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Help! Are we over-taxing our Mac Video Cards?


We are a small office running medium to large scale, residential remodeling projects. When running 2019 we're having constant problems with models not rendering/updating when moving from plan view to 3D. It seems after working in a file for a while, when trying to change views or render (in OpenGL) the display just stops updating and stays in plan view even though selection handles for selected items seem to move normally. Closing the file and re-opening (not quitting VW) resolves the problem, but the fix is usually temporary. This has led most of my team to keep ongoing projects in 2018 since we do not have this issue nor frequent crashes in 2018. This happens across all stations, which include MacBook Pros, Mac Pros, and iMacs, all running SP4 on High Sierra, and syncing project files over dropbox. Needless to say we're hesitant to upgrade to 2020 since we barely used 2019.



MacBook Pros (15" and 13" 2017)

3.1-3.5 GHz Intel Core i7


the 15" has a combination Radeon Pro 560 (4GB) and Intel HD 630 (1.5GB)

the 13" has the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 (1.5GB)

They each run Two LG 27" Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) displays

Ironically, the workstation with the Iris card seems to have the fewest problems.


Other stations:

Mac Pro (2013)

3.5GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5


AMD FirePro D700 (6GB)

Two LG 27" Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) displays


iMac (Retina 5K, 27" 2017)

4.2GHz Intel Core i7


Radeon Pro 580 (8GB)

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Hi @exhibita, I provide Tech Support for the New Zealand distributor, Megabits. Perhaps I can help. 


Shooting from the hip first: Due to the laggy graphical updates and when orbiting your view I'd say the computer is being overworked. Either:

  • The current graphical demands of the file/model are greater than the computer can comfortably handle OR
  • This or any of the other files currently open might suffer from 'Far Out Objects.' 

See if the problem improves by either closing other geometrically populous files, AND unplugging one of the two '3K' monitors you have. 


With only one Vectorworks file open at a time, open Activity Monitor and check out Vectorworks' memory consumption. High consumption usually indicates a lot of geometry and will also weigh heavy on your graphics card as it tries to handle all those vertices. 


IF Vectorworks 2018 didn't have this problem using the same files, I'd say there's something wrong with your Vectorworks 2019 installations or something common to them all is not right. This is not typical performance. You could see if lowering the Navigation Graphics setting to Good Performance and Compatibility or Best Compatibility makes a difference but I'd say it could be due to using a common User Folder or corrupt workspaces, perhaps in a Workgroup folder. (See the bottom section for this stuff). 


Don't hesitate to try Vectorworks 2020. They've added a SUPER efficient way of displaying geometry so it will be much faster than Vectorworks 2019 in this regard. 


Regardless, check for Far Out Objects: 


If you can generate these symptoms in the following conditions:  

  1. Quit then reopen Vectorworks with no other Vectorworks files open. 
  2. In a new blank document (File > New... > 'Create blank document.' No using templates)

…then I'd say Vectorworks is malfunctioning. But because this occurs on multiple computers it's likely to be due to something common to them all: 

  • Do these computers use a single (shared) Vectorworks User Folder? (Don't). 
  • What about a common Workspace (either accessed in a Workgroup folder or manually distributed to each computer)? 

If yes, to either of these, try Resetting Vectorworks Preferences and ensuring each installation uses its own, unique Vectorworks User Folder and disassociating the Workgroup folder while testing. 



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Thanks Jeremy - There is a lot to digest here.


I think for starters we'll move to 2020 and I'll undertake re-creating a clean template. I'll also move some models to a clean new drawing file and see if I can re-create the orbit problem. On some of your questions:


With only one VW file open (the one in the video) my activity monitor shows VW using between 8 and 9 GB of data. This is a fairly simple project file for us. A single story remodel/addition. The working file is approx. 173 MB, it's comprised of about 25 design layers and 50 sheet layers - many of the sheet layers unused. I will check the activity monitor again the next time the orbit fails and see if anything is different.


We've been running navigation on Good Performance and Compatibility for a while, but I can also experiment with Best Compatibility.


I'm not certain what you mean by using a single shared user folder, I don't think that is what we do. Just to be clear: Each computer has an independent installation and Vectorworks folder. Our project files are stored in a common directory in Dropbox, but our working files are stored locally on our individual hard drives.

We do not use common workspaces - most of us have a few different workspaces for single or dual monitors, laptop etc.


We do keep more than one Vectorworks installation (version) on our computers since sometimes late in a design process, we're reluctant to convert files to the new version - not sure if that could be a factor.


Thanks again for the hip shot - I'll reply with more info after I recreate some things on this end.

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Hi again @exhibita


I note in your video when you closed the file in question, there was a file beneath, but if that's not typical ignore my comment about multiple files combining to overwork your computer resources. BTW, file size is rarely an accurate indication of how much geometry is within, because geometry uses teensy data when written to file compared to textures, images and other resources). 


I also note that after reloading the file it loads rendered in OpenGL and takes a LONG time to load. This particular effect will be due to one or both: 

  • Heaps of geometry. (Objects you know about and imported objects you might not appreciate the complexity of). 
  • OpenGL render settings (which are per-file settings).

To determine the latter, go: View > Rendering > OpenGL Settings… and lower the 'Detail' setting down to 'Medium.' - The 'Very High' setting is (IMO) unnecessary and makes no detectable visual difference, but most importantly, it commands an astronomical increase in computer resources. Drop it down and I think you'll find your problem solved. 

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