What to Do if the Graphics Windows in OpticStudio are Black or Blank

OpticStudio makes use of advanced graphics cards. If your system does not include an advanced card or if it configured incorrectly, graphics windows in OpticStudio might display a black or empty white field. We've listed fixes and workarounds for the problem below.

Contents
Erin Elliott
03/11/2016
OpticStudio

Introduction

OpticStudio uses GPU-accelerated graphics using Directx 11 for all on-screen renderings. See What Computer Should I Buy to Run Zemax OpticStudio. Also, see Setting Up OpticStudio to Use an Advanced Graphics Card for advice on configuring your graphics card as the primary for OpticStudio.

In some cases, you might find that the graphics windows in OpticStudio display as black or blank, as shown below. Sometimes this manifests as blank / white background with no data.  We cannot guarantee that a card without DirectX 11 or a card with old drivers will work satisfactorily. But we provide some workarounds for those situations below.


       

Step 1 - Find Your Graphics Card and Check For A Graphics Driver Conflict

This section covers identifying the graphics adapter(s) in the system to see if there are any conflicting display drivers. Quite a few applications install third-party virtual graphics drivers in Windows to perform certain functions, sometimes called "MIrror Drivers". Unfortunately some of these also intercept OpticStudio's graphics output, causing this issue.

1. Open the Start Menu, search for the word  "Device" and open the "Device Manager" link. 


  

2. Once you have the Device Manager open, click on the arrow next to Display adapters.  Your available graphics cards will be listed. 



​3. Check if the card is correctly installed, and take the next steps:

  • The example machine above has both a built-in Intel and NVidia graphics card, and no mirror drivers. If you see ONLY Intel, AMD, or NVIDIA and nothing else, move to Step 2 to verify DirectX compatibility.
  • If you see ONLY a "Standard VGA graphics Adapter, or "Microsoft Basic Display driver", then this is likely the cause of your issue as these drivers do not properly support the 3d output OpticStudio needs. Stop this article, and contact the manufacturer of your computer to get help identifying and installing your video card's drivers. If installing the correct drivers does not fix this problem, then come back to this article.
  • If you see any brands other than Intel, AMD, or Nvidia listed in the Display Adapter category, this is likely a conflicting mirror driver. 
Examples of mirroring drivers include: Remote control software such as "CA IT CLIENT Manager", DameWare, LogMeIn, UltraVNC, TightVNC, Radmin, RemotePC, and Windows Live Mesh Display Driver, and other third-party software such as JAWS, Window-Eyes, and the monitoring software LanSchool (example below)

TIP: Note that some mirror drivers are used by company IT departments for remote control of company owned machines. Disabling them will stop the remote software from working. Check with your IT department if you are unsure if you need this devices before disabling them.

To disable these third-party devices, right-click the device in question, and select "Disable Device" per the figure below.

If disabling the third-party devices does not resovle your issue, move on to Step 2 of this article. 



 

Step 2: Check that your card supports DirectX 11

Using our example above, a search for “NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M specs” finds an NVIDIA website with the specifications for the card





Figure 4:  The card does support DirectX 11 or higher.

Not all websites list the DirectX level for the card, so you might want to check multiple sites before you conclude that your card doesn’t support DirectX 11.

If your card does NOT support DirectX 11, you can disable the DirectX 11 option.  See Fix #2 in this article for instructions. 

Fix # 1: Setting OpticStudio to use an advanced graphics card

If you found you have more than one graphics card, which is common in laptops, you can change from the built in card (typically Intel), to the dedicated card (Nvidia or AMD). These dedicated cards typically support 3d rendering better. For instructions on how to configure Windows and OpticStudio to correctly use the card, see the Knowledge Base article:  Setting OpticStudio to Use an Advanced Graphics Card. Also covered in that article is updating graphics card drivers, which can fix this issue.
 

Fix # 2:  Disable DirectX11

The problem may simply be that the graphics card on your system doesn’t support DirectX 11.  If that’s the case, you can fix the graphics windows by disabling the DirectX 11 option. 

Go to the Setup tab in OpticStudio and choose Project Preferences:



Under the Graphics option, uncheck the box next to “Use DirectX 11”: If you are using OpticStudio 16.5 or newer, there are 2 Directx 11 checkboxes. Disable them both. 



Just to be on the safe side, save the Project Preferences as a backup, like this:



Close and re-launch OpticStudio, and look at any graphics window (such as 3D Layout) to see if the graphics now display correctly. 

If the windows are still black, continue on to the fixes given below.

Fix # 3:  Disable Modern Graphics

The latest versions of OpticStudio allow you to disable the modern graphics requirements entirely. This is a permanent fix in cases where the computer hardware isn’t sufficient to support the new requirements. For systems that include advanced graphics cards, this solution can be used as a temporary fix while troubleshooting the graphics card. If this is the only thing that fixes this issue, move to the "Getting Help" section of this page to get help from Zemax.

Note: a side effect of this setting is that the "Shaded Model" and 3D Shaded Model" buttons will be unavailable in OpticStudio, as they depend on advanced graphics support.

Under the Setup tab, click on Project Preferences.  Select “Graphics” and then find the line at the center right that says “Disable Modern Graphics.”  From the drop-down, choose “All Plots.”  Then save the Project Preferences. If you don’t see the “Disable Modern Graphics” option, skip ahead to Fix # 4.)



Close and re-launch OpticStudio, and open any graphics window (such as 3D Layout) to see if the graphics now display correctly. 

Fix # 4:  Enable Classic View

 If you’re running an older version of OpticStudio, the “Disable Modern Graphics” option may not be present.  In that case, you can still work around the problem by enabling plots in “Classic View.”.

This is a permanent fix in cases where the computer hardware isn’t sufficient to support the new requirements, and the user doesn’t want to upgrade to the latest version of OpticStudio.  For systems that include advanced graphics cards, this solution can be used as a temporary fix while troubleshooting the graphics card. If this is the only thing that fixes this issue, move to the "Getting Help" section of this page to get help from Zemax.

Under the Setup tab, click on Project Preferences.  Select “Graphics” and find the line at the lower left that says “Enable Classic View.”  Check the box.  Then save the Project Preferences.



Close and re-launch OpticStudio, and open any graphics window (such as 3D Layout).  

The “Graphics” tab will still display a black window:



But the “Classic” tab will now show the correct plot:

Getting Help 

If you have carefully worked through all the fixes above and the graphics windows are still black, or if you have further questions about the issue, please e-mail us at support@zemax.com

Please attach to or include in your e-mail:

1.  A screen shot of your Project Preferences / Graphics settings. 
2.  A screen shot of your “Graph” tab on the 3D Layout plot.
3.  A screen shot of the “Classic” tab in the 3D Layout plot. 
4. A screen shot of the "Display Adapters" in Device Manager from Step One of this article. 
4.  The Zemax System Diagnostics log - To obtain this, click "Save Output" button in the Help / Systems Diagnostics screen as pictured below. Attach the resulting ZemaxGraphicsinfo.txt to your support request.
5. The name of the antiirus / security software installed on the computer (For example. Mcafee Enterprise, Trend micro, Symantec etc.
6. Your license key number from Help / About OpticStudio