Pretty sure I know my answer but could use re-assurance. Moving from Max to Maya



Longtime Max user. I always knew the truth but lately, it’s been undeniable. I little context; I work in commercial and do photo-real and stop-motion-esque CG. Our studio has constant criticism for 3D Studio Max, but we deal with it because our pipeline is built around it aaaaand, the modifier stack. It’s hard to find animators who WANT to use Max, our render pass submission is completely built on Render Pass Manager (RPM), which has problems integrating with Max, is slow, buggy, etc. and it generally feels like Autodesk would rather we did not use Max for artistic animation projects.

I’m moving to Maya and would like to hear your thoughts!


Yeah biggest problem I have with Max is finding character animators who want to be using it for anything other than shot cycle work in games. That said there are some places who do fantastic work with complex animation in Max (Blur for example) but they would be in the minority for vfx and full cg.

A lot of places I know that were traditionally based around a Max pipeline for feature film and/or commercial VFX work have subsequently moved more and more to Maya for animation over the years. I think this is less to do with Max not being able to handle their needs and more to do with the rise of Houdini as the place to finish FX, and the advance of environment assembly tools in things like Katana, Houdini and Maya itself. Previously a lot of places used Max because, while the character animation wasn’t fantastic, it did have amazing plugins for FX and environment rendering. If you didn’t do a lot of character work then Max made a lot of sense, but that has been democratised recently.

I think that with the advent of Alembic, openSubdiv, openVDB and now USD there’s less of an incentive to choose a generic CG tool these days so we end up with people using the individual package that suits their needs best. In the post XSI era this means Maya for rigging/animation, Houdini for FX, Almost Anything for lighting (renderer dependant I guess) and Layout can also be done anywhere as your use of proxies and restrictions on polys is more renderer based these days.


^ This. Totally agree in all respects


Just a note in terms of studios dropping Max–Autodesk has been pushing for people to switch to Maya for a while, not for any good reason really but because they wanted new license purchases. It’s one of the reasons they had issues with development of Mass Effect Andromeda; Autodesk was able to convince someone they needed to switch and it took a long time for them to change their pipeline and it didn’t provide any benefit.


Perhaps Autodesk are planning to retire the ageing Max for anything other that CAD/Archviz, Game and similar work.

They would then focus their serious character, VFX and simulation developments on Maya.

Sounds like Max is sort of “on the way out” for Autodesk to me.

I don’t think they will kill Max completely. Just shift major 3D R&D and new features to Maya instead.


Thank you, thank you for the affirmation. All very helpful information.

Any thoughts on whether Maya handles file referencing better than Max? I’m finding the xRef system to be almost useless, the amount of times I’ve had to scrap the whole reference for no apparent reason basically negates any value it would have had.

Any thoughts on Python implementation in Max vs. Maya?

Thanks again, phase out underway.


Quite likely Maya is superior on both fronts. I’ve used a couple of pipelines with Maya’s reference system. However having a smart maya savy pipeline manager/team is a must.
Artists self-managing that is probably where all the headaches come from!:rolleyes:


Max has the most users so it’s unlikely. But before they dropped perpetual licenses it was in their best interest to get people to switch so that they could sell new licenses. Now with subscription they just need people on any subscription to get that continual revenue. Once they get a lot of people locked into subscriptions then there’s not as much need to do development on any software since users won’t have much alternative.


I only briefly used max for 6 months 17 years ago, but over the last few years I always hear people that move from max to maya that maya wasn’t straightforward for them. I’m not really sure I understand why they think so. Maya has nodes so there’s that, but I’m not sure I get why maya is considered so much more difficult to learn? It used to be complaints about maya’s modeling tools, but recently even some die-hard max people have said maya’s modeling tools are now pretty good…so is it something about the UI that’s difficult for people to wrap their head around?


