Digital Pinball Machine Final Build And Specs

It’s been almost three years since I started building a digital pinball machine. in 2011 I started getting really into pinball. But, I couldn’t really have a “Real” pinball machine in my apartment because of the noise. So, I decided to start building a digital version out of a custom PC, some virtual pinball software called Visual Pinball.

These digital pinball emulators really worked well and all the games that I played as a High-School and College kid were available in their original form. I could build ONE cabinet, download all the files, and have ALL the games I ever played in one box. Cool!

I started doing research online and seeing other videos and photos of how other people have built their machines. I even tried some other builds at the Chicago Pinball Expo. I asked a lot a questions and did a lot of research before building my own rig. Learning how to maneuver through Microsoft Windows was probably the most challenging part. I haven’t touched Windows in over 15 years so it was pretty tedious for me to learn to do even simple things like install the software and batch rename files.

More Than I Needed

I chose the parts I did for the best speed and quality. I have tried other digital pinball machines and they all had problems I didn’t want on my machine. Some had a lot of lag between hitting the buttons and seeing the flipper flip on screen. Others had put cheap TVs in their game that led to poor brightness when viewing from the side. If I was going to build a machine, I wanted it to be the best, brightest and fastest.

Some of the hardware used could have be scaled back, but I wanted to be sure this was as good as possible even if I had to spend a few extra hundred bucks. Here are some decisions I made to make this machine different from the other Digital Pinball Machines i tired.

Here are a few decisions I made that I think helped make the final machine much faster and better looking.

SSD Drive: This was an expensive but easy choose. the SSD Drive boots into the interface MUCH faster than a normal drive. When you launch a game, it only takes a few seconds to load. Ive seen this take over thirty seconds on slower machines.

Two NVIDIA GeForce 560 Video Cards: It’s a bit overkill, but I wanted two fast cards for displaying all the graphics. The main playfield TV is the only one that needs this much graphics power, but I wanted to have matching cards for future versions of Visual Pinball just incase they incorporate higher graphics for the back glass or DMD area.

3D TV: I chose a 3D tv not for it’s 3D capability, but because 3D TVs have brighter output and better viewing angles. This is important for this type of installation because we will be looking at the TV at at angle not typical of a normal TV. I also wanted an extra high quality monitor because we would be standing so close to the TV compared to usual TV watching.

After I got all the hardware together and working, it was time to build a cabinet for it all to go in. Honestly, I was going to try and build it myself. But I just got too busy at work. So, I called on VirtuaPin to build a custom cabinet. I have seen their builds before and I knew they had experience in all this stuff. I dropped off all the TVs and other hardware and they did the rest. The final cabinet was delivered to my office all ready to boot and play.

Here is an itemized list of everything used in the final build.

Monitor Hardware

Main Monitor 40″ Samsung 3D TV
Backglass Monitor Hanz-G 16×10 27 inch.
LED DMD with PinDMD Controller Board and 5v PSU

Computer Specs

Sabertooth P67 Motherboard
Crucial M4 128GB SSD
Intel i7 3.4 2600K Quad Core
4GB Ram
Logitech Wireless Keyboard
Logitech Wireless Mouse
1 NVIDIA GeForce 560 TI
1 NVIDIA GeForce 560
DMD Screen
Seasonic 760W Power Supply

Custom Cabinet by VirtuaPin

Finished Cabinet with all parts, glass, pre-wired, and backbox elements installed
Widebody – Finished – Trimmed
Ultimate Cab-Builder’s Button Kit
Terminal Block
Speaker Panel
Widebody Apron
Playfield Glass
Tempered Backglass
Power Strip with Autoswitching
2x120W Pyle® Pro Stereo Power Amplifier
PYLE PLW10BL 10-Inch 600 Watt Subwoofer
2xCooler Master 120mm Computer Case Fans with Chrome Guards
Custom Lockdown Bar
Pinball Hardware Pack Including real pinball buttons, trim, door and legs.

Software

Windows 7 Profesional
DMD Align
HyperPin
Visual Pinball

It was a really fun project to work on. But, i’m glad it’s all finished and working well now instead of a ball of wires. having it all cleaned up in one box is way more fun. :) If you have any questions about it, hit me up in the comments.

UPDATE: Some people on twitter were asking how much it all cost. There were so manny small trips to MicroCenter that I don’t have EVERY receipt, but the final cost is somewhere between $5800 – $6100.

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I’m on Tumblr

I’m over on tumblr posting silly photos, videos and animated gifs. Won’t you join me?

I know, I know. I have too many websites.

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First Click That Button Coded in Ruby

I’m trying to learn how to code (again). My buddy Trevor talked me in to reading this book by Chris Pine and it’s really good so far. My first task is to recreate ClickThatButton with my own code. I got a very very basic version working in Ruby and had to share. I was too excited.

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Protobooth by DK

Lovely idea for an animated gif photobooth from Digital Kitchen Seattle. They also have a behind the scenes page that shows some of the software and hardware to make this happen. Wonderful.

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Standing Desk Day 1

A few things came together in the last month to make me try a standing desk yesterday.

1. My lower back was hurting. I had lower back surgery when I was 21 and I felt some of the same pain coming back. This was not good. Plus, it always seemed worse when I sat down for a long time.

2. I have been working on this pinball project. It required me to stand up and sit down a lot. It also was in another part of the office with a crappy wooden chair instead of my fancy Aeron. It didn’t help the back problems.

3. Some of my friends tried it and they liked it. I got to test it at Max’s house for a few minutes and thought it could work.

4. I thought that it would make me actually WORK more. It would limit my time at a desk and hopefully make that time more precious and productive.

So, in trying to fix my back, and be more healthy and productive, I tried it. I went to Home Depot and got a few cinder blocks. Turns out 16″ (the size of one block) was the perfect amount to raise the desk to make it a good height for standing. No new desk, not expensive. A few bucks and some rearranging and I was standing.

Day one wen’t pretty well. It was about 5 hours on my feet and I was definitely getting a bit sore. I did feel tired at the end of the day, but in a good way. In a “I actually worked today” kind of way. I’m currently writing this half way into day two and I definitely feel more productive. It’s not as easy (or comfortable) to watch an hour long youtube interview or another damn TED talk. I find, so far, that I am propelled to get shit done. I also moved the pinball project to the desk as well, so I can easily go back and forth without sitting in a crappy chair, or getting up a lot to test it. Extra Bonus? Dancing while working is now an option. Pretty fun!

I will let you know how it goes after a month or so. Have any of you tried a standing desk?

UPDATE: I now work in a shared office and don’t have the ability to customize my desk like this. But, I have experimented with sitting on yoga balls and other weird looking seats with good results. I used the standing setup above for about 9 months and still recommend it for anyone who wants to try a standing desk inexpensively.

Posted in Best Of, Posts, Productivity | 42 Comments