Wednesday, July 4, 2012

3ds Max vs Maya: Part 3, Everything else!

The final part of this (looong) review is... EVERYTHING ELSE!! I will compare some animation related features on both programs and show some other things that one program has but the other does not.


This feature is some of the most important ones in 3dsMax or Maya. Trajectories show you the path of an object in the viewport. It's very useful for checking your arcs, for example.

In both programs, trajectories work pretty much the same way, but there are some options that differ from one to the other.

In Maya, the trajectory or Motion Trail is another object in the scene. You can select it and move it, scale it or rotate it. You can change the type of line you want (locators, point or line) and whether or not to display the frame numbers. That's pretty much it.

 Motion Trail options in ChannelBox

On the other hand, 3dsMax allows you to do much more. First, there is a sub-object level that allows you to modify the curve itself! This will affect the position, rotation or scale of the object. You can add or delete keys into the trajectory itself too. I believe this is pretty handy because it allows you to tweak the arc of the object by moving the trajectory.

Trajectory options in 3dsMax

In the end, both tools serve the same purpose, but I think 3dsMax trajectories tool is a bit more useful than Maya's.

Align Tool

Maya's Align tool is, in my opinion, one of the worst tools the program has to offer. I know a lot of people that just parent constraint two objects so they align to each other and then remove the constraint (more on that later). I mean, is not that the tool doesn't work or anything like that, it's that is not very user friendly (again, this is MY opinion, you might think differently about it and I'm cool with that).

Most weird align tool!

When you want to align two objects together, after you select the Align Tool from the Modify menu, there is this bizarre box that asks you what do you want to do with it, i.e. how do you want to align the two objects. I guess once you get a hold of it, it's easy, but lucky me, there is this little script that brings 3dsMax align tool into Maya. :)

3dsMax Align tool is much more simple and user friendly. It asks you what you want to do in a way you expect. It also snaps the two objects by default, so it's nice to see both objects aligning together when the tool is called. You also have the Quick Align tool that snaps two objects in position only, which is cool.

Well design align tool

For me, if not for the script I mentioned earlier, this one would be a 3dsMax winner by far.


Constraints are used to make one object follow another object that is not it's parent. One thing to have in mind about constraints is that they overpower the real parent of an object. For example, Lets say Object1 is parent of Object2. But Object2 has a position constraint to Object3. The hierarchy for this example will look like this:

Hierarchy for parent vs constraint example

In this scenario, Object1 has no impact on Object2, even if its the parent of the object. Object2 will follow Object3 only because constraints overpower parents.

Constraints are very useful and they are heavily used when creating rigs.

Now, I won't go through every single type of constraint in each 3dsMax and Maya, but I could certainly make a comparison table.

Constraints comparison table

This little graphic shows the different types of constraints available on each program and a comparison of what are the different names for each constraint type. Both programs have pretty much the same types of constraints but there are some more specific constraints in each program. For example, the Attachment Constraint in 3dsMax constraints an object to a single polygon in a mesh (not all types of mesh are accepted though).

One thing that you will have already noticed is... Which is the equivalent of the Path Constraint in Maya? Good question! The thing is, in Maya, the path constraint is not in the Constraints menu since (I believe) is not consider a constraint but an attachment. You can find it in the Animate menu, here:
Path Constraint in Maya (not in Constraint Menu!)

Maya's Outliner


Maya's Outliner is a very underestimated tool, specially by newcomers or artists switching from 3dsMax to Maya.

The Outliner is a tool that will show you everything that is on the scene: from cameras, to lights, meshes, locators, etc. It kind of is the equivalent of a rig picker, but for the whole scene. It also allows you to do several things, like parenting two objects by drag-n-drop, remove constraints, find a specific object in a hierarchy, etc.

3dsMax 2010 version does not offer an equivalent for Maya's Outliner. I guess the Scene Explorer would be the closest but it doesn't match the amount of features the Outliner offers. There is a script for 3dsMax that creates a very similar Outliner tool that can be found here. Great tool and adds some new features that Maya's Outliner does not have, which is pretty cool.

Final Conclusions

Both 3dsMax and Maya have certainly some pros and cons, and in some cases one has a tool that the other does not have. However, I find that there is no real drawback in changing from one to the other. I know animators that produce high quality animation on both of them.

I guess the only thing that you have to get used to is adapting your workflow to work for both of them, which might be the case if you work in the video game industry.

One thing I would suggest to all artists that generally work with both programs: DO NOT CHANGE YOUR HOTKEYS TO REPLICATE THE OTHER PROGRAM. I did it before and it's a pain in the butt for someone else to show you something in your computer, since all hotkeys are messed up. Learn to differentiate both programs and imprint each set of hotkeys in your brain. If I did it, I'm pretty sure you can!

Thanks for reading!


Albert SkowroĊ„ski said...

Great comparison, very informative! Recently I've been switching from Max to Maya and I agree with you in all aspects!

Ricardo Ayasta said...

Thanks Albert!

Amit Rai said...


nickyliu said...

Well, you can parent constraint an object to 2 objects at the same time in Maya. But link constraint in Max not.

Ricardo Ayasta said...

Hello nickyliu!

Yes, Link Constraint works on one object at a time. Thanks for noticing! :)

You can "simulate" a link constraint to two objects by adding a Position and Rotation constraints to each of the parents.