Transferring Shape Keys

What I love about a tutorial is very often, I get to learn a great trick or idea that I can apply to my own designs or animations, and not just copy what someone else is making.

When I started creating characters for the “Christmas Spectacular”, I just started modeling at random without any real guideposts other than an elf should look like an elf, Santa should look like a Santa.

Santa and Delf

Each character was modeled, more or less, from scratch and independently from the other. I soon learned the downside of modeling characters this way, especially characters that are meant to have facial expressions and mouth movements so they can talk.

If each character is supposed to smile, I have to create a new shape key for each individual model. That is moving vertices and tweaking the mesh to the desired result, which takes hours to get it right. And boy does that suck! Doing that for five characters or more is a very depressing thought.

I stumbled upon a tutorial from one of the guys responsible for “Sintel” and this little trick I learned is both practical and efficient. The only problem is, I have to create all my characters again.

Transferring Shape Keys works across all objects that share the same exact mesh.

I modeled a new elf character, copied and pasted the mesh head two more times and rearranged the vertices (being extremely mindful not to add or delete any of the vertices) to create three complete and different heads – all using the same exact mesh.

elves_normal

If the characters need to smile, I create the smile on the first character only and then transfer that Shape Key to the other mesh objects.

transfer_key

Bingo! I just saved myself a few days work! Some minor adjustments are required, but the bulk of the work is complete.

elves_laugh

elves_sad

How great is that? Thanks Blender! 🙂