ten

Select the frown, then shift select the smile. The last object you select will be your base object.

Step Eleven

Create a blend shape by choosing Create Deformers > Blend Shape from the Animation menu set. Be sure to include the options.

Step Twelve

Reset the settings in the dialog box and name your BlendShape node, mouth. Press the Create button.

Step Thirteen

Delete the frown shape from the workspace.

Step Fourteen

Select the smile shape and choose Window > Animation Editors > Blend Shape.

Step Fifteen

Click frame one of the Timeline and click the Key button in the dialog box. This sets a key at frame one.

Step Sixteen

Click frame 24 of the Timeline and move the slider so the frown shape appears. Press the Key button to set another keyframe.

Step Seventeen

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.