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About mjrhp

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  • Birthday 06/12/1966
  1. "Response time" in that case is probably referring to how fast the pixels can change state, which is mostly meaningless with modern equipment. That was an important statistic in the early days of laptop LCDs, but any display made after about 2000 is so fast that you won't see any difference. The main thing that pixel response time affects is motion smearing; most modern LCDs are very good at rendering motion. The statistic that really matters for virtual pinball (gaming in general) is input lag, which I've never any TV manufacturer quote in their official stats. If you're seeing a number like 2ms or 5ms, it's almost the pixel switching time and not the input lag time. Input lag times for TVs tend to be much higher, and are all over the map, from about 30ms to 250ms. There's an article here with some lab tests for various models, but unfortunately it's more than a year old, so it obviously won't have data for the latest models: http://www.cnet.com/news/game-mode-on-cnet-tests-tvs-for-input-lag/ If possible, use a TV with a "game mode" setting. Most TVs have a variety of proprietary image processing features that contribute to input lag; game mode usually turns those off to get the fastest possible signal-to-display path for the model.
  2. There are pros and cons to each. The main downside of the LEDs is that no one currently makes a fully contiguous pixel array. If you look closely at any of the LED panels currently available, you'll see that they're divided into little 8x8 arrays that are pasted together. There are visible seams between the blocks. The plasma panels are seamless. (Vishay used to make a seamless amber LED panel that was designed as a drop-in replacement for the plasmas. They might even still make them, and you *can* still get them, but they're ridiculously expensive, around $600.) The other potential downside of the LEDs is that the color doesn't exactly match the classic pinball DMD color; if you want to precisely re-create the experience of playing a mid-90s game, the plasma is a better match. Depending on your point of view, though, that might be an upside, in that you can find LED panels in a variety of different colors - you could go with something unusual and distinctive if you're not aiming specifically for a re-creation. There are a couple of negatives with plasmas, too. First, they don't last as long as LEDs; the pixels contain gases that leak out over time, which reduces the brightness gradually, and often unevenly - lots of old plasma panels that have been in use for a while have rows, columns, or random pixels that are dead or practically dead. However, the lifetime of a plasma panel appears to be a function of how often it's used - the more it's on, the shorter its life. In arcade use, where machines are usually left on all day, the panels tend to start dying within a few years. If you're planning on home use, where you're only using it occasionally and turning it off when not in use, the lifetime should be very long, maybe effectively infinite. I have a Theatre of Magic that's been in home use its whole life, and its plasma DMD still runs like new. The second negative with plasmas is that they're a bit of a hassle to power on a virtual cab, and somewhat expensive for the extra parts needed - they need several different voltage supplies, some at relatively high voltages. However, VirtuaPin offers a pretty much plug-and-play kit with all of the components you need for that, which largely eliminates the hassle (but there's still the extra cost, of course). I think the LEDs all just need 5V supplies.
  3. Absolutely! This project has been a blast, but it would have been a nightmare if I just wanted a working machine right away. I'm eight months in now. You definitely have to approach it in a journey-is-the-reward kind of way. Did you see my post here? http://www.vpforums.org/index.php?showtopic=28313. I did try one of the ready-made kits and wasn't completely happy with it, although I think most people would find it acceptable. The kits are a heck of a lot easier than what I'm attempting, and they handle the basic job of launching the ball okay. I'm just being really, really picky about everything about this project. The problem I had with the kit was that it wasn't precise enough for the tables with really twitchy skill shots. I have a real Whirlwind that has just such a twitchy skill shot, so I've come to appreciate that part of the real pinball experience and wanted very much to replicate it in my virtual setup. That's an important part of why I wanted a physical plunger so much in the first place. Anyway, I'm pretty convinced my design is going to work. I'm already pretty satisfied with the plunger part - that's all but done (on the device side, at least - there's still the matter of modifying individual tables to work with it, which I hope to get down to a science). Right now I'm mostly working on the analog nudging. I've already got that in pretty good shape, too, but it's still not quite realistic enough for my taste. I think I have a path to get there; it'll take a little more work on the microcontroller software before I'll know if I've found the right approach. As I said in the referenced thread, I'm going to publish my plans for anyone else to duplicate once I have this all working, so there'll be an alternative out there for you if one of the kits doesn't do it for you.
