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USB 3.1 Multiple Camera Setup

KB Number: 10350
Last Revision Date: 1/17/2017

Subject

Technical Application Note (TAN2012005): USB 3.1 Multiple Camera Setup

10364

Applicable Product(s)

FLIR USB 3.1 machine vision cameras  

Application Note Description

This application note explores multiple USB 3.1 camera configurations. The purpose of this document is to provide a reference and a starting point for USB 3.1 camera users who wish to use multiple USB 3.1 cameras in their application.

Preparing for Use

Before you use your USB 3.1 camera, we recommend that you are aware of the following resources available from our Downloads page:

Getting Started Manual for the camera—provides information on installing components and software needed to run the camera. 

Technical Reference for the camera—provides information on the camera’s specifications, features and operations, as well as imaging and acquisition controls. 

Firmware updates—ensure you are using to most up-to-date firmware for the camera to take advantage of improvements and fixes.

Spinnaker SDK(for Blackfly S cameras only) contains all documentation, example source code, precompiled examples, and libraries required to develop your application using our Spinnaker SDK.

FlyCapture2 SDK—contains utilities to configure the camera such as Driver Control GUI, update firmware and drivers, and check setup. As well, contains the FlyCapture2 API for use in creating your own applications.

FLIR USB 3.1 Technology

The type of data transfer that our USB 3.1 cameras use is bulk transfer. When factoring in the related overhead, the effective bandwidth is approximately 450 MB/s. Our USB 3.1 implementation uses image buffering to improve multiple camera system reliability and ensure data integrity. 

Packet Retransmission

Our USB 3.1 cameras use a type of data transfer called bulk transfer. This type of transfer guarantees delivery and retransmits corrupt data packets, hence recovering from data errors when they occur.

Data Buffer

Our USB 3.1 cameras have a data buffer that allows images to be temporarily queued in the camera after readout. The main advantage of the data buffer is that it allows the system to handle momentary slowdowns on the bus without dropping any data. If the overall data throughput drops below requested data rate for an extended period of time, the camera can send entire uncorrupted frames out slower, and drop entire frames cleanly, rather than drop partial frames and cause image data errors.

USB 3.1 link layer IP

We implemented its own USB 3.1 link layer technology in the camera FPGA. This allows us to introduce new functionality and ensure compatibility with third party hardware. 

USB3 Vision Standard

Our USB 3.1 cameras comply with the USB3 Vision standard. USB3 Vision is a communication interface for vision applications based on the USB 3.1 technology. All cameras supporting USB3 Vision interact the same way with software also supporting USB3 Vision. The Spinnaker SDK uses GenICam to support the USB3 Vision standard.

For more information on the USB3 Vision standard, visit visiononline.org.

Configure Drivers

We sell three USB 3.1 host controller cards: two based on the FL1100 chipset from Fresco and the µPD720200 chipset from Renesas. In addition to the manufacturer drivers, we recommend using the PGRUSBCam driver.  For a list of compatible chipsets, see TAN2011005 Recommended USB 3.1 System Components.

With SpinView (for Blackfly S) or our driver control utility, you are able to identify the driver you are using and easily switch between them. Select the Point Grey Driver from the driver selection window.

Bandwidth Allocation

USB 3.1 does not automatically manage bandwidth allocation. To help users accommodate multiple cameras on a single bus, we use a camera attribute which limits peak data bandwidth. This can be used to reduce the amount of data coming from each camera, preventing skipped frames or connectivity issues.

Device Link Throughtput Limit-GenICam

Use the device throughput limit feature to verify your system’s bandwidth limit, ensure your total bandwidth use is within that limit, and adjust your camera’s bandwidth accordingly. Consider the total of all the cameras on the system to calculate the required bandwidth.

We recommend that the bandwidth requirements be divided equally among the number of cameras used, for example—two cameras, each requiring half of the maximum bandwidth; three cameras, each requiring one third of the maximum bandwidth.

In the figure below, we see that the device max throughput is 38768000 bytes per second (384 MB/s). The current device link throughput limit is 18320000 bytes per second (184 MB/s).

Format 7 Packet Size-IIDC

Format 7 packet size provides the user with a mechanism to allocate bandwidth for a particular camera. Reducing the packet size lowers the camera’s maximum frame rate and limits the amount of bandwidth the camera can use. The packet size can be controlled in FlyCapture2 or the IIDC registers.

FlyCap2 can be used to determine the bandwidth allocated for a given packet size. Reduce or increase the packet size to ensure the total amount of bandwidth output by the camera(s) does not exceed system limits.

