Altan's Informal Review of LED OCD


By altan

3 years ago


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    #1 3 years ago

    Altan’s LED OCD Informal Review
    Revision 1.02

    Over the past few years many pinball owners have decided to “go LED”. This is likely encouraged by the ever increasing number of LED sources, recent pins by Jersey Jack Pinball and Stern using LEDs, owners wanting to bling out their machines, reduced power needs and heat, and because many pinball owners want to tweak their own machines to perfection.

    But Bally/Williams WPC machines were designed to use incandescent lamps and may not take kindly to LEDs. At a very high level, it’s important to understand that LEDs and incandescent lamps have very different characteristics. For example, LEDs can almost instantly turn on and achieve full brightness while incandescent lamps have a longer "ramp up" time. The WPC software was designed to control lamps with incandescent characteristics, not those of LEDs.

    This mismatch causes at least 3 problems: ghosting, strobing and the loss of fading effects. Ghosting occurs when a lamp should be turned off but instead it flickers on and off dimly. Strobing occurs when the lamp should be “on” for a period of time but rather than being continuously on for this period, the lamp very quickly cycles between on and off. Some may call this flicking when the on/off is further apart. Finally, loss of fading effects occurs because the pattern of electricity that makes an incandescent bulb ramp from off to full brightness in a period of time will typically cause an LED to stay off for a bit and then strobe.

    Note that WPC games control the General Illumination differently than the lamps in the Lamp Matrix. While the lamp matrix can experience at least the 3 problems listed above, the G.I. is typically troubled only by strobing and loss of fading effects. Ghosting isn’t a problem.

    The LED OCD product is designed to solve the problems that occur when a WPC is controlling LEDs in the lamp matrix (it does not address problems with the G.I.). In addition to the problems mentioned above, the LED OCD product offers unique control over each lamp in the matrix. The LED OCD also has the very nice ability to concurrently drive both incandescent and LED lamps.

    LED OCD has 3 main parts:

    1) The main LED OCD board
    2) A jumper/breakout board (which is unique to the WPC version of LED OCD)
    3) Various cables

    I was initially surprised by what seemed to be a significant number of cables provided in the package. However, after closer inspection, I realized there aren’t a large number of cables but rather 2 large cables and a USB cable. The two large cables are special cables for LED OCD that have a single large connector on one end and two smaller connectors on the other.

    Installation should be straightforward for anyone that has experience pulling connectors from inside the backbox. The large number of steps included in the detailed instructions may make the process appear harder than it actually is. Installing LED OCD requires no permanent changes to your pinball machine.

    The installation involves:

    1) Mounting the LED OCD board in the backbox
    2) Mounting the jumper/breakout board in the backbox
    3) Disconnecting the lamp matrix cables from the WPC driver board
    4) Connecting these same cables to the jumper/breakout board
    5) Using one of the supplied cables, connect the WPC driver board’s output to the LED OCD board
    6) Using the other supplier cable, connect the LED OCD board to the jumper/breakout board
    7) Using a Z-connector, have power go to the LED OCD board

    Originally the WPC driver connected directly to the lamps. With the LED OCD board installed, the connection is

    WPC driver board -> LED OCD board -> jumper/breakout board -> lamps

    As can be seen from the sequence above, the LED OCD board is installed between the WPC driver board and the lamps. At this location the LED OCD board is able to look at the signals being generated by the WPC driver (which were designed to control incandescent lamps) and convert them into an appropriate signal to drive LEDs (or incandescent).

    Installation took me about 30 minutes. The majority of this time was taken by mounting the boards in the backbox and simply being careful. I had a little trouble mounting the LED OCB board itself using the supplied adhesive mounts. Even after cleaning the backbox area with isopropyl alcohol, the top right mount didn’t want to stick well. Also, there was a sticker on my backbox where one of the adhesive mounts ended up. I think these could have easily been resolved with a little more prep work on my part. For anyone doing the install, I recommend:

    1) Use the screw mounts rather than the adhesive mounts
    2) Look carefully where you want to mount the LED OCD board and ensure there is no metal or other object in the way
    3) Keep in mind there is a USB connector on the LED OCD board and you want to ensure the mounting position allows access! Be very mindful of this! I suggest connecting the USB cable when determining where to place the board.