Given the choice between Max and Maya I’d take Maya in a heartbeat. Given the choice between Max or Maya and something else (Softimage, Houdini, Modo) I want neither of them. To be clear I used Maya almost daily from 98-2008 until I returned to using Softimage. I know Maya well. And I know Max well also. Started using it as far back as 97. Maya however is not designed for the generalist. There’s an average of at 5 different ways to do any one thing in Maya. It’s not really like that in Max. There are similarities in regards to their interfaces. But they are not the same. Max is much deeper when it comes to its proceduralism, Maya is less forgiving in that regard. But Maya is a stronger core app without the deep dependence on plugins that Max has. Mayas “nodes” are essentially not exposing a core proceduralism like Softimage or Houdini does. Maya, unlike just about everything else, is designed (since it’s inception in the mid 90s) for teams. It’s I tended for one person to become a master of just one task or discipline within the app (modeler, animator, lighter, dynamics, fx, etc). Maya was never created with the generalist in mind. And while in a lot of ways it’s much more conventional, it’s rivals Houdini in learning curve without the same rich proceduralism that Houdini posesses. But from a production viewpoint, Maya is solid and clean. Regardless learning it is a complex experience if you are trying to use it like XSI or Max as a generalist. You have to be mindful that there is so much there, so many different ways to do similar things, so many dialogs to become familiar with. There is no reason a generalist can’t learn Maya. But you can’t approach it with a Max, XSI, Modo, or Houdini mindset. It will take a little longer to learn such that you are comfortable navigating just about any part of the application. But it has its own philosophy. You can’t impose any other application phosophy on top of it. And that is especially important to understand when the odd similarities between Max and Maya’s interfaces tend to deceive you into thinking they are similar. They are not.


A bit of topic, yet the same vector… it’s a longer text - i am older. But i am sure some twitter youth here can manage it :slight_smile:

Last time i took part in discussions about “which software is better or so” was, I think, back in 2004. Since then I considered this kind of topics absolute bulls*** and time wasting.

2017 is however a Year where I can look back and maybe for the first time consider the fact that some applications have radically progressed while other have regressed. Being originally Real3D User, from Amiga1200, I spent 25+ years working with almost any 3d application for professional projects: Lightwave, 3dsMax, Maya, C4D etc
There is no renderer I do not own, and no developer I do not know. Yet, something has changed.

It seems to me all these Brontosaurus have reached the late stage of their life, but this time for real. Autodesk stagnates since years (both Maya and Max). I am not sure if we will see them again in our lifetime as absolute rulers of the market. They will be still out there, but they wont take anymore the hyper-central position as they did it in the last decades.

  • Maya will dominate longer, thanks to the fact no other software has managed to implement such complex production rigging and animation tools. The rest of Maya is already today totally exchangeable. A side-observation: Maya 2018 manages to boot meanwhile almost as slow as Max. It is like as if they build in Maya all bad properties of Max, you know, like your kids – they copy their bad habits faster then the good ones. 
  • Max will tick for the next few years because of the massive user base and robust, fast visualization abilities (except of RedShift, all renderers and almost all plugins are developed for this platform – first. You have a market where you can still sell production Tools. Maya users were since ever the worst customers - either they do not buy or they write their own snippets). And even this has changed, you can find today almost any renderer for any 3d host application available. I see no difference in working with Max or Maya with Vray.

So, we have now 2 one-eyed Kings.

Maybe Autodesk should have left it as it was – bundled good animation and nice visualization tool, with two tech teams in competition doing own and at the same time cross-development, and then fuse them one day.
Anyway, it’s over now.

The rest of the competitors is running around, but not biting.

  • C4D has focused at least at MotionDesign, dwelling in the German woods around Friedrichsdorf, like in Winterfell. Yes, it is a cold and unpleasant world outside, i know.
  • SideFX claims in their official statement on the hompage Houdini is a software for VFX. Yes, “we have some modeling tools too”, but at least they are honest and position themselves in own corner and do not tend to come out, but keep it and strengthen the position.
  • Just like Zbrush.
  • Mudbox is dead (unfortuntately).
  • Coat3D has not reached the critical mass to become a supernova, it glows like a white dwarf, condemned to remain as such forever. (but it is surprisingly a nice, refreshing 3D software with some awesome ideas and features, i whish them success)
  • Lightwave bacame a mythical entity: like an U-Boot that unexpectedly dive out, and again dive in and dissapear for a long time or forever. No one knows what they do, when they will do or what they will do - if at all. Great software, great look, great pitty - i invested lot of time and money in it.
  • And so on.

The only app I despised back in 2008 was Blender. God, I hated it. For a very long time. I have to ask politely all Blender users, who read the rubbish I wrote, about them and their ugly garage-software, for forgiveness. I am working (or trying to work) since weeks and months with it, and it seems to be the only 3d applications with a potential to replace max/maya at once. Not today, not in 2 years, but in the soon future. They must only be careful about what to do after they have finished copying and rebuilding all functions from other software: will there be enough creative power to develop a completely new, better 3d processes and workflows?
Can Blender become what the other has missed in last 10 years – a Photoshop for 3d, where every 3D Artsit feels like at home?

