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Using 3D Vision with Quadro Graphics for Professional Applications

February 1st, 2010 · 18 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision


When talking about Nvidia’s 3D Vision active shutter glasses the usual association is with stereoscopic 3D gaming, but you should know that they can be used for professional purposes too. But in order to do that you’ll need to have a professional Quadro graphics board instead of the consumer GeForce series of video cards. And besides the shutter glasses and the Quadro card you’ll still have to use a 3D-ready display of some kind and then there is also the professional application that needs to support stereoscopic 3D mode… and that is something very important!

One of the requirements for the 3D Vision is to have a GeForce 8xxx series video card or newer, meaning that the 3D Vision driver uses the stream processors architecture introduced with this cards and thus cannot function on the older models. The consumer stereo 3D support for 3D Vision is currently limited only to Direct3D and requires you to use full screen mode, although it seems that Nvidia is working on improving things and removing some of the limitations. There is yet another one significant limitation and that is the lack of support for older Windows versions like Windows XP – the 3D Vision driver is available only for the users with Windows Vista or Windows 7…

On the other hand, when using Quadro graphics, you may have more options available to you depending on what model is your Quadro card. Now you have two options for Quadro and 3D Vision – too use the same mode as with the consumer GeForce cards with the same limitations with the help of the 3D Vision drivers, or to use the professional stereo 3D mode with the Quadro drivers. Have in mind that the Direct3D support requires you to have a more recent Quadro card based on the stream processors architecture and Nvidia lists only the following models as supported: Quadro FX 5800, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX 3800, Quadro FX 5600, Quadro FX 4700 X2, Quadro FX 4600, Quadro FX 3700, Quadro CX, Quadro FX 1800, Quadro FX 580, Quadro FX 380, Quadro FX 380 LP, Quadro FX 1700, Quadro FX 570, Quadro FX 370. But as I already said the D3D mode is the consumer mode needed in order to play games in stereoscopic 3D mode and you probably are not very interested to do that with a Quadro card, right? The other mode you can use with a Quadro is the one available only in the professional applications and it is called Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode. This mode has been available for years and Nvidia and ATI support it for years in their professional line of products, but don’t think you’ll be able to lets say play OpenGL games with it – you won’t, because this is a specific mode and not general OpenGL stereoscopic 3D support as with the Direct3D 3D Vision Driver. The advantages of the Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode is that it is supported on much wider array of products than the listed above as it does not require you to have a specifically stream processors architecture GPU. Aside from that it can also work in applications in a window, there is no need to have the application in full screen mode to active the stereo 3D mode and it also does work with Windows XP with the respective Quadro driver. The reason for that is that the mode is integrated in the Quadro driver itself and does not need additional software like the 3D Vision driver, but if you have a newer Quadro (one of the above models) you can use both Direct3D and Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo modes just by switching between the two drivers.


So even if you have an older Quadro video card you still might be able to use it with Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode and the 3D Vision active shutter glasses in applications that do support it. You need to download and install a Quadro driver version at least 186.18 as this one was the first to introduce the support for the USB IR transmitter that comes with the 3D Vision glasses. So if you have an older Quadro with old video drivers you just need to update them to the latest version to get the new hardware support and you should be able to make things work. Along with the Quadro driver update, you’ll have to install the USB driver for the IR transmitter that is now available as a separate package, but previously you had to get it from the 3D Vision package. Then you need to open the NVIDIA Control Panel, go to the Manage 3D Settings tab and select the right mode for Stereo Display Mode – Generic Active Stereo (with NVIDIA IR Emitter) or On-board DIN connector (with NVIDIA IR Emitter) if you are using the external 3-pin DIN connector for synchronization. And them you need to enable the Stereo – Enable by selection the ON mode in the respective place in the settings panel and that is it, you are ready to use the Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode. Just don’t forget to disable the 3D Vision driver if you have it also installed when using this mode and you can enable it again (if your card supports it of course) to use stereo in Direct3D when you need it.


There might be some issues if you are using a Quadro FX 1800 or Quadro FX 580 card. When you setup everything and try to run an application in Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode and the display shows the right image (doubled), but the glasses refuse to start flicker in sync don’t worry. This is most likely not a software issue resulting from you doing something wrong, actually it might be a problem with the Video BIOS of your video card, you need to check for an updated VBIOS and flash the card to fix it. You can see your current VBIOS version with a program like GPU-Z and then check the manufacturer website for an updated version or contact the support requesting such VBIOS if there isn’t one publicly available. After reflashing the Quadro card with the latest VBIOS it should work just fine in stereo 3D mode.


If you have some of the higher-end Quadro models your card might be equipped with an external connector for cable synchronization with the IR transmitter of the 3D Vision glasses. This 3-pin DIN cable plugs in the Quadro and at the back of the IR transmitter and it cam also used by 3D-capable DLP HDTV sets. The problem here might arise from the fact that the European 3D Vision kit for example does not include this cable, but you might’ve received it with the Quado card, otherwise you have to buy it separately and it can be quite expensive, although it is nothing special actually. Just have in mind that even though your Quadro card might support the external cable synchronization that you may still use it without this cable by selecting the Generic Active Stereo (with NVIDIA IR Emitter) instead the one with the On-board DIN connector. This however might lead to some annoying flickering according to Nvidia in some rare cases, but I haven’t seen this problem so far.


And one last thing at the end, even if you can only use the Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode on your older Quadro graphics card you still will be able to use the 3D Vision for watching 3D movies and looking at 3D photos. What you need is just the right viewing software that does support the Quad Buffered OpenGL Stereo mode as a viewing method such as the Stereoscopic Player (not the 3D Vision stereoscopic player!) or the StereoPhoto Maker. So the only thing you will not be able to do is play games in stereoscopic 3D mode with an older Quadro…

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