Molding Clay

I am working on a new project (got the old one done finally, will post it in a month or two when I have the audio work done on it too) that involved a close-up of a 3d character molding clay into a pot. I was wondering if any of you had some ideas on how to animate and control this well.

The character would be standard armature setup, but the trick is how to model the clay. I was thinking just a lump of clay with lattice deformation, which might work for the beginning but it wouldn’t provide enough control to make the pot look good nearing the end. Armatures I don’t see how they would work as the pot changes too much to control well.

I could move vertexes individually, but that is a pain. Would there be a way to make the clay deform at the touch of the fingers through deflection or something like that, and then stay there? It would take more rendering power, and better hand animation, but would it work?

I was thinking metaballs might offer a solution as well, but not a very good one for the later stages of the clay pot/bowl. Anyone have some good ideas? Thanks

Model the finished clay pot. Add a Shape (basis). Then in Edit mode with all verts selected, put your 3D Cursor about 1/5 the way up from the bottom of the object and hit “To Sphere” in Mesh Tools. Make any adjustments you need like flattening the base, squashing the whole thing and getting all verts back to the same height above the spinning wheel. Advance however many frames and add another Shape (Key-1).

In the IPO Editor select the Key-1 Curve and Mirror over Horizontal Axis and move the curve up so the first keyframe is on Y-1 and the last is on Y-0, that runs the ShapeKey backwards. Add more Shapes if you wish or modify it to suit your needs.

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Beautiful Fligh, thank you so much. That should work. I was hoping to be able to have more automatic interaction with the hands than that, but I don’t think it is possible. This is a very feasible alternative.
Since I posted I have been messing around with fluid simulations of very thick fluid with no gravity and the hand being a deflection but can’t get it to work right. I will give oyur idea a try. Thanks again