Blender in Production (3DS Max User Perspective)

Just thought I would chime in on this.

So I have been using blender on and off for the past few days in tandem Unreal 4 and a few open source packages. I use blender for asset creation. I used to use 3DS Max.

I am coming from a 3DS max background and I am finding it very difficult to adapt to blender. With that said - I want to use blender in a production environment. But I am finding it hard to justify it.

Here is why -

  1. Modeling tools - The modeling tools are very non-intuitive from a new comer standpoint. Especially when when someone has been using 3DS max. My advice use 3DS max for about a week watch tutorials and stuff on the basics. Find out what they are doing right and then go back to blender and add / Modify features as needed.

  2. It Lags with high poly / Dense models - I am using 2.71 and I am making some very high poly meshes. Around 1 Mil Tris. I plan to decimate it in Topogun or 3D Coat.

  3. 3D Cursor - Give us the ability to lock along individually Axis. Every time I right click which is often It will relocate and take away from valuable production time. If you want my advice get rid of the 3D cursor or just give us the option to lock it in place.

  4. User Interface - The user interface is good. But could be better. Everything is scattered about and buttons are very small. It needs to be more artist friendly. It feels very design by committee. Do not try to be different with your UI.

  5. Re-Topo tools - I know that there are some paid tools for this but Some build in tools would not hurt. This is a major weakness of blender At the moment. Retopo should be painless not painful.

  6. Rigging - I use Maya for rigging at the moment (Due to the A.R.T plugin from EPIC) I would like that to be transferred over to Blender for better rigging in blender. You can find the details on the tool here. I would pay for this tool to be ported to blender funny enough.

  7. Controls / Navigation - Blenders Controls Currently feel like they are made by an engineer not an artist. Again very design by committee In my opinion. This wastes time with people (Especially newcomers) trying to figure out how to navigate in the 3D view. My advice -

WASD style Controls - Forward = W / A = Back / S = Left / D = Right
Right Click + Q and E for rotation.
Left Click for Selection.
Space Bar, Left or Right Click in an empty area of the screen to deselect.

  1. Autosave - This is a must have feature. I know that it sounds basic but it is not there…

  2. Optional Integration of Tools such as APEX - I know that blender has its own destruction and simulation tools. However It would be nice to have the ability to use Nvidia APEX with Blender. Or at least the bindings to just plug and play. In other words very polished destruction tools for blender are a must.

Just thought I would say this - Blender is awesome BUT allot of improvement and effort is and will needed to make it on the level of 3DS Max or Maya. I am not saying that it is not possible. It is do able 100%.

Anyway - That is my 2 cents about blender in a production environment.


I been using blender for 5 years now, and have used 3dsmax for 4 years together with blender in a professional game studio environment.

For the first years in that studio i was criticized for using blender, on the last years even the lead & senior max users were impressed on blenders capabilities, to the extend of asking me to teach them how to use it. It even saved peoples asses on couple of occasions because max got the files corrupted.

So when you say something like the quote I pulled off of your post up top, I find it plainly arrogant and very ridiculous.

How do you believe you can compare the workflow when you have

“So I have been using blender on and off for the past few days”

Blender may have its short comings , but they are not the modeling tools nor animation tools.

You want to know about a problem for “a production environment” try > motion capture or file link system…

Just how is Blender’s modeling tools “unintuitive” exactly? They work pretty much exactly like every other modeling software out there.

For point #7. Blender is currently the only 3D software I have seen that makes use of the WASD controls, you “unlock” the mode by going into camera perspective and press “Shift+F”. Honestly I cannot see the use for this during modeling, it wastes valuable hotkey space to use 8 buttons to navigate the viewport instead of 2 and you still loose some of the control you get by navigating “gamer-style”. If you really want to navigate that way then get a spacenavigator 3D mouse.

I have to agree with the other points though (however autosave already exists). Blender doesn’t handle dense meshes very well and it would always be amazing to have some external 3’rd party plugins available.

