As a Maya user, i'd like to make a comment on that Maya vs. Max article. Okay, so it's more then a comment. Jump down to the last paragraph if you want to avoid most of my yapping.
First off, i'd like to say i'm not going to get all defensive and complain about the article becasue it said Max was better then Maya in the areas the article brought to light. It DID make some good points about advantages Max has over Maya. I won't dispute the claims the author made that were true
However, I noticed that the writer of the article glossed over many aspects of Maya that would null some of the claims he made. There were a few places in the article that I found the claims actually false. He went out of his way to make Maya look worse then it would if you knew what you were doing and sat down to work on a project.
For example, If there are 3 ways to create a layer in Maya, the author took the longest route to this, comparing it to the fastest shortcut way to do it in Max. This kind of technique I found peppered throughout the article.
The vastness of the interface in Maya WILL crowd your work, IF you keep everything open at once. I have never had this issue working in Maya becasue the tools are only opened when you need to change a setting, and then are immediatly closed. Also, the default settings for most tools work for what I need them to do. Only on the rare occasion do I need to open up one of the regular tools to adjust it to my needs.
There are definatly aspects of Max that are better then Maya, just as there are aspects of XSI that are better then Maya, and aspects of Maya that are better then Max... etc, etc. This article seemed to focus on all the bad points, as well as skewing the truth to make Maya look worse then it is, while avoiding all the good points Maya has over Max.
I read through the entire article, and found myself at times saying "What is he talking about? Why would you go about things THAT way? And who works like THAT?"
I'm not a Max user. So I can't say "This, this, this, and this is better then Maya." or "This, this this, and this is better then Max" All I can say is that if your trying to honestly compare between the two, please don't take that article as truth becasue many of it's claims are biased and skewed to fit what the writer wants.
That being said, If your looking for a package for amature films and not looking for a career, do NOT go to Maya. It's expensive and complex. It chews up and spits out new users that try to teach themselves the software.
If your looking for a career in Visual Effects/Computer Animation, then by all means, go find a college, or specialized school that will teach you the package and learn from them.
Lastly, about those Lord of the Rings comments, there were a few unusual things I noticed. The first was the author listed all the new features this great modeler (I forgot this individuals name) has brought to poly modeling packages that Maya hasn't integrated yet, and claimed that this individual modeled Gollum in LOTR.
The author however glossed over the fact that the work in Lord of the Rings was created in Maya, including Gollum. According to an article I read on the Alias site with an interview with one of the VFX Supervisors from LOTR, ALL the models (Fellowship, and Two Towers at the time I read this information) were NURBS except for Treebeard, which was Sub D's. I was also under the impression that Gollum was scanned in and then tweaked, Not created from scratch in polys as the article seems to claim (Though, he could have been convereted to NURBS after being perfectd in polys).
Wow, this post is an essay. lol. To sum it up, each major animation package has it's own Pros and Cons over the others. There is no "BEST OVERALL" award to any one of these packages. Articles like the one above from my point of view seems to skew the facts to fit the original assumption of one package being better then another. So, do your own research, as anyone you ask will probably be biased to one software or another. Including me.