is there a way to use both relative and absolute keys together on the same mesh ?
i want to use absolute keys to deform muscle in a way, and relative to animate face shapes. both on the same model.
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Here's one way of doing it: Use two copies of the character mesh. Use the same modifier stack, but at the end, use the Mask Modifier to mask the body from the head. You WILL have to use copies for this method, so don't make any changes to the character afterwards or there will be problems getting the two meshes to match. But if you're on the rigging animation stage, it's probably a bad idea to make major changes at this point, anyways.
You're using absolute shapes for muscle deforms, right? Maybe you can use a Mesh Deform modifier and put the shape keys on the cage mesh. The solution to these types of problems is usually "don't try to do it all at once" on the same object.