I'm not clear on the workflow. If I insert an mxm into modo's shader tree, then later export to mxs via studio or network render. I want the mxm's in modo to reference the external material file and not be embedded. I'm not clear on how or where to do this? If I can make it work this way I can change a material and have it affect all scenes in which it is used.

This is currently not possible but I will add an "embedded" flag (if it is off it will export the material as reference) for the mxm item for the next build.

Edit: But it is important to mention, that in reference mode the plugin won't synchronize the mxm channel number with the modo uvs - because it is not a good idea to write into a referenced file (setting the correct channel id can be tricky to do manually)
So currently I am not 100% sure it is a good idea.....

Yes, now you can do it in Studio.

But be careful! You have to make sure that in all your scenes the uv channel assignment is consistent.

It is easy if you use only one uv map (for example "Texture"), but not easy with many different uv maps.

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