@NinthJake - no need to go into camera view to access walk/fly mode (it works from any view)

On the modeling tools front, its probably the best thing Blender has going for it to be honest, so perhaps thats the only point of contention. Coming from a 3ds max workflow that puts even more emphasis on the modifier stack, I can see how someone coming over to blender could be frustrated, though the same would probably happen if they went to Maya, Modo or any of the other 3d suits that were more tool focused (right tool for the right job approach).

That said, while the functionality is actually pretty good for modeling in Blender, the layout, the presentation and general interaction with the tools can certainly be considered unintuitive. For example, having a menu strip at the bottom of the 3d viewport as opposed to the top breaks the most basic habitual approach. We naturally have been trained to look at the top, find the menu, pull it down and select the action. This isnt so with Blender’s default tool menu. The tool property panel when using a tool is also easy to lose or not even be aware it exist, and theres no major indicator letting you know you can access a floating tool property panel either. What we have now isnt better, its just different for the sake of being different. The more different and hidden stuff is, the longer it will take to figure it out. Intuitive and familiarity are inseparable. Meaning you cant have one with out the other.

Each package is different and people are drawn to the UI that fits them. Maybe Blender just doesn’t fit you? Personally, I would not be using Blender if it worked like 3dsmax. That’s my least favorite package for development. Maybe give Blender some more time because I find it very user friendly… but I’m coming from Lightwave.

Go into User Preference: Input: 3D View: 3D View (Global) and change the input for the 3D Cursor to something like Alt Action Mouse so that it will only move if you hold down the Alt key when you click. This frees up the mouse button for something else, like Box select.

Steve S

There actually was a change to how the 3D cursor is placed recently, and that is how it will snap to a position on the mesh now if possible (useful if you need to create a new object that would be adjacent).

For example, having a menu strip at the bottom of the 3d viewport as opposed to the top breaks the most basic habitual approach

Right-click the menu bar > flip to top (save the startup file if you want it by default). If this is not acceptable, then perhaps have it flip to the top automatically when ‘Maya’ mode is selected then (along with changing the selection key to left-click)?

Anything you model in max, I bet I can model in Blender faster. I look at max modelling tutorials sometimes and even when they’re not trying to explain things and are just trying to get a piece done, all I can think is “uuuugh, this person is sooo slow”. Maya seems pretty fast though.

Blender’s modelling tools are really not its problem area :slight_smile:

  1. It Lags with high poly / Dense models - I am using 2.71 and I am making some very high poly meshes. Around 1 Mil Tris. I plan to decimate it in Topogun or 3D Coat.

your PC have to be pretty old. i work on 10 milion on some cheap shit laptop without a problem.

  1. 3D Cursor - Give us the ability to lock along individually Axis. Every time I right click which is often It will relocate and take away from valuable production time. If you want my advice get rid of the 3D cursor or just give us the option to lock it in place.

just google about 3D cursor and what for it is… from the same point the left selecting is invalid… however u can swith this in options but it is not good idea

if some text or icon is to small for u simply move mouse over area that u want to be bigger or smaller and press + or - on numpad.

As the other said:

You’re using it for only a few days, you can’t say thing like that. I personally find Blender easier to use than a lot of other 3d application, especially for the shortcuts

1: It’s just a different program, you cant pretend it to be the same.

2: Today i was using a 3 million faces model, no problems, this is related to your computer.

3: Can agree just a bit, could be a useful thing to place and hold the cursor in a position, but the Good thing of blender is that you can customize it as you want!! go in User preferences and change the action to change the cursor position

4: I agree that a simpler UI can be designed for who don’t have much needs.

5: Retopo is a diffucult thing, there’s a reason why there are $$$ software aut there to do that.

6: A rigging addon already exist, but for that you would have to ask EPIC to do that.

7: No. At least, if you want you can do it, but one of the strong point of Blender for me are the shortcuts, you can do almost everything without opening a menu, you would loose a TON of useful shortcuts, usually in 3DS Max, Maya or other tutorials, i see a massive use of menus, and for me is an enormous waste of time, in blender you cand easily and intuitively access a lot of options, and change mode with the touch of a button, and i think that the actual navigation system i a LOT more intuitive than other applications, and you don’t loose any shortcut, then a WASD mode can be enabled, but in my opinion it would be really difficult to navigate freely in the viewport.