In the figure below, we see that reducing the packet size to 22624 bytes limits the maximum frame rate to 55 FPS, assuming image size and pixel format stay the same.

Calculating Required Bandwidth

To calculate your bandwidth requirements, use your required resolution, frame rate, and pixel format (bytes per pixel) in the following equation.

Height x Width x Frame Rate x Bytes per Pixel = Bandwidth in MB

For example:

Camera model: FL3-U3-13S2M-CS

Resolution: 1328 x 1048

Frame rate: 60 FPS

Pixel format: Mono16

Bandwidth = 1328 x 1048 x 60 x 2 = 167 MB

Pixel format

Mono8/Raw8

Mono12/Raw12

Mono16/Raw16

RGB8

YUV411

YUV422

YUV444

Bytes per pixel

1

1.5

2

3

1.5

2

3

 

Multiple camera system configurations

This section documents various configurations and scenarios that have been tested with our USB 3.1 multiple cameras. The hardware and software setup with each configuration is also documented.

Multiple cameras connected directly to a USB 3.1 host controller

The figure below illustrates 4 cameras running on a 4 port USB3 card with Fresco FL1100 host controller.

Multiple cameras connected directly to the host controller

System Description

Component

Description

CPU

Intel Core i-7 4790

Motherboard

Asus Z97-PRO

RAM

8 GB

Host adapter

FLIR 4 Port USB 3.1 PCI Host Adapter (ACC-01-1202)

Cabling

FLIR 3-meter USB 3.1 Cable Type-A to Micro-B

Operating system

Windows 7 x64

Driver

PGRUSBCam Driver 2.7.3.18

Software

Test application based on FlyCapture2 Release 2.7.3.13 x64

Camera

Grasshopper3 GS3-U3-23S6M

Camera firmware

2.11.3.0

We used a console test application to obtain the test result below. The test application configures each camera to run at high performance mode and verifies that there are no dropped images.

Camera Model

Pixel Format

Resolution

Frame Rate

Packet Size (Byte)

Bandwidth (MB/s)

GS3-U3-23S6M-C

Raw8

1920 x 1200

40

33120

92

GS3-U3-23S6M-C

Raw8

1920 x 1200

40

33120

92

GS3-U3-23S6C-C

Raw8

1920 x 1200

40

33120

92

GS3-U3-23S6C-C

Raw8

1920 x 1200

40

33120

92

Total bandwidth

 

 

 

 

368 MB/s

 

Using the configuration above, a total of 368 MB/s is transferred to the host from multiple cameras. Although the effective USB 3.1 bandwidth is approximately 450 MB/s, peak performance can vary, depending on how the USB3 host adapter card manages bandwidth.

Multiple cameras connected via a USB 3.1 hub

This configuration demonstrates free-running 2 and 3 cameras using a single USB 3.1 hub. A table isprovided to demonstrate the frame rates achieved in each configuration. As shown from the results, the USB 3.1 hub used could not sustain a data rate of greater than 345 MB/s.

Multiple cameras connected to the host via hub

System Description

Component

Description

CPU

Intel Core i-7 4770

Motherboard

ASUS Z87-PRO

RAM

8 GB

Host adapter

Onboard Intel USB 3.1 port

Hub

4-Port USB 3.1 Hub with Screw Locks and External Power Adapter (ACC-01-6000)

Cabling

FLIR 3-meter USB 3.1 Cable Type-A to Micro-B

Operating system

Windows 7 x64

Driver

PGRUSBCam Driver 2.7.3.18

Software

Test application based on FlyCapture2 Release 2.7.3.13 x64

Camera

Grasshopper3 GS3-U3-23S6M

Camera firmware

2.11.3.0

Note: For further recommendations, see TAN 2011005 Recommended USB 3.1 System Components.

Example A - One camera connected to a hub

Camera model

Pixel Format

Resolution

Frame Rate

Packet Size (Byte)

Bandwidth (MB/s)

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

162

48096

373

Total bandwidth

 

 

 

 

373 MB/s

 

Example B - Two cameras connected to a hub

Camera model

Pixel Format

Resolution

Frame Rate

Packet Size (Byte)

Bandwidth (MB/s)

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

70

48096

161

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

70

48096

161

Total bandwidth

 

 

 

 

322 MB/s

 

Example C – Three cameras connected to a hub

Camera

Pixel Format

Resolution

Frame Rate

Packet Size (Byte)

Bandwidth (MB/s)

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

50

48096

115

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

50

48096

115

GS3-U3-23S6M

Raw8

1920 x 1200

50

48096

115

Total

 

 

 

 

345 MB/s

Using the configurations above, the total throughput ranges from 322 MB/s to 373 MB/s. Although the effective USB 3.1 bandwidth is approximately 450 MB/s, peak performance can vary depending on how the USB 3.1 host controller manages bandwidth.