  4. This is a question I would like to see the answer for. It would be nice to have the playfield run from the lockbar to the back of the cab. But from what i've seen on a standard cab with a max screen size of 39" that isn't possible without shortening the cab. Is there a reason people leave the gap in the front of the cab as opposed to the back of the cab? Would it look any good if you brought the screen to the front had a piece of wood or wider bezel in the back with your lights facing towards the player. I posted my thoughts about this here: http://www.vpforums.org/index.php?showtopic=28354 (message #9 in the thread). To summarize, many people push the screen back to make room for the plunger. That's what drove my design. If no front gap is your #1 priority, you can compromise on plunger position or having a plunger at all, but I didn't want to compromise on those, so I went with the setback. I initially had the same reservations you have about it, but once I got it built, I rather liked the look. Having a physical apron matches the geometry of a real machine better. It's another little detail (like a sunken playfield TV) that helps it seem more real and less video game. As for putting all the space at the back, you could always give it a try and see how you like it (assuming you don't have the plunger constraint), but I expect it would look lopsided. A 39" monitor in a standard cab leaves about 8" overall to fill, so putting all of it at the back might look unbalanced. The flasher panel would look kind of lonely with all that space to itself. Maybe you could get creative and find some toys besides just the flasher panel to fill the space - maybe there's something unusual that would fit your theme that would work there.
  5. And on some you can get both working at the same time, but you have to explicitly enable it by editing the BIOS settings. (How you do that depends on the machine - you usually have to press a certain the F-key, usually F8, F2, or F12, at just the right moment during the POST - shortly after you turn on the machine, before Windows starts booting.) My Gigabyte motherboard works this way - by default, it'll disable the on-board graphics if there's a separate graphics card installed, but you can override that setting. One caveat: on my machine, there's a noticeable performance penalty to putting one of the monitors on the on-board graphics card. It runs faster to put all three monitors on the add-in graphics card instead. If you haven't bought a video card yet, you might want to look for something that supports three monitors simultaneously. I don't think that will add much to the cost, since that's a pretty routine feature in the mid-range cards these days.
  6. I wanted to add my endorsement for Brad's printing services. Brad printed up a full set of decals for me a few months ago, with some additional custom work beyond the normal package. Sorry I took so long to post this, but I've been incredibly slow at this project, and I wanted to wait until it was in a state where I had some pretty pictures to share. First off, the print quality and media he uses are absolutely top notch. I've read lots of horror stories about how difficult it is to apply decals, but in my case this was just about the easiest part of the entire project. Brad's material is really easy to work - it's tough and forgiving, and maybe most importantly, it truly does seem immune to bubbles. I followed Brad's advice about giving the paint coat a few days to cure before applying - actually waited about a week. They went on perfectly, and still look perfect two months later. Second, Brad is great to work with. His service and responsiveness were wonderful, but in addition to all that he's a virtual pinball enthusiast himself, so he knows exactly what you're talking about when you use words like "speaker panel" and "backglass". I had some special features I wanted to implement, but didn't know exactly how, and Brad was able to steer me to the right solutions because he knows both the printing side and the pinball side. The special items were decals for the speaker panel, apron, translite, and flasher panel at the back of the playfield. I'm really happy with the way all that turned out. I was going for that mid-90s WPC look, with custom artwork on the DMD panel, and it turned out exactly like I was hoping. I can put this alongside my ToM and it'll fit right in. Here are some pics of the finished product. (Mostly finished, anyway; still some work to do on the inside, but it's mostly done cosmetically. The shipping film is still on the rails/lock bar because I haven't "taken delivery" yet. )
  7. I built another piece designed to resemble a real pinball machine apron. It's about 4-1/2" to cover the space between the lock bar and the front of the TV - this space is what's needed to fit the plunger and flipper buttons, which are vertically at about the same level as the front of the TV. Here are a few pictures - the front and side views are with the playfield slightly lifted to give you an idea of how it's mounted. The little triangular openings are for holding in the instruction cards (which I haven't made yet). These will hold traditional pinball-style cards with operating instructions on the left and a "Free Play" pricing card on the right. The top surface (the visible part) is a sheet of 2mm clear acrylic (plexi) laser-cut (ponoko.com) to size and with the triangular openings. I can send you the SVG template if you're interested in going the same route. That's covered with a custom-printed decal, and mounted with velcro on a plywood base that connects to the TV platform (which means the apron swings up and out of the way with the TV when I need to access the cab interior for service). The acrylic top isn't really necessary - plywood would also work just fine - but I figured the plexi would look more authentic (or at least more finished/professional). It has a perfectly smooth finish for the decal art, so it looks fairly similar to a real machine's painted metal apron, plus it made it easy to get precise cuts for the instruction card holders. I was a little concerned during the planning stage that having any sort of physical apron would be suboptimal, because the virtual tables themselves have on-screen aprons. But I didn't have much choice because of the vertical placement of the plunger, so I went ahead and built it like this. It turns out to be just fine - most of the virtual tables show only the top half or so of the table's own apron on-screen, so the final geometry works out to be pretty close to a real machine's. The flippers on most tables would actually be a little too close to the front of the cabinet without a physical apron - not that that would be a problem, but at least this makes a virtue of a necessity in my case.
