3D modeling and animation software are an essential part of creative projects like video games, films, and commercials. Today we are going to talk about two powerful 3D packages: 3Ds Max VS Blender. We will try to give you a general idea about what they are capable of when it comes to modeling, simulation, dynamics, animation, and so on.


Modeling

3Ds Max VS Blender


3Ds max has been considered one of the best modeling software for a very long period of time and still is, to a certain extent, because it has a solid set of modifiers and tools that can help you model anything you can think of. But unlike Blender, 3Ds max has primitive sculpting tools that can’t really help you do anything when sculpting organic stuff. That’s why 3D character and environment artists, usually use specialized sculpting software such as ZBrush, because it is capable of taking a simple Model to a whole new level by adding intricate details using millions of polygons.

The reason I said that 3Ds max has been the best because more than a decade ago it was the best modeling 3D package next to Softimage. But, to be honest, in the last 7 years or so, we did not see things that can be considered worthwhile in terms of modeling.

But I think that Autodesk is quote-on-quote trying to improve its modeling tools to keep up with the rapid pace of development of software such as Blender. I don’t know maybe they will come up with better modeling tools for 3Ds max as the years go by.

Image source : blendernation.com

On the other hand, Blender has been developed like crazy in the last couple of years with a variety of new features especially with the new releases which makes it competitive when it comes to 3D modeling.

Blender now actually gives 3d artists a very good experience working on their 3D models because it has a lot of different modifiers as 3ds max has. And it allows you to work smoothly as well when doing polygon modeling.

Where Blender completely beats 3Ds max in Modeling is having the ability to sculpt, it is not just a couple of brushes that will let you add small details here and there, but a complete sculpting system that can help you work on characters, monsters, environment elements, etc. And it is becoming even better with the 2.83 release moving forward to 2.9 and beyond. Because the sculpting development team seems to be very active.

In terms of the modeling add-ons or plugins that can be used for 3Ds Max and Blender, i would say that 3ds max has some nice ones that can help you do hard surface modeling. but the addons that can be used with Blender are better as far as i can see.

so in terms of modeling, i have to give it to Blender because i think right now it has many advantages over 3ds Max.


Simulation/dynamics/VFX

Image source :tutorials.cgrecord.net

Blender has a good particle system that can be used to create good visual effects like fire, smoke, dust, blizzards and so on.

also using Blender’s rigid and soft body dynamics you can achieve realistic results to a certain extent. you can simulate soft bodies such as bouncing balls, body parts, flesh or anything you can of. and rigid body dynamics allows you to simulated single or multiple solid elements as they interact with each other and with their environment.

Also, Blender has a robust cloth simulator that is used to make clothing, flags, banners, and so on.

in addition to that now Blender has the ability to sculpt cloth using a sculpting brush which is a fantastic way to create custom wrinkles and cloth effects. The tool features a custom cloth solver than can be used within sculpt mode in real-time on localized areas of the mesh. You can control the cloth material by grabbing, dragging or pinching the surface.

Blender also has motion tracking tools that are good enough to create professional camera tracking for VFX shots, it was actually developed further during some of the short live-action films that were created using Blender.

What makes Blender unique compare to the other 3d packages is the fact that it also can be used for compositing but for the most part studios use software such nuke for compositing because it is the industry standard and most professional artists use it to get their work done.

—3ds max—

Image source : 3dtotal.com


on the other hand 3ds, max is also capable of doing many things like soft body and rigid body simulations using its particle system to create different effects like snow, clouds, spray, and so on.

a couple of years ago 3Ds max has actually seen a major upgrade in its ability to do fluid simulations using the new fluid simulation solver that is actually capable of generating good fluid simulations because it is actually based on the fluid simulation system Bifrost that we can find in Autodesk Maya.

one of the major events that took place last year when it comes to the simulations and dynamics you can do in 3ds max is introducing Tyflow which is a free plugin that works inside 3ds Max. and basically, if this gets integrated with Max, i think it will be adding a lot to its users.

Particle flow was cutting edge at one point but it couldn’t keep up so Tyson took matters in his own hands and rewrote the whole thing in his free time to create Tyflow. it is similar to Particle Flow but much more powerful.

Image source : Youtube/3d Video Game Architectural Design

it is a particle simulator that takes simple concepts like position, rotation, scale, and velocity and applies them to huge numbers of individual points in 3D space. When simple rules are applied to a lot of things like that at once, the result is an emergence of complex patterns and behaviors which can then be used to create all kinds of different visual effects.

so, when it comes to dynamics, simulations, and VFX work, in general, i think that Blender is better than 3ds Max if relying on their own tools without plugins. but using third party plugins 3ds max has the upper hand because if you are a 3ds max user you get access to the most advanced visual effects technology that is being used to work on big-budget movies using Plugins such as Pheonix FD, thinking particles, fumefx and so on.