Multiple Cameras Connected to Multiple Host Controllers

The following configuration uses multiple host controllers to share the bandwidth for 15 cameras.

System Description

ComponentDescription

CPU

Intel i7 4790 @ 3.8 GHz

Motherboard

ASUS Z97 Pro
Z97-PRO BIOS 2205

RAM

8 GB 1333 MHz non-ECC memory

Hard Drive 500 GB Segate - 7200 RPM
Power Supply 500 W Thermtake PSU

Host Adaptor

2 x onboard Intel 9 series USB3 ports
1 x onboard ASMedia USB3 port
3 x quad channel quad port Fresco FL1100 USB 3.1 card

Host Adaptor Driver

Intel USB3.0 eXtensible Host Controller version 4.0.0.36
ASMedia XHCI 1.0 Controller version 1.16.23.0
Fresco USB3 Extensible Host Controller version 2.7.3.79

Cabling

15 x FLIR 3-meter USB 3.1 Cable Type-A to Micro-B (ACC-01-2300)

Operating system

Windows 7 x64

Driver

PGRUSBCam Driver 2.7.3.18

Software

Test application based on FlyCapture2 Release 2.8.3.1 x64

Camera

15 x Grasshopper®3 USB3

Camera firmware

See test results

System Description

Camera ModelPixel FormatResolutionFrame RateFirmwareBandwidth (MB/s)

GS3-U3-120S6M

Mono8

640 x 480

30

1.17.2.0

9

GS3-U3-120S6M

Mono8

1288 x 968

17

2.22.3.0

21

GS3-U3-120S6M

Mono8

1288 x 968

21

2.22.3.0

64

GS3-U3-120S6M

Mono8

1280 x 968

25

2.22.3.0

17

GS3-U3-91S6C

Raw8

1288 x 968

17

2.22.3.0

21

GS3-U3-91S6C

Raw8

1288 x 968

17

2.22.3.0

21

GS3-U3-91S6C

Raw8

1288 x 968

17

2.22.3.0

21

GS3-U3-91S6C

Raw8

1384 x 1032

45

2.22.3.0

64

GS3-U3-60QS6C

Raw8

1288 x 968

27

2.22.3.0

34

GS3-U3-41C6M

Mono8

640 x 480

188

2.22.3.0

233

GS3-U3-41C6C

Raw8

1280 x 968

188

2.22.3.0

233

GS3-U3-41C6M

Mono8

1280 x 968

188

2.22.3.0

233

GS3-U3-41S4M

Mono8

1288 x 968

29

2.22.3.0

36

GS3-U3-41S4M

Mono8

1288 x 968

29

2.7.3.0

36

GS3-U3-15S5C

Raw8

1384 x1032

45

2.22.3.0

64

Total bandwidth

 

 

 

 

1137 MB/s*

*Bandwidth shared across multiple host controllers

Troubleshooting

Enumeration

  • When using a USB 3.1 camera, ensure it is adequately powered by an external adapter.
  • Ensure the latest firmware and drivers are being used.

Link Recovery Errors

  • The host controller enters a recovery state to recover from bit errors that it has detected. This is often caused by a long cable or a bad connection.
  • Use the same cables to ensure the performance of each camera is consistent. Shorter cables are also preferred for better reliability.
  • For more information, see TAN2011006 Diagnosing USB 3.1 Camera and Bus Errors.

Skipped Image Frames

  • This happens when the host is too slow in receiving and acknowledging the data coming from the camera. It can be caused by a host system that is too busy or by having too much data on the USB 3.1 bus for the host to handle.
  • To view the number of skipped frames:
    • In SpinView, see the Log Viewer.
    • In FlyCapture2, see the Camera Information panel.
  • To alleviate the issue, manually reduce the Format 7 packet size until the max fram rate is reduced and images are no longer being skipped.
  • Using a higher performance PC also ensures fewer frames are skipped.

Low Frame Rate

  • To increase the frame rate:
    • In SpinView, increase the Device Link Throughput Limit.
    • In FlyCapture 2, increase the Format 7 packet size.
  • Increase the Format 7 packet size.
  • Ensure the PCI Express bus is 2.0 compliant. If a PCI Express 1.0 bus is used, the effective bandwidth (and hence frame rate) will be reduced by half. 
  • Ensure images frames are not being skipped. Please refer to the Skipped Image Frames section for more information.
  • For more information, see KB 10108 My USB 3.1 camera does not achieve full frame rate.

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