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The struggle with 3DS Max


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Through recent developments in my professional life I am more or less forced to use 3DS Max. Last time I've had a look at it was about 10 years ago while I was trying out different 3D packages.  I've been learning 3DS Max for about five days now  and at this point I know why I stuck with C4D. I'm trying to be as open minded as possible, but right now I am really struggling to see how Max is in any way acceptable in 2020. The more I use it the more I dislike it. It feels like using an egg whisk to mix up some cement; certainly possible but a pain in the butt and when you're done you're questioning your life choices that brought you to this point.

 

A list of major problems I've noticed already:

 

  • The UI is a convoluted, ugly mess of different looking interfaces, popups that lock you out of the main window of the software until you press cancel or ok. Many things are in completely different areas multiple times. A shitton of tools don't even have icons.
  • It's slow as hell. The bootup, even without plugins, takes ages. After it's opened up it freezes for a couple of seconds until you're able to use it. Even in simple scenes, many tools and windows take multiple seconds to even open up.
  • There is almost zero feedback on what tool you have active or what is actually happening at any given moment. I've lost count on how many times I didn't know which tool I have active, forcing me to use it, just to undo and select the correct tool.
  • It's buggy as hell. Freezes and crashes constantly. I've used 2018 and 2020 so far. Both seem to be equally bad.
  • Many very basic things are completely impossible without using the console. You cannot, and I couldn't believe it, change the FoV of your viewport camera without using a command in the console. You cannot remove materials from any object without using the console. And many more.
  • Maybe it's just me, but the documentation seems to be pretty bad. You can find info on pretty much anything, but all you get is text, no images. If you don't know what exactly a setting does or what it's used for, tough luck.

 

There's also a ton of features I've took for granted with C4D and now I dearly miss them, for example:

 

  • There is no dang transform quantization. For some stupid reason you can quantize rotation and scaling, but there is no such thing as just pressing shift and moving an object to make it snap to predetermined distances.
  • You cannot do simple calculations inside any of the numerical fields. If you, for example, try to move your object 20cm up you can't just enter "+20cm" at the end of the Y (in Max Z) coordinate. Nope, gotta calculate that in your head or with a calculator and then copy paste it. Have fun calculating "2.175 * 4" instead of just entering "*4" and pressing enter.
  • Many of the tools I've used so far are more or less destructive in nature.
  • The material editor is horrible. Every single material in the scene shares the same node window. You can manually open up more tabs, but why would I ever need ALL my materials in the same window?
  • The "object manager" (I don't know what it's called in Max) is probably my biggest gripe. It's pretty much unusable outside of specific circumstances. This is probably my biggest issue since I'm so used to doing everything with the object manager in C4D. It seems like you have no overview of what the scene contains or how it's built.

 

There's things that are really cool about it though:

 

  • I understand why it's so damn popular for modelling. The modifier stack is really cool and you can a lot of non-destructive modeling up to a point. I don't think this is possible at all in C4D or Blender.
  • There are some tools like the "Select and Place" tool that are really cool and I'd love to have them in C4D as well.

 

Now yes, I do realize that a different software comes with different workflows and I get that. What I don't understand is how so many so incredibly basic things can be missing from such a popular software. At first I was thinking yeah, maybe my workflow is just built around C4Ds tools so much and I have to just learn how Max works, but that doesn't excuse most of the things I've already found.

On top of that at many points where I was struggling I simply asked colleagues (that have been working with Max for years) what's the best approach to do something; most of the time the solution was some destructive 10 step mess that could be done in two steps in C4D while also being completely parametric.

 

I really don't know what I'm expecting from posting this, and I know due to it's nature this forum is kind of an echo chamber. I guess I just want to know, from anybody that has used Max in the past or is still using it: is Max really just that horrible, or is it my fault and lack of skill and experience with the program?

 

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

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Indeed the grass isn't always greener on the dark side of the hill...

 

I came from Max, and loved it whilst I was there. Its tools forged my passion for modelling, and its stack was my best friend for a long time, something I still occasionally miss in Cinema to this day. But as DF points out, often we can do stack stuff another way, and I would find it very upsetting to have to go back to it now that I have been shown the way a UI should work in Cinema. At one point I really liked the UI, and really 'got' the Max way of doing things, but looking at it now I have to agree with all of the above, and put next to Cinema there is simply no contest.

 

Max's 'Object Manager' is not really worthy of the name in the C4D sense, but its function has never been intended to be anything other than a way to select stuff for editing.

 

But in modelling, it is a giant. It contains literally every single tool I feel I am missing from Cinema, and even though some of those tools are buggy as hell, and always have been, it is nice to wield that sort of modelling power. Symmetry is an absolute joy to work with in Max. So are proper edge  and face constraints, smoothing groups, and crease sets. But shortly after that I run out of reason to love it pretty damn fast. 

 

Certainly zero love remaining for the way stuff looks in the viewport with Max. The working environment and appearance of models is leagues superior now in C4D. In fact I would say only Modo comes a close second, but all the other big names have UIs I actively dislike, and it would upset me to have to be in  any of them every day.

 

Max might remain king of modelling for now, but it's an old old dragon, and one whose crown is slipping further every day...