8: Autosave already exist. You have to enable it.

9: Again, just ask Nvidia to develop an APEX addon for blender.

SOftware is a choice… and not everyone will like how one package does something compared to another… it’s not “objectively better” or worse… jsut different.

Blender, lightwave and modo share a similar approach to modelling and some people like that more… maya and max take a different approach… Like Tommy I prefer blender modelling to max / maya because it feels more imediate (select data and then perform operation on it rather than select operation then select data to modify…

history, modifier stacks etc are the other reasons I prefer blender to max/maya, but again it’s a preference… if blender worked like either of those packages it would be less useful to me…

for sure there are certain things that are harder to do than they should be in blender, and certain workflows that can feel scattered… but that’s true of every software package…

just wanted to point out that max and maya could learn a lot from blender too and for many users it already surpasses those apps.

Of course blender can be improved and will never be @finished@… but many of your suggestions would be a major turnoff for many users… retopo is a big subject and there is for sure room for improvement…

1: disagree about modelling
2: lag could be your hardware
3: cursor is a good feature nevr foudn an issue but this wouldn’t harm… ceratinly don’t feel liek i ever lose valuable production time with it though
4: many areas are very elegant, some tasks/workflows could be better for sure… it’s constantly being improved but generic statements liek this help no one…
5:retopo is maybe a little opaque to some but not that bad… automated retopo has been on wishlists for years and there are addons available that can help with teh process… i agree it could alwasy be better.
6:the a.r.t plugin you can already do much of using built in functions and addons… it looks liek a big toolbox… maybe be more specific about which features form it you would like and you’ll find it easier to get someone to write addons etc for the bits you are missing or for others to point out where the functions already exist rigify addon does a big chunk for example…
7:disagree and of course ideasman laready pointed out wasd mode…
8: look in preferences there is auto save
9: licences must be compatible with gpl for bledner to use some of these 3rd party tools… and ther are alwasy requests for this or that simulation thing to be integrated into blender… even if the licences are compatible you need a dev to do this and as you point out blender already has its own simulation tools

Just thought I would say this - Blender is awesome BUT allot of improvement and effort is and will needed to make it on the level of 3DS Max or Maya. I am not saying that it is not possible. It is do able 100%.

you lost me with this… comes off a bit rude… perhaps you should invest some more time in learning blender and maybe you’ll understand but everyone is different!

It’s whatever you feel is best. If you like 3DSmax more then use that. Using something on and off for a few days mean nothing. This clearly shows in your list of “problems,” half of which are non existent.

  1. The modeling tools are fast and fluid. Faster and more fluid than any other package. That’s not always the best thing. Some people like a slower more “stable” working environment like the ones found in Max and Maya. That’s just preference. The menus which contain the tools are not placed very well, but this has promoted a hotkey based workflow. The main tools I use I quickly learned all of the hotkeys. The rest are found easily on the left side for me. Also, you can’t tell other people to watch a week of tutorials when you have only gone a few days on and off in a program yourself.

  2. Your computer or your Blender settings are at fault. Have you even tried looking up a solution to the slow viewport? They’re out there.

  3. Shift C resets the cursor. There are various ways to get cursor to where you want like going into a side orthographic view or selecting parts of a mesh and assigning the cursor there, which will set it to the median location.

  4. A lot of people complain about the UI, but I like it. It’s a lot like Modo’s UI. It’s definitely not beginner friendly, but I find it more efficient with for more experienced people, same as ZBrush and Modo.

  5. There are free retopology addons. Blender addons are free. The new ones coming out on the Blender market might cost money, but the Retopo addons are before the market. Contours is the one I assume you’re referring to that costs money, but it’s actually free if you get it from the source. There are built in tools, but you need to enable and/or know how to use them. They’re not the best, but they’re certainly not painful to use, at least for me. Again, something you should do some research on before talking about. And on a note for built in functionality, Blender does a good job with out of the box functionality. Certainly better than Maya.