*For the end, the magic words: “this is my opinion” 

Thanks for reading and commenting!


I give Blender 30 years before it becomes an actual standard of sorts across studios on an industry-level scale. It’s already starting to in some of the countries with rising CG markets that studios outsource to. Blender for Artists is a good first pass at fixing the UI. IMO it still probably needs 4 or 5 revisions before getting any real attention. The default UI isn’t working for them, despite it insisting on it.

I get the impression people are moving away from Max in the animation industry. Seems like it is being more oriented as a visualization tool and not so much towards animation production. From a subscription standpoint, it would be better for Autodesk to make them have very distinct capabilities so users would see benefits to subscription if they have access to the other package that can do things their main one can’t.

IMO Autodesk has been doing well with Maya lately now that they’ve fixed most of their mess with the past few releases. The complaints that prior max users used to complain about with Maya 2015 have good things to say about Maya 2017/2018 so I think Maya is heading in a good direction.

I don’t think Lightwave has a prayer of a chance at succeeding at competing with the big players anymore. If it doesn’t have a major killer feature that no one else can do, it won’t lure many existing studios. It may lure freelance artists or possibly new small upstart studios, kinda like Hash Animation Master or Strata Studio Pro used to. I think it’ll mainly end up being a low-cost software for hobbyists and freelancers.

Modo hasn’t fared well as far as the mass scale. I don’t know, does anyone know any studios that have build any serious pipelines based on it? I’m sure someone has, but you don’t often hear about them. I only hear that it’s great at modeling and the UI, but everything else still needs a lot more work before being competitive on a mass-scale.

C4D is expensive, but also pretty good. They have a lot of different priced packages for different needs so that’s good. They absolutely own the Medical Animation industry with probably 50+% market penetration. Mainly it’s because it’s easy to pick up and learn and is what most of the medical animation schools teach. It seems more suited for generalists with the easy learning curve.

Houdini is like zbrush. Everyone can work it into their pipeline and it does something no one else can. It’s not a good primary replacement 3D app, nor is it trying to be.

The industry had its chance to use arguably the best 3D app on the market - XSI, and they didn’t. So now everyone is left with with the others

Max, Maya, and C4D are the most expensive general-purpose 3D apps and what most of the industry are using. People may not like the pricing or subscriptions or even company. They’ll complain about them even though they’re the main tools used in most markets. IMO it’s like hating on Microsoft or Windows. You’d think people would get over it already after all these years.


For my own two cents as a modeler I will copy and paste my own experience transferring from max to maya from another forum.

(This is for Maya 2016 SP6 vs 3ds Max 2014 mind ya’ll so one or more complaint may no longer apply)

[b]There are many quircks and some outright glitches that only seem to affect me so it is difficult to
find help with it.

For example: I could be working in quadview, switch to perspective, and
then switch back to find a whole other scene open in one of the
orthgraphic views (now a perspective view), WTF?!

It is far far slower than Max at saving a scene of similar complexity, as well as selecting objects.

Lack of a permanent global position interface.

Many operations moving the pivot to the center of the world, a consistent time waster.

The lack of a proper symmetry option is criminally baffling at the very
best with some people actually defending its exclusion (it being more
or less an industry standard and thus its absence lacks any other

The lack of a modifier stack is not a deal-breaker but its absence is sorely felt.

Some tools just are not as intuitive as in Max (bend and hinge
immediately come to mind) while others like bevel will often create very
crooked edge loops without explanation. Sometimes I will try and bevel
and it will do several iterations of edge connect that will tank or
crash the program instead of doing a bevel. Additionally, I had to go
back into Max a couple of times because tools like bevel or edge connect
become insanely slow (a single change taking a minute) across a few
thousand edges whereas Max does it almost instantly.

Do not get me started on object history as it can cause some rank
glitches when rendering and constantly slows simple operations like
target weld thus it constantly needs to be cleared.

Constantly corrupted shelves.

Can never select what I want in a busy scene.

Plugins always turning off.

And weirdly, the software and objects love to break their data
connections so I will have to go into the various windows and reconnect
all sorts of data blocks that just will not stay put.

