I'm starting this thread because I have not found anywhere that answers the most common questions about cabinets all in one place. I have spent hours reading posts and I can't say I remember everything I have read. I will update it as I find information so that everything is easily accessible. If you have something to contribute to this FAQ, please let me know and I will update it. I am especially interested in your CPU /graphics card configuration so that we can help others who are looking to pick their components out.
TV/Monitor are used interchaneably here unless noted.
This document can also be found on the Hyperspin-fe.com forums. When updated, I will post revisions to both VPforums.org and the Hyperpin forums.
I did not personally answer all of these questions. They are a mix of many different individual's responses. Many thanks to Destruk from VPforums.org and Billpa from the Hyperspin forums.
Are there any set plans that I can use to make my cabinet?
Pinball cabinets are personal choice and you can copy an existing cabinet or make one up to fit your needs. If you're looking for some plans to give you some idea, here is a link provided by Destruk: Mini Pin
What angle should my monitor/tv be set at in the cabinet?
Most people have the table slope at 6 degrees, and the display is between 0 degrees (flat), and 2 degrees to mimic a real machine, where the cabinet sides are higher at the back.
How far away from the glass should the monitor be?
People have expressed that having the monitor too close to the glass will create a lot of heat. It seems that you should have at least enough to create a ventilation flow between the glass and the front of the monitor.
Destruk writes, "This truly depends on your display you are using. Mine generates heat, sure, when touched, but with 2 inches of clearance from the display to the playfield glass it's really not a problem with adequate ventilation. The sloped playfield glass helps so the heat will rise to the back of the cab."
Where can I get playfield glass?
It depends on your specific machine. You can contact local glass supply companies who will make them for you. Standard pinball glass is 3/16" thick. You can purchase custom glass from OneDayGlass.com or if you are using standard size glass, you can purchase it through Marco Specialities or Pinball Life (in a two pack).
Do I need ventilation for my cabinet?
Almost certainly yes. The monitor, computer and any other hardware will generate a lot of heat without ventilation. You should consider ventilation an important part of your cabinet build.
If you are using a decent computer, and a small size display (32") or LCD instead of plasma or hdtv, then you can get away without any ventilation. Most home users aren't going to have their machine on and actively running intense graphics applications 24/7. The larger the displays, the more the heat will become an issue. A newer model pc handles heat much better, so that the stock cooling in the case should be sufficient.
Do I have to make my own cabinet or can I modify an existing one?
You can modify an existing cabinet, but you will be constrained to the size of the cabinet. You probably will not be able to fit anything bigger than a 32" playfield monitor into a standard size pinball cabinet. Others have said that a 28" monitor fits nicely into the backbox as a backglass monitor in a 3 monitor setup.
How big of a TV should I buy for the playfield?
As big as you want! If you are using a prebuilt cabinet you will be limited. If you are making your own, you can make it however big you'd like. 37-42" seems to be pretty close to a real pinball machine size. If you are willing to cut down or completely remove the bezel to the TV, you can use a bigger TV in a smaller cabinet. Just be aware that doing so will probably void any warranties with your TV set.
How big of a monitor should I buy for the backglass?
To truly mimic a real pinball game you should probably measure an actual real world backglass or translite and use that for your backbox display size. Whatever other people have used for theirs, or if Ultrapin used 19" or 32" or 16" or whatever, really doesn't make a difference in your design for your pinball machine. You can either go for realistic, or you can go for cheap - it's yours and should be unique. Again, if you can't decide a simple choice as what brand or model or size or color you want your components to be...
For a three monitor setup, you need to fit the monitor into your cabinet. 28" or 30" seems to be a good size, with at least a 17" monitor for the third screen DMD. Ultrapin from Global VR uses a 19" widescreen monitor for their backglass and DMD.
What way should I put my playfield monitor into the cabinet?
