Terrain in Conventional 3D Modeling Software

Most conventional, traditional 3D modeling software tools (3D Studio MAX, Blender, Maya, Softimage, etc.) have very poor support for terrain.  Most significantly, as of 2006, none of those package has an entity to efficient store a heightfield.  The only way to represent a terrain is with a very large number of small triangles, which must all be stored (and drawn during editing) as a brute-force polygon soup.  Support for geographic metadata and cartographic coordinate systems is virtually non-existent.

Importing terrain data

If you know of other ways to import terrain data into popular 3D modeling software, please let us know.