  6. Not experienced in rigging, so I don’t know.

  7. Blender controls do have the WASD style controls if enabled. The regular controls are some of the best I’ve used. The way it centers around the MMB is better than the way Maya and Max do it, in my opinion. More straightforward and ergonomic. Not the industry standard, but this is one broken standard that is an improvement on the norm.

  8. Has it.

  9. That would be nice. Especially with the UE4 support. Maybe in the future, seeing as more emphasis is being placed on Blender for game usage.

I’m not trying to flame or anything. Everyone is entitled to their educated opinion. Spend a bit more time and see if you like it. I learned how to model in Maya. I never wanted to go to Blender. It was something I avoided because I was in my comfort zone in Maya. When I needed to switch to Blender for economic reasons, I didn’t like it. Part of this was because I had a negative mindset going in. After a while, everything felt a lot smoother and faster than Maya. Maybe it didn’t/doesn’t have the high end, case-specific features that Maya has, but the foundation is certainly a lot better for me.

On a side note, it’s not just about the better software. It’s important to remember which company you’re backing. Autodesk is out to make money. That’s their first and foremost concern. It’s an important one, but so is customer satisfaction. They discontinued Softimage simply because they didn’t want to dish out money to keep it going, even though it was still likely making them a profit. Even if it wasn’t making them a profit, they weren’t losing much. Maya and Max would easily make up for Softimage’s losses. Many people preferred to use SI over Max or Maya, so keeping it in development would’ve gone a long way. But again, Autodesk doesn’t care about that. A lot of “improvements” they do to Maya and Max over the years has to do with shiny new features rather than improving the foundation. That’s what sells. Maya and Max are great tools, but Autodesk is not someone I prefer to support.

There was once a proposal / tip to change the default action to a double click operation on the developer mailing list.

Its a bit a give or take proposal, if you are new / coming from a different application this tip is really godsend, after getting more into blender this becomes less of an issue.

15 years in 3d modeling, on max, maya, softimage, etc, and Blender is the best, the simplest and the faster.
You just try it for fiew days, how can you give your opinion on it if you don’t know it ?
I bet if you have to learn max now, you will say it’s an horrible software.

The 3dcursor is really powerfull when you know what you can do with it, like in all blender tools, first, we don’t like them, after, we love them.

So please, try more and ask for a friend to tell you how blender work’s.

A few days with blender and you already are proficient enough to have this list of suggestions?!!?! It took me weeks coming from another package to figure out how to do the things I was doing before. I complained under my breath about the unintuitive interface and how much time had to be dedicated to the learning curve, but now I’m a convert. I’m probably just a slow learner but, even now after three years almost exclusively using blender, I still learn new features and techniques on a regular basis.

Blender has outright advantages over other packages in many areas. But in my mind, there are two especially good things that no one else has at this level.

  1. Open source. If you don’t like something, just add some code to make it do what you want. Or convince others your desired feature is important enough to dedicate their resources to program it. The pace that new, useful features are being added to blender blows my mind.

  2. Community. A passionate, diverse, talented group of artists, programmers, technicians, hobbyists and industry professionals are very quick to help out with almost any difficulty right here in this very forum. Got a problem? Sincere people who want to help themselves often have answers here within minutes at almost any time of day.

And did I mention how much it costs?

TLDR: Give it time. Finding workarounds might take a little time, but there is much to love once you get used to it.

Really? Someone is actually using this to navigate in 3D view? Sounds quite difficult and unintuitive.

Any PC game since Castle Wolfenstein in the early 80s has this as an option, so PC gamers will find this second nature without even thinking about it. Doom and Quake showed this to be a really superior method to move through an environment and leave death and destruction in your wake. But mouse scroll wheels weren’t around then and you didn’t have the advantage of locking view on an object (like with NumPad-decimal key), not to mention those keys can be much better put to use with shortcuts.

I really don’t know how to comment on this. How about getting a joystick and using it to navigate?