Because of software, it seems the best way is to have the bottom of the monitor facing the left if you were looking at the machine. But this depends on what setup and design you want - spanned tables display the playfield and backbox 90 degrees rotated clockwise, meaning the bottom of your displays should both point to the left when facing the machine front. For HyperPin and VP6/7/8 You want them to be oriented the same as your cabinet. Both Future Pinball and HyperPin and VP can work either way, with software adjustments, or you can add a swivel/pivot control to your backbox displays in some cases. Probably the reason this question doesn't have a solid 'idiot guide to cabinets' answer is because it comes down to thinking about how the machine will be used, and is determined in the planning stages of your machine.
Where can I find a lock down bar?
You can find them on ebay, or take one from an old machine. Depending on the size of the monitor you will be using for the playfiled, you might want to look at a widebody lockdown bar. Pinball Resource has new lockdown bars, as well as pinball.com and Stern Pinball even has them available if you call their parts line.
Where can I get a coin door?
Ebay or an old machine. If you can find one that has coin mechs and switches, the switches can be used in the simulator. You can also purchase them new from many pinball vendors, such as Marco Specialities, Pinball Life and Bay Area Amusements. Pinball resource, pinball.com and Stern also carry these parts.
What type of wood do I use to make a cabinet?
Whatever kind you want, but generally you want very flat high quality plywood, 3/4" thick.
How can I add nudge capabilities to my cabinet?
Nanotechent.com sells a nudge card that attaches to your PC via USB for around $100.
Why isn't my nudge board working correctly?
Make sure it is installed correctly, and for the Nanotech unit, face the USB part of the chip towards the back of the cabinet. You should also make sure you run the calibration tools whenever you move your cabinet or change the leg levelers.
How do I add buttons to my cabinet?
The nudge card you can buy from Nanotech includes inputs for buttons and coin door switches. Also you could use a keyboard interface like the IPAC - see BYOAC
How do I add a plunger to my cabinet?
Nanotech also sells a digital plunger which can be purchased separately or with a nudge card as a combo. Note that the plunger does not work without the nudge card, so make sure if you are going to buy it separately, you have their nudge card already. Some people have made their own using old parts, or having a bolt with a washer on the end of it that activates a leaf switch. See this post: Home made plunger
How fast of a CPU do I need?
As fast as possible! Of course with budget restraints, you may not be able to buy the best machine. Using Passmark's CPU benchmarks, it is good to shoot for at least a 1,500 score. http://www.cpubenchmark.net/ Processors like the Core 2 Duo from Intel are a good choice. See the next question for a little more detail.
What OS should I run?
Future Pinball and Visual Pinball will both run under either XP or Vista, and presumably will work fine under Windows 7. As far as performance under XP / Vista / 32/64 bit etc I don't know. If anyone has any comments regarding this question, please let me know.
What kind of graphics card should I buy?
You should stick with a high end graphics card that will render greater than 30 frames per second, which would be your absolute minimum. Nvidia seems to be the recommended card brand, with at least 512mb and at least the 9800 series. My initial test steup, a GeForce 6200 running on a Pentium D 2.8ghz with 4gigs of ram (a PC purchased in 2005) runs about 25fps in Future Pinball set at medium graphic levels, this is unacceptable, so you should shoot for much better with your configuration. The Ultrapin, made by Global VR, used a Intel 945 Motherboard with a Pentium D 3.0ghz processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS, running on XP. By their own admission, this was not strong enough to run Future Pinball with acceptable framerates. For more information on the history of Ultrapin, read here.
Make sure that you purchase a power supply that is sufficient to run all the graphics cards in your system. Your card may need more than 400 watts, so go with at least a 600 watt supply.
Do I go with a 2 monitor set up or a 3 monitor setup?
That depends on a number of things, budget, computer speed, personal taste, etc. If you choose to use a two monitor configuration, you should purchase the playfield and a widescreen monitor to work as your backglass and your score display. Just like with Ultrapin, a 2 monitor setup likely will have the screen rotated sideways with the left of the screen (now the bottom) housing the DMD and the top of the screen being the backglass for the game. Some portion of the screen will go unused, as it is blocked by the wood from the speaker grill.