  8. I think most people these days are putting a panel with 5 LED flashers there. Here's what mine looks like: I built this from a piece of plywood cut to size, with decal artwork (same type as on the sides of the cab). The domes are standard pinball flasher domes, with 350mA RGB LEDs underneath. (They're extremely bright - a very nice effect.) A perennial question. The consensus seems to be that it's just a matter of personal taste and what works for the particular monitor in terms of viewing angle. Some monitors need to be tilted up more to avoid washing out from being viewed off-axis. Most current 1080p LCDs have very wide viewing angles so it's probably not an issue if you have a newer TV. I personally have my playfield TV arranged to mimic a real pinball playfield - it's about 2" from the glass at the front and 4" at the back. I know that sounds like it slopes *down* toward the back, but this is a standard WPC-style cabinet, so the side walls slope up toward the back even more steeply than the playfield.
  9. I use two fans in the back pushing air out, and a third in the bottom near the front drawing air in. You're right that it's not quite symmetrical, but that shouldn't really matter, because an "out" fan will have the effect of drawing air in through any available intakes by lowering the air pressure in the cab. You could have three "out" fans or three "in" fans and get roughly the same effect, modulo turbulence and other air flow inefficiencies. I positioned the intake towards the front of the cab and the out vents at the rear because I wanted air to move continuously through the whole interior, particularly over the motherboard near the middle. My approach isn't scientific - it's just intuition based on the idea that there will be some natural gravity convection towards the back anyway because the TV slopes up towards the back, so the fans should just help along the air flow that would occur anyway. I don't have a fan on the backbox; I'm just letting gravity vent air hot air out of the holes near the top. The backbox TVs are LED-backlit (so they don't get very hot to start with) and were passively ventilated in their original cases, so it seems adequate in principle.
  10. Regarding my earlier post about the Lepai amp: So, I take that back. That setup worked fine in isolation when I was testing, but now that I'm further along and have everything connected, it turns out to be a bad idea. That seems to be creating a ground loop (or something similar) that's injecting an awful lot of hum and static. Using the separate power brick seems to be a much better idea after all.
  11. That should be just fine in terms of appearance. I personally like some depth between the glass and TV, to approximate the playfield depth of an actual pinball. It gives it a more realistic, 3D appearance to my eye. In my setup, the TV is inset about 2" at the front and 4" at the back (it's less steeply sloped than the glass). As for air circulation, it looks like you're using an LED-backlit playfield TV, so I don't think heat should be much of an issue. Most LED TVs run pretty cool, and the part that generate heat are on the back side anyway, so air circulation in the main part of the cabinet is probably more important.
  12. Yeah, it's the usual trade-off in price vs quality. There are numerous posts about problems and numerous others about how they work flawlessly. I suspect the difference might be that lots of people get defective units, like I did on my first try - maybe they just have a really high defect rate. Note that there are several cheap 2-channel car audio amps that get decent reviews and are in the same price range as the Lepai. Check out Boss car amps on Amazon for some comparison points. The trick is that you'll need two 2-channel amps to drive a pair of main speakers plus a subwoofer, so that approach effectively doubles the cost vs the Lepai, and of course takes up more space in your cab.
