How to import in a scene from FormZ?

I am going to work together with an architect who works in FormZ.

The idea is that I take his output and make 3D visualisations in Blender. FormZ can export .obj, .dfx and .3ds files. Those file formats can be imported into Blender right? Are there any (dis)advantages in using either one of those file formats (or put more simple; what is the preferred format) when my objective is to create 3D visualisations of architectural designs ?

Aliasguru commented:

It depends on what version (free, jr or pro) and what OS your contact is using, but seen from the Blender side, OpenCollada and FBX would be the neatest choices.

As Aliasguru pointed out I should have included FBX and OpenCollada. So my question should be: FormZ can export .obj, .dfx, .3ds, .fbx and OpenCollada files. Those file formats can be imported into Blender right? Are there any (dis)advantages in using either one of those file formats (or put more simple; what is the preferred format) when my objective is to create 3D visualisations of architectural designs ?

After reading the answers on my question and doing some more research myself it seems that OBJ and FBX are the best candidates for exchanging 3D models. It is my understanding that OBJ is only able to exchange geometry data and FBX can do that but also exchange materials/textures data. So it looks like that FBX is the best candidate for archviz workflow with OBJ as a second best. Are the experts supporting this view ??

As advised I am now testing the files created in formZ. It appears that with OBJ and DXF you can only exchange geometry data and not materials/ UV's/ textures. I am not sure If I would want that but now I cannot see how the architect thinks the building should look like.

It appeared that the client was using a very old version of formZ and therefore no FBX export was possible. After testing I was most satisfied with the DXF format as it did exchange the geometry data the best.

As regard to the bounty ... in fact everybody helped me with their advises but the best advise was to do a lot of testing.

Let's keep in mind that it's not only about how well Blender imports these formats, but also about how the FormZ export counterparts work.

I haven't got experience on bridging these 2 software especially but .OBJ seems to work nicely nearly always. I also use .FBX, it's a good format capable of storing complex data like textures and animations (not that it would necessarily apply to your case) but you can often hit a snag with it with Blender being only able to import certain versions of the format.

Assuming the file sizes won't become an issue for you, I do believe you should request all of the .OBJ, .FBX and .3DS formats to try and see how they transfer over.

Just an additional tip: often when you take in these files you will be doing a lot of cleaning up before you can expect any kind of clean results. For indoor scenes it's often faster to remodel the room geometry than trying to fix, align and UV map hundreds of wall and slab objects.

3Ds is mostly considered an aging and hopelessly outdated file format it has intrinsic limitations and is therefore not a good format overall.

There are caps on the number of vertex an object can have, it only supports triangles (no quads or ngons), naming is also limited.

That being said it is still commonly used and relatively well suited for small models and simple objects.

DXF is an exchange file format mostly created for CAD data consisting of lines, arcs, hatches, etc.. It has support for meshes and 3D geometry but is mostly inadequate format for mesh based data since it's focus is on 2D CAD drawing data, paper spaces, layouts, etc.

It may work well if you are importing only 2D drawings like elevations, plans, sections etc, to use as reference for modelling directly in Blender. Otherwise for actual mesh based 3D data it is not the best format.

From the three available, OBJ seems to be the most suited for what you seem to want to achieve. OBJ is also considered an old file format, but has less limitations, and is more versatile than 3Ds and very widely supported in most modelling applications.

Should suit your workflow well enough.

• obj neither has "less limitations" nor it's a "more modern and advanced file format" – p2or Oct 10 '16 at 9:31
• @Duarte Farrajota Ramos As you can read in the answer of Aliasguru I had not included FBX and OpenCollada because I thought these were not options for architectural work. Sorry for not having asked the good question. What is your opinion on FBX (being an architect yourself) ? – Old Man Oct 10 '16 at 11:54
• @poor from reading Wikipedia there seems to be less limitations than with 3ds like triangle only geometry or vertex counts, though as I mentioned it is also an outdated format,but I will have that in mind. – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Oct 10 '16 at 12:21
• @OldMan I am indeed an architect using Blender mostly for archviz. Luckily in my workflow I don't have to jump around many applications, so apart from importing plans in DXF format I rarely have to import/export models, so I have no opinion about FBX. I do know it's a proprietary file format owned by Autodesk (which I'm not particularly fond of) and it changes often with little regards about others. So while it seems like a competent and modern file format, if possible I'd rather rely on Collada (an open format), if no limitations get in the way. – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Oct 10 '16 at 12:28
• @Duarte Farrajota Ramos In fact that is what intend to do with blender: "archviz" of the architectural design made in FormZ. I know this is off-topic but could you give some general recommendations on archviz in Blender ? Or maybe websites/resources for that ? – Old Man Oct 10 '16 at 13:14

According to the feature list diagram of FormZ, there are more potential exchange formats than were mentioned so far. See http://www.formz.com/featureslist/FeatureComparisonChart.html for a full list, here is a screenshot of the section in question:

It depends on what version (free, jr or pro) and what OS your contact is using, but seen from the Blender side, OpenCollada and FBX would be the neatest choices. FBX imports the fastest of all of these, and supports Custom Split Normals, if the source application adds them. OpenCollada also worked very nicely, but usually takes a lot longer to import. FBX is however not available in the free version, but I suppose an architect for professional work has to use one of the commercial ones anyways.

• you are right. I thought that FBX is a file format more used in VFX world and I did not know it was a good candidate for my type of work. And I did not consider OpenCollade because I had never heard of it. But you would prefer FBX ? Above OBJ ? – Old Man Oct 10 '16 at 10:20
• @OldMan personally I would, yes. But why don't you simply ask the architect if he'd provide you one part as an example, to test it out? – aliasguru Oct 10 '16 at 10:32
• I did ask the architect to export an architectural design made in FormZ and he did send it to me. I am now trying to evaluate but I also wanted to know the expert opinions here on StackExchange as "archviz" is very new to me. Would it be possible to export also materials/textures made in FormZ or only the modelling data ? – Old Man Oct 10 '16 at 13:12
• @OldMan With the data we transfer in our studio we also get materials, but they are in general unusable. They're not Cycles materials in the end, so we rebuild all of them. But it can be useful that you at least know what material goes where. In the end, it will depend on what FormZ can output. The fact that the format can store an information doesn't automatically mean it will also be used by the application in question. – aliasguru Oct 16 '16 at 7:28

.OBJ files have served me well. No disadvantages I've seen yet. I've had trouble importing .dfx a year ago. I haven't used 3DS before. I would go with OBJ because it is compact and there aren't any issues.