When Gollum had his split personality conversation on the big screen, I forgot that he was an animation. I empathized with Gollum not just because of the context of his character, but because I could see the emotion on his face. It was so good, in fact, that hard-of-hearing people could lip read. Such facial expressions had never before been possible. Weta Digital, the team responsible for the Lord of the Rings digital effects, achieved these realistic expressions using tools to deform the mesh.

Deformation is an important tool for modeling. It’s a great way to mold your object in a way that would be difficult polygon by polygon, such as bending a pipe, twisting a rope, or changing the proportions of a nose. In ...

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