I have designed a model composed of multiple meshes (a palmtree with a trunk and some large leaves) and would now like to animate it using shape keys.
I parented those under an Empty so that I can handle them easily, but I would not like to join them as a unique mesh at this time since I may need to perform some editing later (materials, etc.; I understand that I should not modify topology for shape keys to work properly).
Still, my understanding is that shape keys are specific to each mesh, and that anyway I can only animate one mesh at a time, since only one of them can be on edit mode at a given time. I tried to lift that limitation with the MultiEdit plugin, but shape keys are still tied to one mesh.
It seems tedious to deform each sub-mesh one by one, and I would like to have a unique, shared set of shape keys for easier animation.
What would be an efficient workflow for such an use case? Is definitely joining the meshes the only way?