SmartRefs - External reference plugin for 3ds Max


Hi there!
I am Felix Joleanes lead developer of SmartRefs, a new system of external references for 3ds max. I just wanted to make a little announcement here for those who can be interested, it will be available for the public soon.

here in the website you can see some videos explaining the advantages of using smartrefs for your external references in 3ds max:
here more videos:
and here a general explanation of the features of the plugin:

Best Regards


Great idea!*

Its a shame Xrefs have stopped working as they used to, its been an absolute nightmare for 3 years!!!*

Thanks for your input, ill be happy to try it once it goes full release. Great initiative


this look very helpfull.


Holy shit-balls… I need this… I’ve mailed about the beta… I will abuse this and push it to the limit for you…


Thanks a lot for your interest guys!
I will let you know when the release version is available.


Hi everybody!

Yes, holy shit! Looks promising.
We need this very much.

Felix I sent you an email, we would like to participate in the Beta.




Please fix XREFS in Max for good!!

One quick question:

I´ve only recently used maya, working on my first short film on the online collaboration platform over at Artella and one thing I noticed is that Maya reference files seem to be much easier to handly when it comes to paths.

I´m not sure how this works or if its just smart programming over at Artella, but in Max once you move the XREF scene to another location, you have to point to it again.

Would SmartRefs be more like Maya in that regard?

I´m also sending you a mail to participate in the beta.

I could start using it in my short film and once I´m confident it works, we´d probably purchase it for the company I work for.


The same happens with maya as far as i know. If a file has been moved maya asks where the file is.

But i’ll be glad to receive any suggestion of how this could be handled better with SmartRefs.*


I just tried this out today (trial version) and it looks very promising.

Anyone one tested or used this since the release over the weekend? I have done some cursory stuff with it, using animation rigs, and it has held up really well (so far).

Great work Felix.


I have been working with SmartRefs on a huge project (30+ highrises, 1000+ houses, etc) in the last month, and this is the best thing since sliced bread.
The master scenes for animations and final viz images only contain the main animation, camera and render information. The rest is ALL in smartRefs. Specifics for objects/animations in the Smartrefs you can edit in the master scenes without altering the Smartrefs themselves. Technical stuff and materials you change in the SmartRefs, and this works astonishing well, as long as you keep all names (and this is very important!) the same, so the edits in the master scenes are preserved. You better have a system that can handle working with multiple Max instances open, so you can work on the Smartrefs and the master scene at the same time. Working this way keeps your master scenes lean and clean, while saving lots and lots of hard disk space and intermediate saving time. I still would like more preview options (like box mode or the point mode in Forest Pro) and a way to save edits in the master scene back to the Smartref, but all in all as it is now I can’t live without it anymore. Even when using VRay or SINI proxies, that can further depressurize your scenes, this tool makes working with huge scenes a breeze. On top of that Felix is very supportive. I have seen a lot of useful plugins come and go in the last years and really hope this one will get the credit it deserves so it can can be supported and developed.


Thanks TRick. Happy to hear it’s been a success! We all know Max has been crying out for this type of system for years now, so again kudos to Felix on attempting, and seemingly doing a good job on it (something that eludes the max team to this day).

I’m running this by some folks at our studio, and we are looking to test this soon and do a more in depth evaluation. It’s great news that it has held up well in your pipeline.


Thanks a lot guys for trying SmartRefs!.

There will be more new features and updates coming, so if you have any suggestion or see something not working as expected you can post here or message me at

Thanks again!.


Here i want to share a new video showing how you can use Biped and CAT rigs with SmartRefs. Being able to update any change to the character file in the animated scenes:



Great work.
Is this fully compatible with V-ray and Corona ?


Hey Felix,

I´m about to start transitioning my short film to Smart Refs over the holidays and I have a very basic question I didn´t find the answer to quickly, which also concerns the studio I´m working at:
What happens to my scenes if I wanna hand them over to someone who doesn´t have the smart ref plugin? is that what the “persist in scene” option is for or do I have to merge everything in one scene and export that?
Lets say all the xrefs/smartRefs are on a server the other person has access to aswell…is tehre a way that the master Scene can be converted so the other person can work with the master scene without the plugin?

Or would I use the “File-save as…” option to update all changes I made in the masterfile into the XREF, so someone without smart ref could use the master file with just normal Xrefing the Xref scenes?

I´m currently the only one who will be working with the master files, so I´m just curious about the workflow here.


Sorry it took me so long to reply…
Well, I think the basic idea is probably possible already I just always get knots in my brain with some procedures…I´ve given up on using the Max project template for a long time now, but thats probably a way to do it: use a certain fodler structure for each project and have max always look for XREFS in a relative path to the master file instead of an absolute path. I think the main reason why this is a problem is if you have all your files on a fileserver for rendering in a farm…


One more question…

Since some of my xref scenes are quite heavy themselves with just the geo in them, I wonder how I should go about adding vegetation with forest pack…
I kind of want to do that in the master scene, since the foliage will cover several Xref scenes at the same time and all lighting should be done in the master scene.
So while playing around with the settings I don´t wanna keep reloading the heavy xref scenes if I just changed some forest pack settings. And I´ll also have to do a lot of test rendering, which I also wanna do in the master scene and in the xref scenes.

So yeah, where should I put my forest objects…in the master scene or in the xref scenes?
Ideally I´d want to have my master scene with the forest objects (+camera/lights/etc), then the Xref/smartRefs with all the geo where the forest should be scattered on and then another Xref scene with just all the geo/proxies I wanna scatter…


Ok, in theory this setup works fine, but the loading and unloading of the scene with the vrayproxies in it is terribly slow compared to loading the proxy scene as a normal Xref object.
I´m guessing SmartRef checks the complete file by also loading the proxies in it, which are a couple of gigabytes in size in this case. I´ve tried the same with a much smaller proxy scene file without any hassle.
So in this particular case it might be better for me to either use normal Xref object for referencing the tree proxies in the scene to use with forest pack, or to simply create some library objects in forest pack (haven´t tried that yet).

Still, wanted to share my experience with this, as I´m pretty sure people will like to reference heavy proxies like I tried to…


Hi Samuel, if you need to use a file with smartrefs in a computer that does not have it installed you have to use the “merge” option of the smartrefs manager, so that the references object stop being referenced and become normal objects in the scene. But you have to have in mind that you can not go back after doing that.

The file path of the smartrefs uses the same asset tracking used by other assets like textures, so if you are using a project folder max will handle those paths properly.

I’ll be glad to give a look at that issue to see how it can be fixed, do you happen to have a setup that i could give a look at?

Thanks and best regards


Hm, ok, so does that also affect my rendering procedure? Do I have to merge everything into scene before rendering? Or are there render licences I need to install in the farm?
That would be kind of a deal breaker…

[quote=]The file path of the smartrefs uses the same asset tracking used by other assets like textures, so if you are using a project folder max will handle those paths properly.
[/quote]Ok, thats what I thought. I never got into the habit of using the 3ds max project template and always used my own absolute file paths.

Since the file is using stock models as proxies, I can´t send you the file and I´ve not been able to reproduce the problem with subdivided teapot proxies…I´ll check on my proxies again to see if there is something wrong there.