Converting projects from 3ds Max to Blender is a great way to expand your tool set. Follow along as we make the conversion!
Digital Reality: Ripping the Seams
In the world of digital rendering, animation, and 3D modeling, there are many contenders all vying for the position of “best software”. However, each program has a number of unique and individual uses, leaving it up to the user to decide which set of tools best suits the applications at hand.
Chief among the competitors are programs like 3ds Max and Blender, both of which are distinguished as highly-capable programs with multiple uses and toolsets appealing to a variety of users.
Autodesk 3ds Max
3ds Max is a program widely used by architects and game developers for 3D modeling, animation, and even photorealistic rendering.
With this tool, you can model a character, a scenario, or even a continent! Give them textures, colors, and transparencies, and after adding some spotlights and tweaking your ambient light, you’ll have something out of this world.
It’s possible to reproduce just about everything from the real world, and Autodesk even provides free sample textures to get you started. You’ll also find scripts, plug-ins and shaders to make the best of your renders.
Did you know that sequences in Game of Thrones were made using this program? A trailer for Jurassic World Evolution and a massive animated space battle from The Orville also serve as examples of what this program is capable of creating.
This open-source mantra has been well-maintained over the years, reflected by Blender’s massive community and widespread popularity. The development team’s goal is to bring professional level 3D modeling and animation tools within the reach of the general computing public. This has remained the primary driving force behind Blender’s continued development and has so far been quite successful.
Blender is an excellent program for 3D modeling, animation, and sculpting, so if you’re also looking for an alternative to the ZBrush, this is among the best. Wrapped up, Blender is a completely free 3D package, being one of the best programs for 3D animation and visual effects, according to the community.
Why Convert to Blender?
If you’re tired of 3ds Max and looking for a new challenge, Maya might be the first program that comes to your mind. It’s part of the Autodesk ecosystem, so portability between products is almost guaranteed. Yet, even though large production studios use it, paying for a license as a smaller firm or for personal use probably doesn’t make sense, financially. That’s where Blender comes in.
Transferring to a new program may seem like a daunting task, especially when you’ve already put a lot of work into a project, or have already spent time tuning and testing your scenes. However, Blender is a great alternative to 3ds Max because it can open the FBX file format, which is easily edited, and saves all of your original tuning and configurations. If your project has multiple objects, cameras, and source lights, don’t worry, as everything will be imported with the original settings.
Blender also opens STL and OBJ files, like most other CAD programs, but everyone knows how much of a pain it is to edit these types of objects. So, for the purpose of this article, we’ll use FBX to keep things clean and simple.
Follow along as we show you how to port your 3ds Max projects to Blender!
Exporting from 3ds Max
First, you’ll need to open 3ds Max and choose the project you want to export.
The project we’ll export as an example contains a number of important elements: a blank scenario, direct and indirect lighting, and in our case, a barber’s chair. If it has more elements, they’re all going to be exported (visible and invisible), so double check your project before exporting to avoid unnecessary elements.
As the first step, you need to click the 3ds Max logo and choose “Export > Export (Export non-native file formats from the current 3ds Max scene)”.
Choosing the FBX format
As mentioned above, the FBX file extension is the best solution for importing in Blender.
Usually, FBX is the first file type in the “Save as” list, which saves time because you won’t need to search for the correct extension. If in doubt, choose the FBX type which says Autodesk.
By default, the exported file will be saved to the 3ds Max folder in your Documents. If you’re going to export several projects, we would recommend saving them in another folder to make them easier to find and group.
3ds Max may give you a warning pop-up before letting you save the file. To continue, simply click on the “Ok” option.
Opening Blender & Importing
The next step is to start Blender and open a new general project. This option gives you all the tabs you’ll be needing to edit your scene, apply textures, and eventually render it.
Now, to import your 3ds Max project, navigate to “File > Import” and choose “FBX” from the list of file types. Search for your file, but don’t import it just yet!
You’ll notice an “Add Bookmark” option that allows you to create a shortcut to your favorite directories. If you think you’ll be converting from 3ds Max to Blender frequently, it’s worth bookmarking the location of your exports for easy access.
After finding and selecting your project file, click “Import FBX” and wait a few seconds for Blender to load.
As soon as Blender processes the file, you’ll be able to see all of the objects that have been imported on the right side of the screen. In our case, we can see the chair, all of the lighting setups, and the camera angles.
You can select each of the imported elements by clicking on them, and you should be able to move them around and edit things as you like.
It should be noted that the same general process can be used to convert your project from Blender back into 3ds Max, if desired.
With your project now imported in Blender, you’ll be able to access the full power of Blender’s animation, texturing, rigging, and editing engines. With these at your side, the possibilities abound. The only question remaining is, what will you create next?