What to Do if the Graphics Windows in OpticStudio are Black

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 field. We've listed fixes and workarounds for the problem below.

Contents
Erin Elliott
03/11/2016
OpticStudio

Introduction

OpticStudio uses GPU-accelerated graphics 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, 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.


Check For A Graphics Driver Conflict

Quite a few applications install virtual graphics drivers in Windows to perform vertain functions, sometimes called "MIrror Drivers". Unfortunately some of these also intercept OpticStudio's graphics output, causing this issue.

Some examples include:
JAWS, Window-Eyes and FreedomBox; the monitoring software LanSchool; and remote control desktop software such as DameWare, LogMeIn, UltraVNC, TightVNC, Radmin and RemotePC, and Windows Live Mesh Display Driver.

You can check your Windows Device Manager to see if you have any of these. Open the Start Menu, and search for "Device" and open the "Device Manager" link. If you see anything other than Intel, AMD, or Nvidia listed in the Display Adapter category, this is likely a mirroring driver. Right-click the driver in question, and select "Disable Device". 

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.

If this is not the cause of your problem, move to Step 1 on this page to check your graphics card information.

  



 

Step 1:  Find your graphics card(s)

You can check how many graphics options you have using the Windows Device Manager. In Windows 7, you can find and launch Device Manager from your Control Panel, or just search “Device” in your Windows prompt:


Figure 1:  In Windows 7, find the Device Manager by searching “device” at the Windows prompt.

Once you have the Device Manager open, click on the arrow next to Display adapters.  Your available graphics cards will be listed.  The system in this example has an Intel card and an NVIDIA card.



Figure 2:  Select the drop-down next to “Display adapters” to see which graphics cards are available in your computer system.

Step 2: Check that your card supports DirectX 11

Once you know the name of your advanced graphics card, you can look up the specifications almost anywhere online. A search for “NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M specs” finds an NVIDIA website with the specifications for the card


Figure 3:  Checking the specifications of an NVIDIA card.
And it shows that the card supports DirectX 11 or higher:


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

To find out if your computer system includes an advanced graphics card, and 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, 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. 

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.

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.  Please click "Save Output" button in the Help / Systems Diagnostics screen. Attach the resulting zemaxgraphicsinfo.txt to your support request.:
5. Your license key number from Help / About OpticStudio