The following tutorial will help you when you need to import geometry from 3dmax. We have been using the deespona model collection for years and we have been able to use fully textured models in Maya although the collection provides *.max scene files. Similarly, model collections such as Dosch provide 3DS models, you might download 3DS models from Turbosquid or other sites or your pipeline at work mixes 3dMax artists with Maya artists. So here’s how to bring the geometry over to Maya.
There are different ways to import geometry from 3dmax into Maya. The FBX file format is one way, exporting geometry to DXF is another. Overall I found that using the 3DS format has been the easiest and cleanest way of transfering the geometry.
First you need to make sure you have the bonus tools installed. Once they are installed you need to check that you can load the 3dsimport plug-in. Choose Window > Settings/Preferences > Plug-in Manager and make sure the 3dsimport.mll or lib line is checked.
If you already have a *.3ds skip this step. Open your scene in 3dmax. In this example we are using a scene from the De Esponacollection.
The first step in most cases is to select the geometry in 3dmax. Ungroup the geometry in 3dmax if it is grouped (it might not be a necessary step but I got in the habit of doing it) by choosing Group > Ungroup. Then export the geometry by choosing File > Export Selected and choose 3DS as the format. You are going to be asked, “Preserve Texture Coordinates”. Yes of course.
In Maya now that you have made sure that the 3ds import plug in is loaded, choose File > Import and load the 3DS file you have exported from 3dmax. The first thing you will notice in Maya is that your geometry is huge. This could be due to a difference in the units used between 3dmax and maya. Just make sure you select the top transform node in the outliner in Maya and scale the object down uniformely.
Your exported object can now be resized to your scene proportions. You might want to freeze the transform at this point (Modify > Freeze Transformations). Examine your model and look for surfaces that look different in Maya. In our case here the statue looks fine. But I dug out an example where I know we had problem.
It could be that you see sharp edges like on the cartoon hand below. You could also see more spread out facetted geometry. To eliminate this choose Edit Polygons > Normals > Soften / Harden and open the options dialog. Choose All Soft and the faceted look should disappear.
Coming out of 3dmax there could be other issues with the exported geometry. There could be parts of your model that end up being not aligned in Maya. For this you can try to reset the transforms in 3dmax. Finally when you realize that your geometry will not transfer your options become restricted to translating the geometry through FBX or Polytrans.