  13. If you're looking at the Lepai LP-168AH, it should have four connectors on the back for speakers - two for the main speakers and two more for the sub. (Each "connector" I'm talking about is actually a pair of spring terminals, one black and one red, for the (-) and (+) wires to the speakers, respectively.) This amp actually only has one sub channel, so I'm not sure why they bother with two sub connectors. They just appear to be wired together internally, so you can just connect your sub to either one. The Lepai is super cheap but has a couple of caveats. I'm not sure if this is necessarily indicative of quality in general, but the first one I got seemed to be defective (the sub channel was heavily distorted under even small loads) and I had to send it back for a replacement. My replacement unit does seem to work okay, so my personal experience of Lepai's quality control is a 50% defective unit rate, but I don't think I have a statistically significant sample size. A problem that does seem consistent across units is that the subwoofer volume control is extremely touchy - you can only use about the bottom 10% of its range. (I've seen a couple of reviews noting this problem and observed it myself on both of my units.) If you buy one, when you take it out of the box, the first thing you should do is turn the sub volume all the way down to zero. Then connect all the speakers and plug it in to an audio source and start very slowly turning the sub volume up until you get it to the level you want. You'll probably find that it's somewhere between about 0.7 and 1.2 on a 0-10 scale (abstractly - they don't actually mark it that way). So you have to be delicate as you adjust it to get it to sound right. Another potential problem is that the 120V power brick they supply with the unit appears to be underpowered by design - it's rated for 3A at 12V, whereas the amp itself is rated at something around 150W total for all channels. There's an obvious discrepancy there. Some people report that they get bad results with the power brick but better results if they power it from the 12V rail of a PC power supply or some other external 12VDC power source that can supply adequate wattage. I'm powering mine from a PC PSU and it seems to work pretty well. One more warning is that some people find the sub crossover control has no discernible effect on the sound. It *does* seem to work on my replacement unit, so maybe that's just a common defect that affects some units and not others.
  14. I don't think DVI vs HDMI should make any difference in image quality - HDMI is a digital connection, so it should be completely indistinguishable from any other digital connection. I think they're even essentially identical at the electronic/signaling level, because you can plug an HDMI TV into a DVI video card with a passive cable. As for refresh rate, I don't think going higher than 60 Hz will do any good, and might actually be harmful - all of the VP optimization guides recommend locking the display to 60 Hz, and this is what "game" mode does on most TVs that have such a mode. PC video cards are capable of higher native refresh rates when used with actual computer monitors, but TVs aren't computer monitors; they generally only support the refresh rates of their compatible TV input formats, and all of the current digital TV format standards max out at 60 frames per second. (Although the 4K Ultra HD formats might specify some higher rate formats.) When a TV claims to be doing 120 or 240 Hz, what it's actually doing is taking a 60 fps progressive video format and generating artificial extra frames by interpolation. That produces a smoother effect that some people like when watching ordinary video sources, although it produces some visible motion artifacts that some people find objectionable. With games, though, the interpolation artifacts tend to be more obvious, so you almost always want to play games at the native 60 Hz. I think the interpolation can also add input lag on some displays, since some interpolation algorithms require buffering up several frames to gather motion context, leaving the displayed image always a few frames behind the input signal. So I wouldn't worry about whether a TV has a high nominal refresh rate, because you're probably just going to turn that feature off anyway in a pin cab.
  15. I can give you one data point. I'm using a 39" Vizio, model E390I-A1. The decased panel is a perfect fit to my standard width cab with no routing. My cab measures 20-1/4" = 514mm wide on the inside. The panel leaves about 3/8" (10mm) total clearance (that's the sum of the clearances on both sides, so there's about 5mm on each side with the panel centered). I consider that just about perfect - you want as little leftover space as possible, for wall-to-wall display coverage, but for practicality you want a *little* wiggle room to allow getting the panel in and out easily. This Vizio also seems to have pretty good performance - good picture and good viewing angle, and doesn't seem to have any perceptible input lag. I haven't used it extensively yet, but I'd recommend it based on my experience so far. The only disadvantage I've found so far is that it doesn't turn on automatically when it receives power, so you have to either turn it on manually or build extra circuitry that simulates an On button push when the PC boots. I've done the latter and have an inexpensive solution ($5 of discrete electronic components) that seems to work reliably. Happy to share the schematic if you want to go that route.
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