Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/The Ways of the Animator

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You have just seen how animation can be applied to most object property values. In addition to this, Blender provides some specific features to aid in animating movements of parts of objects:

  • Meshes can have shape keys defined for them. These give different positions to the vertices (though their number and topology—edge/face connections—cannot change). The amount of influence each shape key contributes to the shape can be continuously adjusted from nothing to 100%, and like other property values can be made to vary over time.
  • Armatures are specialized objects, consisting of rigid bones that can be connected by joints, and moved and rotated relative to each other to produce different poses, very much like the skeleton of a human or animal. Armatures do not appear in the final render, but a mesh can be deformed (i.e. have its shape changed) by an armature to bring lifelike movement to a character.
  • Lattices are another kind of specialized object that can also be used to deform a mesh. Like armatures, they do not appear in the final render. Unlike armatures, they lack rigid joints, and so produce more rubbery changes of shape, characteristic of creatures without bones, or perhaps for a cartoony effect.
  • Curve and surface objects can also have shape keys defined for them. And of course curves can be used to deform a mesh via the curve modifier.
  • You previously saw the usefulness of the Empty object in modifiers. But being an object with position, scale and rotation properties like any other, these properties can be animated for an Empty, too, with corresponding effects on those modifiers. Also if the Empty happens to be a parent of other objects, then those objects can be animated as a group, just by animating the Empty.