Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions. If your question cannot be answered from the FAQ’s listed below click here to send us your question.

OBJ and FBX are typically the best formats for exchanging files between 3D programs.

The OBJ file format is a simple data-format that represents 3D geometry alone — namely, the position of each vertex, the UV position of each texture coordinate vertex, vertex normals, and the faces that make each polygon defined as a list of vertices, and texture vertices. Vertices are stored in a counter-clockwise order by default, making explicit declaration of face normals unnecessary. OBJ coordinates have no units, but OBJ files can contain scale information in a human readable comment line.

PROS: The most popular exchange format for 3D models, OBJ can be exported and imported by just about every 3D application. Quad topology is retained.

CONS: Does not hold rigging or animation information.

OBJ and FBX are typically the best formats for exchanging files between 3D programs.

FBX® is a proprietary file format developed by Kaydara and now owned by Autodesk. FBX data exchange technology is a 3D asset exchange format compatible with many 3D tools. FBX facilitates higher-fidelity data exchange between several Autodesk content creation packages and supports certain third-party and propriety applications. With FBX in your pipeline, it’s easier to transfer files, retain more data, and work more efficiently.

PROS: A modern format that retains more information during an exchange as well as the only exchange format that holds rigging and animation information. Since it is a newer format it holds more complex material information than OBJ. Quad topology is retained.

CONS: Older versions of the FBX format often exchange model information better than newer versions.

A simple answer is that the FBX is a modern format that retains more information during an exchange while the OBJ is considered a popular mesh exchange format. Here is a chart that will help you decide which format is better for your needs:

Description FBX OBJ
Animation Yes No
Mesh Yes Yes
Skeleton Yes No
Morphs Yes No
Vertex Animation Yes No
Texture Link Link
Material Yes Link
LightMap | DetailMap | NormalMap Link No
Animation Takes Yes No
Binary Format Yes No
Instancing Yes No
Scene Hierarchy Yes No
Multiple Channels Mapping Yes No
Interchange File Format Yes Yes
Collada files are XML files with a .dae extension which stands for “Digital Asset Exchange.” It is a 3D interchange file format used for exchanging digital assets between multiple graphics programs; based on the COLLADA (COLLAborative Design Activity) XML schema, which is now owned and developed by Autodesk.
3DS is one of the file formats used by the Autodesk 3ds Max 3D modeling, animation and rendering software.

It was the native file format of the old Autodesk 3D Studio DOS (releases 1 to 4), which was popular until its successor (3D Studio MAX 1.0) replaced it in April 1996. Having been around since 1990, it has grown to become a de facto industry standard for transferring models between 3D programs, or for storing models for 3D resource catalogs (along with OBJ, which is more frequently used as a model archiving file format).

Despite its popularity there are some disadvantages:

  • The 3DS format is an old format that can be buggy.
  • Lost data often occurs when importing a 3DS object into ArchiCAD.
  • Texture’s applied to an imported 3DS files can often be corrupt.
  • The number of vertices and polygons per mesh is limited to 65536.
  • The 3DS format only stores 3 sided polygons and ArchiCAD does not handle 3 sided polygons very well.
  • ArchiCAD has problems applying texture display on 3 sided polygons.
Yes, MODELPORT uses the Autodesk FBX SDK which is the same code used by Autodesk to create a bridge between their popular 3D software programs: Maya, Softimage XSI, 3DStudio MAX, etc. Using the FBX SDK means we can provide a reliable connection to these and many other 3D programs.
Yes, you can export FBX files from Revit and import these files as 3D objects in ArchiCAD.
No, the 3DS format is just an object format for 3DS Max. The 3DS Max file is a scene file…not an object file, and contains all the scene information. Quite often 3DS Max users will use OBJ and FBX object formats rather than the 3DS format because OBJ and FBX are far more robust and have less limitations.
The following are ModelPort settings that can significantly affect the speed of importing an object into ArchiCAD:

  1. On the “Basic Settings” tab ModelPort has a “Report Level” parameter. If it is on value “only Errors” – the plugin writes out only error messages (into the “Session Report” window). But if it is on “Debug” it can write out a lot of info and this can multiply the import time. Don’t select “Debug” unless coordinating an issue with support.
  2. On the “Basic Settings” tab “Add mesh parameters” parameter can slow down an import if the scene contains a lot of objects. Thus it is probably good to turn this setting off if there are lots of objects in a scene.
  3. On the “Basic Settings” tab “Add Material Parameters” can slow down import if there are a lot of materials in an object. We would recommend turning off the “Add Material Parameters” in this scenario.
ModelPort opens the door to a world of new objects but some objects may create a performance issue with ArchiCAD. Models with a high polygon number can slow down ArchiCAD so we recommended that you import models with moderate or low polygon density. While there is no optimal value for a polygon count, since performance will vary depending on hardware, our testing shows that a moderate polygon count is between 25,000 to 50,000 polygons. We also found that models with up to 100,000 polygons generally work well without any issues.

When importing a model you can view the Import Statistics in ModelPort before importing into ArchiCAD. In this panel you can view the number of imported items, number of polygons, vertices and the size of the scene Bounding Box.

TurboSquid has an excellent search option that allows you to refine a search by setting a polygon count. The search can be set to the following polygon count options:

  • Up to 10k polygons
  • 10K to 50K polygons
  • 50K to 100,000K polygons
  • Over 100K polygons

The majority of objects on TurboSquid are available under 100,000 polygons.

When you import objects into ArchiCAD using the demo mode of ModelPort a watermark is placed onto the object. To remove this watermark you need to purchase ModelPort and then re-import the object into ArchiCAD.
Thomas SimmonsFAQ’S