Importing 3ds max files to Blender
Update: Here is an updated article that shows how to use only free resources to convert max files without 3ds Max.
In the past few years, some of the changes imposed by Autodesk to the licensing and pricing model of software 3ds max caused an exodus of 3d artists to other platforms. A lot of those unhappy artists are adopting Blender as their tool to create an architectural visualization.
Among the benefits you can still get renderers like V-Ray to work with Blender and since a significant amount of people uses V-Ray to create architectural images in 3ds max. Having V-Ray working with Blender is a powerful combination for people leaving 3ds max behind.
But, you still have one problem to solve. How to import your old projects in MAX format to Blender?
In case you don't know the MAX format is a proprietary and closed format that 3ds max adopts to save their files. A common way to get 3d models out of 3ds max and import them to Blender is with an intermediate file like OBJ or FBX. You just have to export those files from 3ds max.
The OBJ exporter in 3ds max even has a Blender profile to maximize compatibility.
As a downside from the process, you will most likely lose all settings related to materials. All models will need new materials to render in Cycles.
I came across a tool that might help to solve that problem. A company from Argentina called 3DToAll just released a tool to export 3d models from 3ds max to Blender. With the MAXtoBlender promises to make a smooth transition from MAX to Blender.
The tool is not free and will require you a fee to install.
How does that work? They will provide you with a script to install on both 3ds max and Blender. You still need 3ds max installed to use the exporter.
In 3ds max, you will export the scene and import that later in Blender.
What is the difference between getting an OBJ or FBX file? The main point of the script is the material conversion. They claim to also convert materials, even from V-Ray to Cycles. That alone could save a lot of time for people with old 3d scenes or models in MAX.
In the next weeks, I will get a few tests with the script and post a more detailed review.
Will we ever be able to import MAX files directly to Blender without the need of 3ds max? Probably never. Unless Autodesk is willing to open the MAX format to developers, which I don't think will happen anytime soon.