Cage deformer 

What is Cage deformer?
This plug-in is an effect plugin that deforms a mesh object (the 'target') with the help of another mesh object (the 'cage') using a deformation method called Positive Mean Value Coordinates

Usage
Select a mesh object and add the 'CageDeformer' effect in the Setup Tab. The 'CageDeformer' effect has two tabs which allow you to control the settings of the effect. The tab 'CageDeformer Setup' tab is only accessible in setup mode, while the 'CageDeformer Animate' tab is accessible both in setup and in animate mode.

What order should I put the cage deformer in?
1. The bone deformer and any other deformers you want to affect both meshes before the cage deformer takes effect.
2. The point reference which is the 'pickup point' in the effects list for cage deform. Things after this will affect it.
3. Whichever effect you want to use to edit the cage. Can I recommend Point Animation? Yes I can.
4. The cage deformer which applies the effects on the cage back down onto the mesh.

Guidelines for the cage
In the 'CageDeformer Setup' mode you can define the cage that deforms the target(s). The cage should be a polygonal object that encloses the target object(s). A few guidelines for the cage:
- The cage should be constructed of polygons with 3 or 4 points only. Polygons with less than 3 or more than 4 points are ignored.
- Internally, the cage will be triangulated, i.e. 4-point polygons will be split up in two triangles.
- Triangles that are degenerated (all three points are in a straight line) are ignored. This also applies for triangles that are internally created in the process of triangulation.
- Only those parts of the target mesh that are surrounded by polygons of the cage are affected. The normals of the cage polygons are important, they should point to the outside. The cage can also contain nested parts. E.g. you can have one large cube which contains a smaller cube. All parts of the target mesh that are contained in the smaller cube are completely controlled by the vertices of the smaller cube. Those parts of the target mesh that are contained in the large cube but not in the small cube are controlled by the vertices of the large cube.
- Avoid sharp angles in the cage mesh. If possible, subdivide sharp angles.

Cage deformation weights
Every vertex of the cage mesh has a certain weight by which it influences the vertices of the target object(s). Since the calculation of these weights is a time-consuming process, you would typically store these weights (once you have calculated them) either in an external file or internally in the scene file. In middle section of the 'CageDeformer Setup' tab you can define the settings for saving/loading the cage weights for each of the targets attached to the effect. The 'Target' dropdown menu lets you select the target. If the weights for a certain target are not yet initialized, you can see the addition (no CDW) next to the name of the target. The 'Save mode' defines how the saving of the weights shoudl be done. If this mode is set to 'Off', there's no saving of the weights and, consequently, no loading of the weights the next time you start up the scene. With the setting 'Internal' the weights will be saved in the scene file (if the weights have been intialized before) the next time you save the scene. Use this setting if you want to send your scene as an MPJ file to the render farm. Use the setting 'External' if you want to to save/load the weights to an external file, this is a file with the extension '.cdw'. You have to provide a filename in the edit field 'External file'. You can set the file name either manually or use the 'Load CDW...'/'Save CDW...' buttons. These buttons bring up a a file dialog that let you specify a file name for loading/saving CDW data.
With the button 'Calculate all CDWs' in the bottom section of the 'CageDeformer Setup' tab you can calculate the weights of the 'CageDeformer' effect. For 'Accuracy', a setting betewwn 6 and 10 should normally be OK. Please note that the calculation of the cage deformer weights migth take a while. Depending on the complexity of cage and target mesh and the speed of your computer the calculation might take a few seconds to a few minutes.

The other settings:
In the 'CageDeformer Animate' tab you can control the effect durinig animate mode. 'Strength' controls the overall strength. A strength of 1.0 deforms the target according to the calculated cage weights. Lower/higher values lead to a smaller/bigger effect of the 'CageDeformer' effect. The 'NearLimit'/'FarLimit' settings allow you to define a falloff for the influence of cage vertices that are further away from the target vertices. 'NearLimit'/'FarLimit' are parametrical values relative to the overall size of the cage, i.e. with a setting of 1.0 for the limits you include all cage vertices. For cage vertices that are at a paramatrical distance between 'NearLimit' and ''FarLimit' the influence of the cage weights fades down from their original weight (the weight that is calculated) to 0.0 .
'Weight' lets you choose one of messiah's weights (e.g. metaeffectors or procedurals) for masking the effect. The weight can be static, dynamic or combined.
'PointReference' let you choose a 'PointReference' object (this requeires the use of the 'PointReference' plugin). Normally, the change of the cage vertices in relation to their position in setup mode would be evaluated for the effect of the 'CageDeformer' plugin. However, with the 'Point Reference' object you can freeze the vertices of the cage at a certain point in the effects pipeline and use the movement of the cage relative to this reference point. This way you can add point animation after the point reference, and then the Cage deformer last.

History of Changes
1.0: Public release

Code is Christopher Lutz 2008-2009 for useful slug licenced to pmG Worldwide LLC for distribution with messiah
www.animationsnippets.com www.usefulslug.com www.projectmessiah.com

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