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I am using a series of absolute shape keys to progressively deform a mesh as shown below. Eventually, I want the soap bubble-like spheroid to detach from the originating plane and move away.

My naive approach was to create a further shape key, cut through the mesh at the last point of contact between the bubble and the original surface, and seal each of them separately.

But of course that does not work, as the split is really applied to the underlying mesh, not just to the specific shape key, so it is visible at each step, not just at the end.

How do I proceed from here?

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

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  • $\begingroup$ How exacting do you want to be? Is this shape ... ever the central focus with extreme closeup ? Never the central focus? When does the bubble become transparent? $\endgroup$ – atomicbezierslinger Dec 20 '15 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Suggestion. Please show an example of the most exacting close up of the joint between bubble and flat surface. $\endgroup$ – atomicbezierslinger Dec 20 '15 at 21:40
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  • Consider switching from 1 mesh to 2 meshes if convenient. Render or Not Render is animatable with keyframes. Combined Mesh is replaced with Floor Mesh and Floating Bubble Mesh. Advantage Seams are avoided. Disadvantage Shape Continuity efforts will be needed.
  • Consider your mesh as always 2 separate submeshes if the Viewer cannot see seam vertices which are joined for part of the animation. Shrinkwrap Modifier and Warp Modifier.
  • Consider Metaballs with reservations. Explained Below.
  • Consider fluid simulations. Larger Compute Time Demands.

Two Separate Meshes Preliminary Results. Warp Modifiers. Shrink Wrap Modifier. No Shape Keys Yet.

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Metaballs

Lower Portion Connected in image below. enter image description here

Lower Portion Disconnected in image below. enter image description here

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I wrote with reservations because I have seen metaballs stop working at the most inconvenient times and simple conditions. Then they work under other conditions such as particles.

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I accepted @atomicbezierslinger's answer, but thought to post the steps I followed (the two-mesh solution) in hope it may help novices like me.

  • I have an object with 6 shape keys, already arranged along a timeline (see screenshots above)
  • Select the mesh in object mode
  • Shift-D and Enter to duplicate in-place
  • Shift-H to hide everything except the newly created object
  • Set the Shape Keys' Evaluation Time to 60 (i.e. the end point of the shaping course)
  • Remove all shape keys
  • Switch to edit mode and split the mesh so that the bubble and the plane are now separate geometries
  • Switch back to object mode and create new shape keys to animate the bubble floating away while gaining a roughly spherical shape, and the plane returning flat
  • Alt-H to unhide everything
  • Animate visibility/rendering for the two objects such that the original one-piece mesh disappears at the same time the split mesh appears
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