Whether you are a rigger, modeler, animator, or a character effects artist, you need to know about deformers. Autodesk Maya offers several that can be used in a multitude of ways to enhance your work. Below I'm going to give a quick run down of the main ones everyone should know about. I urge you to open up Maya and play around with them. Get inspired and let your creative playfulness go wild!
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Basic definition: Start with 2 geometries of the same typology. When you apply the deformer, it makes second geometry morph into the same shape as the first. You can edit the amount of influence in a component level.
Basic Definition: Control a set of components (vertices, CVs, lattice points) on an object. You can edit the amount of influence in a component level.
Basic Definition: Think Photoshop wrap text. This allows you to warp and move a geometry along a curve.
Basic Definition: Use this one after some other deformers. It smooths out the mesh to blend back to it's original shape.
Basic Definition: This creates a a type of box around your object. You can dictate how many "edges" it has and then as you move the lattice points the object in cased in the box deforms accordingly.
Basic Definition: When you wrap one geometry to another the first geometry tries to follow the deformations of the second geometry as much as possible based on the distances between vertices.
Basic Definition: This one is like projection mapping one object to another. You can use it with geometries or curves.
Basic Definition: This one has several different options: Bend, Flare, Sine, Squash, Twist, and Wave. Each produces a different shape along a line, but they each deform a geometry based on that shape.
Now go have fun and try all of these for yourself!