How Two NVIDIA Fans Helped Us Set a Guinness World Record for Gaming in 4K [Updated with Video]

by Brian Caulfield

A new generation of ultra high-definition displays are ready. Our fans our ready. And with Maxwell – the most advanced GPU ever made – we’re more than ready.

It’s time to go big. Bigger than anyone has gone before.

That’s why we enlisted two diehard NVIDIA fans to help us set a Guinness World Record for the biggest 4K display in a videogame competition – pumping a live game of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel onto the 91-foot tall 4K screen towering over Churchill Downs, the  legendary racetrack that’s home of the Kentucky Derby.

Aiding us in our record-setting attempt: Justin Munoz, from the San Francisco Bay Area, and Tom Lounsbury, from Arkansas. We flew them both out to Louisville, Kentucky, to battle it out on the biggest of all high-definition big screens.

We made sure the stakes for the game would be high. Each gamer would get our new Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980. And the winner would get a brand new 4K gaming system. We expected a great game. And we got it.

A “Big” Challenge

Justin and Tom weren’t the only ones sweating it out. 4K is a brutal environment for GPUs. And this giant display – with its 4096 by 2160 resolution – is particularly demanding. The humongous display – 171 feet wide and 90 feet tall – sits 80 feet above ground. If there was a glitch, no one would miss it on a screen that takes up roughly a third of an acre.

This is the kind of challenge our new GeForce GTX 980 was built for. Just one of these powerful new cards would be enough for this enormous display. We wanted to play the game in “ultra” mode in a competition setting, however, so we ran two GeForce GTX 980s in SLI mode to lock in the fastest possible frame rate.

Setting up a gaming rig that can handle all those pixels turned out to be the easy part. With the video control room sitting half a mile away from the board itself, we had some serious cabling to do. We took DVI-DL out from our cars to a DVI fiber optic transmitter box. From there, we had to run almost a mile of video fiber through a building, out and along the grandstands, through a tunnel under the race track, and back out to the 26-acre infield.

That’s where our PC sat, waiting for us to plug it in.

And as if running all those cables wasn’t challenging enough, the fiber transmitter boxes we set up on the track’s infield began to overheat in the Kentucky sun.

It took a little “McGyver-ing” involving a house fan and a cardboard box to ensure a solid connection between our rig and the massive display towering above it. Then we hit the “on” button and brought the mother of all gaming systems to life.

It's official: our new Maxwell-based GPUs are already setting records.
It’s official: our new Maxwell-based GPUs are already setting records.

On hand for this epic moment: representatives from the Guinness World Records organization and Borderlands publisher 2K. Joveth Gonzalez, a product manager at 2K, brought Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel out to Kentucky for us. So we gave him ‘firsties’ on the brand new GeForce GTX 980 and the world’s largest 4K display.

Then it was time to get it on. And to add to the pressure, eSports personalities Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham and Justin “TheGunrun” Ignacio broadcast the match on Twitch.

It was a great game.

For the competition,  we did a time trial: Fastest combined time in two rounds won. The competition ended with a victory for Tom. He took home a brand new gaming system. We all grabbed a new world record.

And a bunch of bewildered Louisville residents wondered whether the video board had been hacked. Not bad for two days work.

Editor’s note: this post has been updated with additional video content.