    Now that I’ve done the install once, I expect another installation would take 15 minutes.

    Before talking about LED OCD’s behavior in the real world, let’s set a baseline. I was playing around with LEDs in my Twilight Zone (with home ROM 9.4h). I replaced a few lamps in the lamp matrix with LEDs to see how they compared to traditional lamps. I was very unimpressed with the LED experience. This was the same poor experience that I have had with other WPC games that have LEDs in the lamp matrix. To me, there was terrible strobing when playing the game. The effect was most obvious when the ball rolled over an insert. Also, with LEDs installed, the fade effects were destroyed. Wham! It's on. STROBE. STROBE. STROBE. Wham! It's off. And so on.

    Note that I didn’t have any ghosting problems because ROM 9.4h includes the Williams change avoids ghosting.

    For this experiment with LEDs in my Twilight Zone, I installed just a few LEDs in the following inserts:

    1) GUM insert
    2) BALL insert
    3) "Lock 2" insert
    4) Bottom pop bumper

    The LEDs I used are Pinball Life's "Ablaze 3-LED #555 Wedge Base Lamp" with "Warm White" color.

    I took a video to show this terrible strobing. A slow motion camera is required to capture these LED behaviors because the cycle times exceed the regular 24, 30 or 60 frames per second offered by normal cameras.

    With the LED OCD board installed, the change in behavior is nothing less than amazing. The strobing is gone. The LEDs fade correctly. In short, the LEDs look fantastic. With LED OCD, you can take advantage of the various colors, diffusions, and brightness offered by the LED vendors and have none of the traditional LED ill effects. The slow motion video shows how great the LEDs look with the LED OCD board installed.

    The following side-by-side video shows the standard WPC behavior on the left and the LED OCD behavior on the right.

    » YouTube video

    The default behavior of the LED OCD is to drive all the lamps in the lamp matrix as LEDs using what is referred to as the 85% profile. However, each lamp can be individually configured to use 1 of 8 profiles. A profile allows for an 8-step brightness transition and delay that effects how quickly the 8 steps occur. The default 8 profiles are named:

    1) Incandes (for traditional bulbs)
    2) LED 25% (max brightness is 25%)
    3) LED 35%
    4) LED 45%
    5) LED 55%
    6) LED 70%
    7) LED 85% (generally recommended brightness)
    LED 100% (maximum brightness)

    I learned that 100% isn’t the default because it may cause ghosting. With this setting, the LED is enabled for as long as the lamp matrix allows. However, at the electronic level the various components (transistors, etc.) are analog and require a certain amount of time to engage or disengage. Because the LED 100% profile doesn’t account for this, you may see ghosting in the lamp that is in the same row but the next column. The LED 85% profile plays it safe to ensure this never occurs.

    To make these “OCD” level adjustments, you connect the LED OCD board to a computer using the provided USB cable. The software requires a Windows machine to run, so Mac users (like me), Linux users, or any non-Windows person will need to borrow a Windows machine or attempt to use a virtualization solution. The software isn’t completely self-contained, requiring other packages to be installed (example, “.net” and a USB to RS232 driver).

    I grabbed an older laptop with Windows 7 and gave it a shot. It didn’t go smoothly and took about an hour to get working. First, the USB cable provided with the LED OCD is quite long and didn’t interact well with my laptop. I switched to a much smaller one I had and started making some progress. Second, I had trouble installing the USB driver. After a couple of attempts and a few reboots, it started working. The LED OCD site has a good troubleshooting section that was quite helpful.

    The LED OCD software is simple but effective. It comes with a set of data files that associate the lamp row/column number with the friendly name. If your game isn’t listed, it’s easy to enter the friendly names yourself. Alternately, you can use a generic data file where the friendly name is simply the same as the row/column lamp number.

    With the WPC version of LED OCD, the software supports a “Pass-through” feature. With the press of a button, the LED OCD board effectively disables itself (although the signals still pass though the LED OCD board). This feature is useful to perform an A/B comparison of the original behavior against what your current masterpiece in progress offers.

