Pixotope is based on Unreal Engine which favors fast CPU cores. You should therefore prioritize having a small number of fast cores, rather than a large number of slow cores. The faster cores are needed to provide maximum rendering performance, while the other cores take care of other system processes. We do not see much benefit with more than 6 cores in total.
You should use a single Intel® Core™ i7/i9/Xeon 6 Core minimum clock speed 3.5GHz (4GHz for 4k) on Intel Socket 2066/Socket 2011, AMD Ryzen 3800X/5600 Series on AMD X570 Chipset or AMD Threadripper Pro socket sWRX8. The reason we recommend these series is because of their proven stability, compatibility and performance. Another important reason is the support for add in cards and that they operate at their full specified speed. Intel Socket 2011/2066 support up to 44 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, AMD X570 has up to 24 PCI-E 4.0 lanes. AMD Threadripper Pro has up to 128 PCI Express 4.0 lanes. An additional performance increase is gained from PCI-E 4.0 (currently supported on AMD X570, WRX80 and Intel W790 chipsets), especially in 4K resolutions due to the increased transfer speeds. This lowers the transfer time of data to the GPU, which in turn decreases the render time of a scene.
GPU´s and add in cards can operate at lower speeds if there are not enough resources available. Further info on how to diagnose this is available under the Hardware Diagnostics and Monitoring section further below.
High-performing GPUs require faster CPUs to reach maximum utilization (see below).
Video cards need a CPU that can keep up with it
An RTX 3080 will be bottlenecked by a CPU slower than 3.5GHz
An RTX 4090 will be bottlenecked by the CPU up until around 4.5 to 5 GHz
Performance will vary somewhat depending on the complexity of the scene and the rendering resolution
Intel 115x and 120x chipsets have just enough PCI-e lanes (16 total) to support 1 GPU @ 16x which leaves no headroom for expansion cards. This means adding an AJA or BMD card will remove 8x lanes from the graphics card and assign it to the AJA/BMD card. You will then halve the transfer speed with the graphics card.
Also if you do not have enough PCI-E lanes available, your external video i/o card can be detected but run at half capacity. This can result in only some SDI ports working, or none at all.
You can use this tool to get a rough estimation if your CPU is too old/weak for your graphics card: https://pc-builds.com/calculator/
You can use this tool to get a rough comparison of GPU performance: https://gpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Nvidia-RTX-2080-vs-Nvidia-Quadro-P4000/4026vsm250990
CPU clock speed itself is only one of the factors that reflects actual CPU performance. Architectural improvements, IPC and other optimizations always evolve, so an older CPU with a clock speed of 3.5 GHz is not as fast as a 2020 3.5 GHz CPU. Also be aware of base clock speed and boost clock. Most modern CPUs have a lower baseline clock when running basic tasks, but boost much higher when heavy applications are run, which applies when running Pixotope:
This graph illustrates that CPU clock speed is not the only factor that affects CPU performance. For example, an overclocked i7 4970k from 2014 at 4.8 GHz is not even close to the performance of more modern CPUs around the same clock speed. 4790k is the predecessor to the 2020 10900k.
Use this site for detailed specifications of the different CPUs and GPUs:
There is no performance benefit of having multiple CPUs when rendering scenes in real time
We do not recommend the server version of socket 3647. It technically supports enough PCI-E lanes, but it is a server focused solution, and there can be limitations in hardware depending on chipset/motherboard manufacturer.
We recommend that a Pixotope machine should have at least 28 PCI-E lanes (Intel) and 24 PCI-E lanes (AMD):
GPU card uses 16x PCI-E lanes
Video IO / AJA / BMD card uses 8x lanes
NVME SSD uses 4x lanes
On AMD systems, there are additional lanes available through the chipset, but they all share an internal PCI-E 4.0 4x path:
As noted above in the CPU section, beware of using a motherboard with only 16 PCI-E lanes such as chipsets 115x and 120x, as they do not give you any expansion options, and may prevent the GPUs from achieving full throughput.
We recommended chipset motherboards without extra options on them (extra wifi cards etc). They increase the likelihood of encountering compatibility issues since there are more hardware devices.
In order for Pixotope to function correctly, the onboard NICs must be able to provide uninterrupted and guaranteed throughput. This is especially critical for the low latency required for tracking data. If issues are suspected, it is possible to prove or diagnose with USB or PCIe based network adaptors, but be aware of the usage of lanes for a PCIe adapter. Verify that the latest Bios and firmware/drivers for the NICs.