 

When even die-hard max modelling leviathans like YouTube's Arrimus 3D start producing blender vids you gotta wonder if their day in the sun and their prime position as Industry Standard in the few areas it still holds that distinction, are drawing to an end...

 

CBR

 

 

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  • Community Staff
2 minutes ago, Cerbera said:

Max's 'Object Manager' is not really worthy of the name in the C4D sense, but its function has never been intended to be anything other than a way to select stuff for editing.

I got that feeling as well. I think it's just super hard to understand what the hell is going on in a scene without having the structure in front of you. You have to click literally everything and look at the stack.

 

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Certainly zero love remaining for the way stuff looks in the viewport with Max. The working environment and appearance of models is leagues superior now in C4D. In fact I would say only Modo comes a close second, but all the other big names have UIs I actively dislike, and it would upset me to have to be in  any of them every day.

I completely forget writing about that. The viewport and stuff in it is just... ugly. It looks like it's 20 years old, like it belongs to Windows 98. Which is probably how old it actually is.

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Nice point of view Frodo, I feel your pain, I had the same feelings when working in Maya. I still didn't find 3D app that can replace C4D in full.

U-Render Quality Assurance Specialist

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  • Silver Contributor

It's tempting to think the grass is always greener on the other side, so it's always interesting to read pros and cons like this. I've never used Max, but have thought about trying it more than once in the past as my work is much more 'visualisation' than 'mograph'.

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  • Community Staff
1 minute ago, Mike A said:

It's tempting to think the grass is always greener on the other side, so its always interesting to read pros and cons like this. I've never used Max, but have thought about trying it more than once in the past as my work is much more 'visualisation' than 'mograph'.

That's the exact use case in my case, and I hate it. As much as Max is apparently super great for Archviz, I don't get it, at all.

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One thing Max has going for it is the sheer brutal performance of its viewport. Great for archviz in this regard.

 

My own experience with Max: It's the 3d software I learned after leaving the Amiga platform behind. From Sculpt/Animate 3d, to Imagine, then C4D (Amiga), Lightwave (Amiga), switch to PC and Max, followed by C4d again, Lightwave, a bit of Max, a very short stint in Softimage, some Modo, then Blender. At work it's a mix of Blender and C4D (with some Modo).

 

I actually quite liked Max at the time. The current release still has that somewhat clunky feel to it (tried it last year). It is no longer my cup of tea, but a good workhorse. The GUI is indeed no comparison to the likes of C4d. Nor to Blender, in my opinion.

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C4D's UI is very addictive.   You do get hooked on it because it is so well logically thought out.  It just flows --- best way I can describe it.  There is a lot we take for granted with how the UI is designed until you try to use another program.  Honestly, my first experience with modo was "why did they make the OM this way?  What is the point of all objects being under one "mesh"?  Why not just do it like C4D?".  Or viewports in Vue.  I have to move the damn camera to change the viewport?  Are they insane?

 

When I shop for a new  program, I always download a demo and see how far I can get with it without reading a manual.  That is a good test of its UI design.  C4D won hands down for me 10 years ago and still wins today (or maybe that is the addiction kicking in --- like McDonalds French fries).  Blender 2.8 was a far distant second --- and it was clunky.

 

Listen to this little exchange from Corridor Digital.  They wanted to create the light cycle race scene from the 80's Tron in one day using today's software but to make it a challenge they were going to use a software program they never used before.  In this case, they chose Blender.  So they had to learn Blender and make the scene all at the same time:

 

 

Yep....the all have a serious case of C4D addiction to me.

 

Dave

 

 

 

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They did booleans the hard way in Blender - much easier and faster when BoolTool is activated: Select one object, select the next, CTRL numpad minus. Done. And it hides the cutter object's geometry and replaces it with a wired box.

 

Anyway, interesting video. It really shows how incredibly spoiled we are with the current crop of 3d apps compared to Tron times...

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I think that cinema 4d has the best interface of any program that I know... maybe moi can compete (even though it is much smaller)

There are so many small things, that make such a huge difference. for example the possibility to change parameters of multiple similar objects at once just by activating them all. The possibility to use x+ or x* to edit even multiple values that are different. that alone makes working with adobe products feel like stone age. Change the size of multible comps in AE you need a script... you need a script for every second thing in AE.

If you have the impression that a workflow feature is missing in AE you can assume that you at least need a script or a plugin. in C4D you have good chances, that you just have to google it.

also the concepts behind the UI are great. I love nodes. they would also be so good in other programs. 

Most of the good concepts are super old, they where already there when I started with R6. They allow complicated things with beeing verry easy to understand. mograph is also such a concept.

In younger days I unfortunately I can also name some features that imho are still ok, but less magical. all the reflectance stuff. or the material node editor. Even though it is able to deliver extremly complex results, it also feels that way.  I like nodes a lot (doing xpresso for ages) and also node based materials, but I dont use c4d's often because I struggle to accomplish the simplest tasks.

But most other areas of cinema are so easy accessible and understandable. Just easy to start with but powerfull if you learn them properly.

Even though I am now very happy with resolve (fits my workflow much better then AE) I would love to see software for compositing, editing and image manipulation with the same paradigms as C4D.

 

best regards

Jops

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