There is a plug in that allows for bi-directional transfer between 3ds max and Cinema 4D. It’s about $40 and does an OK job with geometry and animation. Materials are different, and I would not expect to find an off-the-shelf solution for this, as there are so many different rendering choices for both max and Cinema. If you were using Octane, you could likely package up the materials and get much of that across, though applying them between the two applications are completely different if you have done anything with selection sets, etc. And, 3ds max has a much more versatile UV handling method than Cinema does, sadly, and that was one of the things that I really missed when I switched many years back.
You may have heard that there is a version of VRay for Cinema, and I wish that I could recommend it. It is developed under license from Chaos Group, and not by themselves. Development has been glacial, and I do not believe that they have officially released a formal v3 of the core, something that Choas released several years ago now. But there are so many other great choices out there, including Arnold, Octane, Redshift, Corona, etc, so you should be covered there. Cinema itself has two separate rendering engines internally, though I rarely use those anymore (occasionally the Sketch and Toon module).
Cinema is not as strong with precision modeling as is max, and really falls down when snapping between objects. For some reason, Maxon just can’t seem to get that right. I suspect there is something in the object handling algorithms that makes this very difficult for them, as the concept itself is very simple. There are ways around this, of course, and you adjust – after you get over it.
That said, Victor Veliko is porting/has ported his popular LWCAD plug in to Cinema. It is very architecturally-oriented, and would answer many of the specialized needs that architects have for doors, windows, roofs, etc, even the handling of things like the variety of shingles and other roof treatments used.
Cinema really shines in the ease-of-use department, though you do need to “grok” it first, and coming from max, that will take a little time. But it will be time well-spent. There is no concept of a modifier stack, at least, not in the way that max works. Much of that is handled in the Object Manager, an outliner-style window that really is the brains of Cinema’s object handling. Modifiers, deformers and the like are treated in the hierarchy – for example, SubDs are called a ‘generator’ in Cinema’s language, and object trees placed as children to modifier will be subdivided. Similar to Turbo-smooth (do they still call it that?) but better, IMO. A shortcut key quickly enables/disables the operation. In addition to these options, there is the “tag” concept in Cinema, and this is pretty cool (though took me awhile to get). These are attributes and effects that are added to an object, and in the Object Manager read from let to right (processed in the same order). Materials and other things are assigned with tags, and materials can be stacked in this manner (though not all 3rd party render engines support this stacking.) Everything in Cinema can be easily enabled/disabled, tags included. It is very versatile, but also very complex.
Speaking of complex, Cinema orders operations via a “Priorities” system, which is one of the least documented parts of Cinema, given the footprint that they have on the program. Beginners usually don’t need to worry about this stuff, but it crops up as you get more of a handle on the product. I’ll just leave that here for now.
One thing you will definitely miss is Particle Flow. Cinema once licensed Thinking Particles, and it ships with every version, I believe. It is built on a very old version of TP, however, and, to my knowledge, has never been updated, which is really too bad. It is powerful, though, and might meet your needs. Most people today use X-Particles, which is very good. It will cost extra, though, and can have trouble playing nice with some external renderers like Octane. It is also a bit of a memory hog, and crash frequently. Of course, if you’re working in max, you are likely used to that already, but Cinema is actually rather stable. Still, “save frequently” is always a good rule of practice.
For smoke and fire effects, there is no real 3rd party equivalent to FumeFX in my opinion, especially when combined with PFlow. There is Turbulence FD which is good, and when rendered with the Cinema engines can produce great results. 3rd party engines may not support the “post sim” noise effects that can add detail to the smoke, which is unfortunate. It has been awhile since Turbulence was updated (too many different product versions, I suspect) though I think it is about due for an update. However, XParticles 4 can do very similar things now, though TFD is currently faster. XP4 has many other things going for it, and looks like it will have an exciting future. They recently integrated the old Softimage “Explosia” suite into their product, and it looks really good.
For character work, max is just better. Better rigging, better skinning and UV tools, tons of information, and, of course CAT, for those who don’t really want to dig deep. Cinema has a character tool for rigging, and it is actually pretty good, and there are some basic CAT-like tools for animating walk cycles and the like. But it gets technical real fast, and since such as small portion of the Cinema user base actually uses this aspect of the program, it seems a little buggier than other areas of Cinema, and updates aren’t as frequent. Still, I use it, and the experience is still better that max.
About user experience, I really HATED using max after awhile, though just how much was not apparent until I spent a few months in Cinema. Cinema is a creative dream – it really promotes experimentation and things just seem to make sense overall. There are usually workarounds to every issue, and the community is top-notch. Cinema’s users are quite often creative influencers and really are leading motion design. In fact, nothing beats Cinema for motion design. Mograph is amazing and deep, and by no means limited at all to motion graphics. Take the time to get to know that aspect, even if motion graphics aren’t your thing. You won’t regret it.
Feel free to IM me if you need more info or help. Good luck!!