Avoid multiple NVME drives if you have limited CPU PCI-E lanes! They each take valuable PCI-E lanes. Use 1 NVME as primary and normal S-ATA drives for the remaining storage if you have this limitation.
Motherboard manufacturers have to follow certain rules in their design, but some often push voltage/cpu speed past recommended values when their settings are in auto mode in order to gain a performance increase over their competitors. This can cause system instability.
In this image, you can see how the Gigabyte motherboard overvolts the CPU on stock settings out of the box, which can then create too much heat, which will in turn make the CPU throttle its speed.
Pixotope supports NVIDIA graphics cards only. We recommend the following cards:
RTX 3080, RTX 3090, RTX 4070, RTX 4080, RTX 4090, A6000, Quadro RTX6000, RTX8000. We do not utilize any specific Quadro features like GPU direct, so if you chose to buy a Quadro card you would pay much more for the same 3d rendering performance. If you already have an A6000, Quadro RTX6000 or RTX8000 card from an existing installation it will of course work well!
We do not support multiple GPUs (SLI). Unreal editor does not support SLI. Unreal based games support it, but unfortunately the editor does not.
We generally recommend using the latest available driver from http://nvidia.com. You should perform a clean custom install, where you install all the components except GeForce experience. GeForce experience which contains the screen recording and casting software ShadowPlay, can reduce the overall performance of the graphics card by up to around 10% if active.
Also when setting up your NVIDIA device, be sure to set all Nvidia 3D settings to default except Power management mode to “Prefer maximum performance”, as shown below.
Pixotope currently only supports modern AJA cards and the Blackmagic Design video cards. Operating system
Pixotope requires Windows 10 or Windows 11 running natively on hardware. Pixotope is not supported running in emulation, virtualization, Boot Camp on Mac, etc.
Emulation and Virtualization doesn’t sufficiently support DX11/DX12 to give a good result.
Emulation and Virtualization can introduce issues with network latency.
We always recommend as clean a system configuration as possible, since third party software can interfere with system performance. This includes:
Video conferencing and remote desktop software such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, TeamViewer, Anydesk etc.
Software such as Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, which can interfere with network and hard drive bandwidth
Photoshop, Premiere, sourcefile and workflow software such as Substance painter, 3DSMax, Maya, Blender, etc. This software actively uses considerable GPU and RAM resources which can interfere with operations.
In the Task Manager, you can navigate to the “Startup” tab to control which processes automatically start when you boot a Pixotope machine. We recommend only having essential programs start with Windows to ensure that there is minimum unnecessary interference and resource use.
Use the latest version of Windows 10 or Windows 11. Be aware that if you are using custom pre-made Windows images, these may have restrictions or policies that can prevent Pixotope from working correctly. We recommend clean Windows installs with the default windows permissions settings. If you are prompted to allow Pixotope processes, select “Yes”. Use the latest Windows image downloaded directly from Microsoft. Do not use custom images provided by your IT department, since you may inherit policies which can interfere with Pixotope operations.
High Performance Mode
Set Windows power plan to high performance or ultimate performance. Ultimate performance mode eliminates polling of hardware to check if it needs more power. The hardware can consume all the power it needs.
If Ultimate performance mode is not available in your setting, execute this instruction in the command prompt. You will need administrator privileges:
powercfg -duplicatescheme e9a42b02-d5df-448d-aa00-03f14749eb61
This is the UI for setting Ultimate Performance
Firewall, Antivirus, and Third-Party Software
Pay attention to third-party software which might interfere with Pixotope processes, in particular antivirus software/firewall software. This can slow down or completely block important activity.
Do not use ANY "optimization" software (Speedupmypc etc). They are bogus and can cause endless issues. Many of these applications intercept data communication, which often corrupt data (especially tracking data), and cause strange behavior.
Project Locations and syncing of project files
Do not use network locations to sync projects between computers, use version control such as Perforce or Git. This is because a lot of the files that are written to the project directories are machine specific. Copying these files directly to a different machine causes a lot of problems.
Corrupt Windows install/missing .DLLs/general errors
Many times it is faster to completely reinstall Windows than to try and diagnose an error. The reason for performance issues, crashing and missing .DLLs can be hard to find and time consuming to track down. Installing Windows from a USB flash drive takes around 20-30 minutes, and if you use the latest image available from Microsoft it will be the most recent build including most of the patches.
