Using shape Keys to animate architectural elements like doors and windows
In Blender 3d the shape Keys tool are mostly used in character animation projects, to control objects and meshes that deform. But, it doesn't mean that we can't use this tool in other objects, like architectural elements like doors and windows. To show you how to use this kind of tool, I have prepared a simple tutorial which uses shape keys and shape widgets to create controls for a sliding door. This type of controls can really help an artist that needs to animate a fly through animation, where the camera has to pass through several doors.
If we have a good set of controls, all we will need is to open and close the doors along the way.
The tutorial was recorded in video:
If you want a better resolution, visit the vimeo page of the video. You will be able to watch it in HD.
Well, how can we create something like that for our models? The concept is pretty simple, and if you have already used the shape keys tool, it will be even easier. The first thing to do is create the walls and doors for this example. Since we only want to see how the shape keys work out for this example, I have used only simple objects modified from a cube.
With all object created, we have to add two shape keys to the doors model. The first one will be the base shape, and the second one will be the one representing the open position. When the shape keys are created, try to change the influence of the keys as a test, if you see the doors opening and closing, we can move on to create the controls.
The controls for shape keys are created with a script called Shape Widget Wizard, which can be found in the Scripts Window at the animation folder. Call this script and choose from several types of controls to use. For us, the best choice will be a control with a range from 0 to 1. Choose the control and then click next, to choose the shape key that will be controlled by the widget.
That's all, when we hit finish a new control will appear on the 3d view. Try to change the slider now and the door will open and close! This is a brief description of the technique used in the tutorial, and I hope you can apply this in your own projects, to speed up the animation process.