Rendering

Image source : Youtube/Ehsan Shamsi


when it comes to rendering 3ds max has many render engines like the ART Render engine, quicksilver, and Vue field renderer but by far the most important one is Arnold.

Arnold is an unbiased, physically based, ray tracing render engine that was created by a company known as Solid Angle, then acquired by Autodesk in 2016. Arnold has been used in many Hollywood movies like Thor, Captain America, X-Men, The Avengers, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Pacific Rim, and much more.

Before Arnold 3ds max used to have Mental ray which is a discontinued Render engine, that was on top of the world once but in the last decade it kind of lost a good portion of users and faded into oblivion.

Arnold is a very strong render engine that can help you render very high-quality images and animations. and it also have now the ability to do real-time interactive viewport rendering like Eevee of Blender which is a nice thing to have.

Image source : blenderartists.org


on the other hand, Blender has two different render engines that can be used for totally different purposes.

Cycles is Blender’s physically-based path tracer for production rendering and generally speaking to render high-quality images with as much efficiency as possible. It is designed to provide physically based results out-of-the-box, with artistic control and flexible shading nodes for production needs.

Eevee is also a render engine that ships with Blender but it serves a different purpose than cycles because it is a realtime render engine focused on speed and interactivity while achieving the goal of rendering PBR materials. Eevee can be used interactively in the 3D Viewport but also produce high-quality final renders.

if you want different or faster results Both 3ds Max and Blender have access to powerful third-party render engines such as Vray, and octane render.

so what it comes to Rendering i would say that you can get pretty much the same results using 3ds max or Blender because it seems like 3Ds max’s Arnold is catching up in terms of viewport realtime rendering.


Character Animation

Blender has seen a lot of growth over the years when it comes to animation because it was developed by the Blender team to rise up to the needs of the animation team that worked on the amazing short films created by the Blender institute.

Image source : udemy/3d-animation-with-blender

i would say that Blender is very good when it comes to character animation because it has nice set of tools that can help you do so. Blender also offers a good set of tools when it comes to rigging for character preparation for animation. You can use built-in add-ons to allow you to rig your character easily and faster or if you have enough experience you can create your own complex rigs.

in addition to that Blender is one of the few 3d software that has the ability to draw and create 2D animation. This is possible in blender using the grease pencil which is a system that was created years ago and it became much better lately.

The grease pencil will open the door for navigating new possibilities using Blender. recently it was used to create a few short 2d films in addition to a Netflix feature film as well which is pretty amazing.

on the other end, 3ds max also has good character animation and rigging tools if you want to do character animation. some people think it is very bad when it comes to animation but it is not actually, because it is used now in many game development studios to do animation work.

Image source : linkedin.com

this is the case generally speaking because it has CAT or Character animation toolkit which is a character-animation plug-in for 3ds Max that became part of it 10 years ago. CAT facilitates character rigging, nonlinear animation, animation layering, motion capture import, and muscle stimulation. basically using it you can create character or animal rigs in few minutes especially for video game projects.

also one of the most important things about using CAT is its procedural animation tools which will allow you to create character animation without even touching keyframes.

so in terms of character animation, i believe that both Blender and 3ds Max are good but 3ds max is seeing fewer updates in this area.


Final thoughts

as we have seen, both 3ds max are great 3D packages but they do have points of strength and weakness.
Blender is great for people on a budget and in a small team, it is great for artists and independent creators, and if you are committed to learning the concepts of art, any package will be equally good. However, if you want to work in a studio in any industry using 3D software, like game development or VFX you will need to learn 3ds Max.

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1 Comment

Charlie · February 3, 2022 at 10:05 pm

3D modeling and rendering to a large degree on your level of experience and hardware. Comparing latest Blender to Max on some large scenes, Max continues to shine whereas Blender can stutter or crash. Also, being an experienced Max background I can knock out the same model and an expert Blender user in 1/4 of the same time. Another benefit of Max is that much of the tools are already built into the software so you don’t have to go hunting around for equivalent plugins.

I do that Blender is free and has a lot of development , but if you’re experienced it simply doesn’t hold a candle to the speed and stability of Max still. I’m finding that most people that tout Blender don’t have significant experience with Max and probably aren’t presenting an accurate representation.

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