We recommend high quality redundant PSUs. If one fails, it automatically switches over with no restart of the system and no interruption.
Chassis, cooling, and airflow
Cooling is extremely important, since all chips generate heat and the processors will throttle themselves (reduce performance) once they reach a certain temperature. This temperature varies by model and type of chip.
In general CPUs/GPUs start throttling around 85°C and up, so you will always want temperatures quite a bit cooler than that. Throttling causes reduced performance, lag and crashes.
Many video cards do not blow hot air out of the chassis, so the heat stays inside. This makes a good chassis necessary with fans blowing air out. A chassis should be cool to the touch even when everything is running full load. The temperature of the back plate of the cards, and in particular the back plate of the GPU, should give you a feel for how effective the cooling is.
Consider the airflow through the system. Typically cold air is taken into the front of the system and blown over the cards to be exhausted at the rear. Fans should always be mounted to aid and not oppose the intended airflow and to prevent internal hotspots.
We recommend proper rack mounted chassis
Example of the chassis we use which have 3x120mm fans blowing onto all the components and a rear exhaust fan. http://www.istarusa.com/en/istarusa/products.php?model=D-400L-7
Our recommended chassis supports GPUs that are up to 340mm long and 150mm wide. This includes large GPUs such as the 4090, but beware of different manufacturers having models larger than this.
We can also recommend the HP Z series, Dell 7820 & 7920, AVA custom built Pixotope machines https://www.avadirect.com/pixotopesolutions (only US).
Avoid common "gaming" machines in a production environment. The chassis most often does not have the cooling ability of a proper rack-mounted chassis, and the systems are not designed for 24/7 100% workload in a tough environment.
Alienware and other gaming PCs can have good performance, but most often they are not made with the same quality components as the more professional workstation focused hardware mentioned above. They are most often based on the 115x and 120x chipsets which run into the PCI-e lane limitation mentioned under CPU.
Apple Macs are not supported.
The air around and outside the chassis needs to be cool, so make sure the space your rack is well ventilated and has a steady supply of cool air.
System stability and stress testing
To ensure that your system is stable under load you can run a system benchmark that stresses both the CPU and the GPU. Two we recommend are:
Use an extreme preset, and let the system run for 30 - 45 minutes. Monitor the temperatures, and check that the chassis has ample airflow, both internal and external. The chassis should optimally be cool to the touch.
Be careful with applications like furmark which stresses only the GPU, since they can be too aggressive and gives the GPU an unrealistic load.
Hardware diagnostics and monitoring
Use HWiNFO to get a complete computer system overview, including temperature monitoring: https://www.fosshub.com/HWiNFO.html
If you believe you have issues with your system, create a complete system report and send it to us for review.
Use this tool to ensure that your graphics cards and video I/O cards are running at their intended speed. They need to be seated in the correct PCI-E slots on the motherboard for this to be correct. Consult your motherboard manual on which slots to use. If you use the wrong slot, you risk much lower performance or no functionality on both graphics cards and video I/O cards. Under bus in HWiNFO, expand bus pane and check that the current link width is correct. This should be 16x for graphics cards, and 8x for AJA video I/O cards.:
Example of an incorrectly placed AJA Kona 4. It is running at half the PCI-E speed, in addition to communicating through the chipset and not directly to the CPU:
We recommend using 2 network ports:
1 dedicated to Pixotope, Data hub and Tracking server. Tracking data is especially vulnerable to latency and packet loss issues, so you should run this on a dedicated network
We do not support Data hub and CTS/Tracking over wireless, these connections must be wired
1 for general internet and network access
We recommend as a base setup to use two network adapters on one machine in order to separate the tracking data from the general network traffic.
With two network adapters, you choose which network you run the datahub on under the general tab, and you choose which network to run the tracking on under the camera tracking tab.
Remember that you need an active network connection (network cable plugged in to the adapter) in order for the adapter to show up and be selectable in Director.
Windows network profile has to be set to private. Public network profile will block both Data hub data and tracking data which means the computers with Pixotope will not see other Pixotope machines or receive/send tracking data.
If you still have problems with Pixotope not receiving or sending data between machines/other hardware, disable the Windows firewall.
The following tool can be used to identify and diagnose latency spikes within the system:
This tool should be run after the software is configured for the environment, in case software such as third-party antivirus or hardware device drivers cause disruptions to system latency.