You do not have to rotate your monitor for a two monitor setup, however. Unrotated you can display the backglass and scores. How this will work with your setup is up to you, but it works well for mini cabinets.
How do I get three monitors to work?
You will need at least two graphics cards. One graphics card will likely have two outputs, so you will need a second card for the third monitor. If your PC has a video card built in, you might be able to use it for the third monitor. My test configuration does have one built in (a Gateway PC) and using both a PCI Express graphics card and the built in video card does not work. But it might be worth a test for you before you shell out extra bucks on a card.
There have been tests by individuals here where they have gotten three monitors to work. 53kemper most notably has used a 19" as a separate monitor, just in front of his 28" backglass monitor and drops the bottom down into the cabinet. At the time this was written his design was such that he could not drop the backbox down (at least without taking out the 3rd monitor).
Others have discussed using small TV monitors such as the ones you would find to watch a DVD in your car (and using a TV out on their graphics card) to display the DMD. These seem to be too small for a "real" DMD, which is 13" wide. A 17" 4:3 monitor should work nicely as a 3rd monitor DMD.
When going for a three monitor setup, you should also consider the motherboard you are going to purchase. It would be wise for you to pick up a board that has two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. Otherwise you might be very limited in your options for a third monitor card.
When I'm downloading tables, which ones should I download - full sreen, 4:3, 16:9, spanned, etc?
Here's a great post that answers all those terms. Copied for reference.
16:9 - Tables that include the backglass and DMD set up for dual screens/cabinets ect.
4:3 - The classic system for one monitor. The one you should use [for desktops].
Spanned - Different term for 16:9.
FS - The table takes up the entire screen. Nice if you can rotate your monitor, impractical if you can't.
Dual Screen - Uses one monitor for the VP table and the other one for backglass and DMD.
Triple Screen - One monitor for the VP table, one for the backglass and an extra one for the DMD.
MOD - A table that includes changes from somebody else's table, for example a MOD that makes the table look like it was night.
Recreation - A table that looks and works exactly like one that exists in real life.
Original - A table that doesn't exist in real life and has been thought up by the author.
Cabinet - A contraption that looks like a pinball machine (most of the time) and uses things like the Pinball Wizard controller to bring it closer to the real thing. Uses spanned tables.
VP Table - Doesn't use ROMs.
VPM Table - Uses ROMs.
Where can I get cabinet sideart?
Some people paint their cabinets black, some people apply custom printed vinyl sideart. There are a few people who have made custom designs and you can ask them if they would share theirs, or you can make your own. You can get them printed through numerous places, including here: Mame Marquees Approximately $150 for both side and backbox artwork. Front panel cost unknown.
Is there a full parts list of what I need to make a cabinet?
No, because there are no plans. However, here is a list of things you will likely need to compelete a custom cabinet:
3rd Monitor for DMD (if you choose)
Fans for ventilation
Higher end graphics cards
Nanotech nudge unit
Power supply for lit buttons
Rear glass trim
Legs and bolts
Backbox side hinges so you can lower your backbox
Backbox locking hinge so you can keep your backbox up
Coin door lock
Mounting straps to hold components in place
Just show me some cabinets already! aka Where can I see some examples of other people's cabinets?
Here are some great examples of what can be done:
BadBoyBill's nice Ultrapin style cabinet
BryceJ's nice wood rail mini cab / 24" playfield 17" backglass
53Kemper's 3 monitor cabinet
H4CK3R's DreamPin cabinet, playfield monitor mounted on top of the cabinet -
Rawd's two Hyperpin cabinets
1up's wood cabinet, not complete
Wow, this looks like a lot of work, can't I just BUY a pre built machine?
You can purchase a used Ultrapin for around $3,000. Look on craigslist, check the newsgroup rec.games.pinball, or look through Mr. Pinball's classifieds for a chance to own one. They are pretty rare. For $6,000 Nanotech sells its equally nice Multipin cabinet with 16 pre-installed tables. As of right now, you can purchase the Multipin through the following link, but its current availability is uknown - you may want to contact Nanotech first. http://www.nanotechent.com/multipin.php