These glitches are consistent across multiple computers and complete reinstalls.

On the other hand:

I can add a hotkey to things I could not in 3DS Max speeding up
workflow in some areas. I almost never touch the shelves when modeling, a
habit from the hotkey beast that is Blender.

The cut tool is really intuitive, especially when adjusting the individual cut points.

Organic modeling feels weirdly natural.

Component orientation actually works unlike Max where I will select a
face and the gizmo will be pointed at a 45 degree angle to it instead of
its exact normals.

Some exclusive plugins are really handy (Circles).

The rigging tools just make sense, they just do!

And animating feels right.

In summery of my opinions: It is an animation tool with passable
modeling where just about anything can be done (not necessarily
intuitively) and plugins can (sometimes) fill in the gaps.

I have been learning it since September with the bulk of my efforts
starting in November with a series of Digital Tutors tutorials. Right
now I am less pulling my hair out than actually being productive. I am
productive in 3DS Max and Blender and used Lightwave in Highschool and
to be perfectly honest Maya was the hardest of them all to adjust to.
But, I am adjusting.

[/b]That was back in the middle of 2016. I am now very productive with the modeling tools and know where and what each of them are. But, and I will probably receive some cross-eyed looks for this, 3DS Max is still a much better (albeit slower) modeling program with Blender bridging the gap between speed and power.


I’ve heard similar complaints about maya’s pivot system and world coordinates. I always got in the habit of setting up hierarchies with groups or locators if there is a pivot point I need to stay put if I did some polygon operation that reset the pivot

I have to admit, I don’t think I have ever needed world coordinates to model or animate a scene. Maya has them, but they’re tucked away. I’ve always just punched in values to the parent object or created an additional parent object.

some of those things are still problems, others - like symmetry I think are now solved in 2018


[quote=]*For the end, the magic words: “this is my opinion” 

Thanks for reading and commenting![/quote]
Very interesting observations, thanks.

I’d love to know what you think of Houdini. For my money it’s the most interesting of the current 3D apps and if it could make animation feel great then it might end up pulling ahead.

But that’s the thing right now … since the death of XSI there’s really no better option for character rigging and animation than Maya. Until someone else cracks that it’ll sit where it does in everyones pipeline for justifiable reasons.


Unfortunately I did not get the subscription with my purchase of Maya 2016 so I am left stuck with it but given the snail pace of development for new tools I do not feel all that left out. The only new thing that remotely interests me (unrelated to modeling) is MASH as aside from symmetry all most the new things can be found as free plugins.

P.S. While I can work without global values outside of the absolute transform boxes, working on complex hardsurface objects would be much easier in niche circumstances with them.


Do you have dedicated TD/Pipeline guy?
If not, forget about Maya.

Do you guys are all specialist-factory-pipeline or generalist pipeline?
If you guys are more of generalist, forget about Maya.

From my experience Maya animator can adapt to max in a week.
If they refused to use it. You can animate in Maya and point cache out.


Houdini + Maya + Katana.
That’s a lot of money.

Also managing caches takes time and resources and error-prone.
Again you will need decidate pipeline guy for that. Even more expensive.


eh, I think needing a pipeline TD person on staff to use maya is a bit extreme

A TD will help a lot in any 3D production scenario, but it isn’t required to make good use of maya

I used maya just fine as primarily a lone 3D artist for 14 years before we started hiring other full time 3D artists. All throughout that time I worked just fine with other maya artists on larger-scale projects without a TD. That said, it always helps if you’re a little more technical oriented by nature


I agree completely with this sentiment.

Just because Maya was designed for teams by default doesn’t mean you have to use it that way. A generalist can effectively use the software. It does mean however that you have to invest in a greater understanding of the software and take more time to familiarize yourself with things that would ordinarily be done by a TD or pipeline engineer or a programmer for that matter. The learning curve may put some people off as a result. But that reality does not prohibit you from using Maya effectively as a generalist. However, that experience in Maya is going to be very different from a generalist’s experience of Max or XSI or something else. XSI was just ridiculously easy for the generalist. Max was easier than Maya to learn but things like modeling in Max were just downright painful in comparison. The point being that a short learning curve does not translate into efficient workflow. A predictable workflow is easier to learn whether efficient or not. The irony is if you are invested in a particular workflow, and are isolated and aren’t really aware how simple something else is, you have potential for not having a sense for how difficult the workflow you are used to might be. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.