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What's the difference between 3ds Max and Rhino (pros and cons) ?

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    What's the difference between 3ds Max and Rhino (pros and cons) ?

    Apologies if this isn't the right sub..
    My boss what's to push out 3ds Max as our primary rendering tool, which I'm in favor of because we'll be pushing Revit into it (and I don't know Rhino).. However, we have a few people who are really good at Rhino that are reticent, which I can understand as well.

    So my question, what's the pros and cons of each? Are they inherently a different approach from a pure modelling perspective? I know Rhino makes amazing renderings and has Grasshopper, but can 3ds Max achieve similar results?

    Ryan Taube
    BIM Manager - Clayco Construction | Lamar Johnson Collaborative

    I'm not overly familiar with Rhino but have a quick observation: If you look through the galleries on their site, especially in the architectural galleries the scenes are rendered in 3Ds Max, V-Ray or Maxwell - not Rhino. Max comes with your subscription, V-Ray and Maxwell are both pretty expensive if you don't already have them. And considering how easy it is to get models from Revit to Max I would go that route.

    There are quite a few posts on CGArchitect and PushPullBar if you want to really get into the brass tacks. And based on the 30 seconds I spend searching - Rhino is good for modeling NURBS objects, Max is good at rendering (among a whole lot of other things.)
    Revit for newbies - A starting point for RFO

    BEER: Better, Efficient, Elegant, Repeatable.


      Not be a user of either I'm in no way informed enough to critically compare the two - but were your situation my own, I'd not look at it from a "which is best outright" perspective and weigh it up as you appear to be already, in so much...

      You have Rhino already = no additional cost for software
      You have Rhino-able people already = no additional training required
      You don't have Max yet (?) = you'll need to buy it... and pay out money to train people...

      It's clear cut in my book.

      But that's coming from someone tired of seeing "Arch Viz" becoming an architectural services discipline - when I'd outsource it all to (oft more competent) others and stick with doing what architects (should) do best, that is, the architecture.

      To pick at some of the particular points;

      Rhino has an inbuilt rendering engine - as does Max - but depending on who you ask/who you have, both benefit from external rendering packages (V-Ray, Maxwell, etc) - the cost of these needs to be factored. (Related) Distributed rendering is available for both, albeit dependent on the render engine opted for - and there again you will need to advise your boss on the cost implications of each (i.e. additional distributed V-ray render nodes are priced differently for each platform).

      Then there's hardware cost - Rhino is fairly lightweight, whereas Max isn't, so you're looking at beefier (costlier) rigs if you go with the latter.

      With regards Grasshopper for Rhino, Max has scripting - different, but similar. Max's scripting is more (as I understand it) intended to make light of functions not supported OOTB - whereas Grasshopper is more targeted, (like Dynamo is for Revit) for generative modelling. They're not comparable tools in this respect, although this is probably where I'm over-stepping my mark in my (ill-informed) reply.

      You "could" consider the suite-workflow "advantages" of Revit>Max, even Navisworks>Max, and if that's something as a practice you're looking to explore/exploit then yes, wins are to be had there - but a quick google on that topic will reveal the inherent issues of Revit-models-in-Max (the former makes objects that the latter would handle better if done natively) - and you will find many still roundtripping through .fbx or other file formats - at which point, the "workflow" could just as easily accommodate Revit>Rhino.

      ...speaking of which, there's ever more Rhino>Revit functionality being explored and developed these days; and if Rhino is your current conceptual modelling programme, that's something you (read: your boss) needs to seriously bear in mind (i.e. are you going to migrate all your concept modelling work to Max? Or are you "merely" thinking Max will be used as the "finishing" tool?)

      For my part, if I were you, I'd sit your boss down and outline these considerations - with costs if you've the time to collate them - as I suspect your boss has a slight case of the "grass is always..." going on....
      Last edited by snowyweston; January 13, 2015, 06:39 PM.


        Thanks for the detailed response Snowyweston. We do have both programs in the office (as well as Sketchup), so software cost isn't really an issue, it's more about production efficiency/ease of training/ etc. You put forward some great talking points to discuss
        Ryan Taube
        BIM Manager - Clayco Construction | Lamar Johnson Collaborative


          I would be careful in saying software cost isn't an issue. You MUST have Revit in your office for CD's and I am assuming your Revit is part of a BDS so that means you will also have Max, where if users get adept in using Revit (possibly with Dynamo) then there may be a chance that you could eliminate Rhino as a software tool (not getting into is Grasshopper better than Dynamo discussion). If the company grows is it in the budged to update Revit and Rhino licenses as needed? Things to keep in mind when saying we have the software

          If you hire a new employee that only knows rendering, assuming this department grows, what are the odds that person is doing rendering in Rhino vs Max? If you start a rendering project and have to hire it out to a consultant to finish are they using Rhino or Max? Usually this answer is Max or another rendering specific software and not usually a NURBS modeling program.

          my thoughts on the topic.
          Brian Mackey |BD Mackey Consulting



            We use Rhino for all our design and therefore stay in in Rhino rendering using Vray plugin. Revit is used exclusively for CD's, and therefore never gets rendered. But If you're using Revit from SD, then 3ds max might be a better option.


              Originally posted by Andrew P View Post
              We use Rhino for all our design and therefore stay in in Rhino rendering using Vray plugin.
              Do you use / Does Rhino have Sketchup-Layout-esque features for your "drawings" in early stages then?


                Originally posted by snowyweston View Post
                Do you use / Does Rhino have Sketchup-Layout-esque features for your "drawings" in early stages then?
                No, unfortunately not. It's quite traditional our process. The 3d models are all done in Rhino and the 2d plans (sometimes extracted from Rhino) are done in Autocad. The only layouting that we do in Rhino are presentation drawings, but nothing technical. Once we hit CD, or sometimes even halfway DD we a pull the 2d plans into Revit and go from there.

                We do have one Revit project that started in DD and use that model to render in 3ds max.


                  Originally posted by Andrew P View Post
                  the 2d plans (sometimes extracted from Rhino) are done in Autocad.
                  At least you've ACAD to play (somewhat) nicer with Revit than what we have (Microstation). :banghead:


                    We have Rhino, Max and Revit and rarely are we cross breeding Rhino into Revit. I find I'm moving away from Rhino and into a Revit-Dynamo based workflow.

                    Rhino pros: easy to manipulate NURB objects, rendering quality is high, parametric design capability is very high
                    Cons: Interoperability, while much improved over the years, is still slow when brought into Revit. Content is quite as available as Max or Revit

                    3dsMax Pros: Industry standard (or nearly), comes with BDS, links well with Revit 2013+, rendering quality is highest (compatible with Vray, iRay, etc...), lots of content available for free or low cost online, large user-forums ranging from architecture, to industrial, to movie production
                    Cons: robust user interface <--can be intimidating at first, learning curve tends to be fairly high because of all the bells and whistles, without BDS it is expensive
                    RB Cameron, AIA, LEED AP, EDAC, NCARB
                    Architect - Parametric Designer - Visualization Instructor
                    Download Healthcare Revit Models
                    Download Revit+3dsMax Models


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