    Another nice feature is the ability to send a new configuration to the LED OCD board without storing it permanently. You can try out various combinations knowing that you can always go back to the original just by turning the game off and back on. When you have found something you like, you can permanently save it to the LED OCD board. Of course you can always save configurations to your local storage and retrieve them later.

    I was pleased to find the LED OCD board saves configurations in an easy to figure out XML format. In my (unusual case) where most lamps are incandescent, I opened the XML file in an editor and did a search and replace to change all profile 7 (LED 85%) entries to profile 1 (incandes). That was much faster than manually selecting each lamp and then selecting profile 1. Instead, I only needed to manually change 4 entries (lower pop bumper, GUM, BALL, and “Lock 2”). Note: the video above was taken before I made this switch, meaning all lamps are being driven with the 85% profile.

    I’ve played around 30 games of Twilight Zone with the LED OCD board installed. The strobing is gone, the fading is back. When I went back to the non LED OCD setting, I was amazed how terrible it looked. I can confidently assert that I would never think about doing a partial or fully decked out WPC LED game without the LED OCD board. It solves the inherent problems which occur when putting LEDs into a game designed for incandescent lamps and, in the process, removes the need to purchase any of the expensive anti-ghosting LEDs.

    Hope this has been helpful.

    More information about LED OCD, including purchase information, can be found at http://ledocd.comuv.com. Also, Herg is the inventor of LED OCD and is an active pinside member.

    ... Altan
    http://www.aaarpinball.com

    Revision 1.01: Clarified purpose of Jumper/Breakout board
    Revision 1.02: Added side-by-side video (and removed individual videos)

    #2 3 years ago

    Excellent write-up, sir.

    #3 3 years ago

    An OCD review for an OCD product!

    Thanks for the awesome slow-motion vids. I'll be moving my LEDOCD board from CSI to IM at some point.

    #4 3 years ago

    I bought an IM with the OCD board in it. I have never used LEDs and planned to remove them all. The LEDs look great in IM with the OCD board. They are on the default brightness setting and they cycle on and off just like incandescents. The pinsider I bought the IM from had an avengers without the OCD board in it next to the IM. I played a game on it and the difference was clear. The LEDs in avengers flashed on and off too quickly and seemed to get out of sequence. They were also overly bright compared to the machine with the OCD board. It is a very good product.

    #5 3 years ago
    Quoted from Fatsquatch:

    Excellent write-up, sir

    Thanks!

    Quoted from swampfire:

    An OCD review for an OCD product!

    But honestly... I like the product's name but you don't need to be OCD to use this. It should be Mandatory LED, but that's not so catchy.

    #6 3 years ago

    Agreed with the mandatory LED. We've got one in our STTNG and the difference is amazing. Everyone should have one in any machine they are using LED's in.

    #7 3 years ago

    Excellent write up, excellent product and Herg is an excellent pinsider.

    #8 3 years ago

    Wow, thanks for the thorough review!

    When I sent that board to Altan, I was really just curious about how it would look in slow motion using the camera he used to video the stock TZ. I really appreciate the work he has put into this.

    If anyone who has used, seen, considered, etc. one of these has any feedback, please let me know. It's the best way I know of to improve any kits I build in the future.

    For example, the USB cable is starting to be a recurring theme. I originally chose a long one so that it could be fed through the cabinet and easily accessed through the coin door. It always worked with all of my computers. Recently, however, I've had some reports that it isn't working in all cases, and, in fact, my new laptop seems a bit finicky with the long cable. The placement of the USB connector can also be a bit of an issue depending on what type of machine you're installing in.

    I have looked into a shorter right-angle USB cable or perhaps an adapter. I think there's even a right angle USB connector with the same footprint that I could put on the board instead of the edge connector I'm using now. The downsides include having to open the backbox to access the connector, not being able to secure the cable as well, and the cost of the new cable or adapter. I want to keep the price of the kits as low as possible, and the margins are already pretty thin. Still, I welcome all suggestions on any improvements that could be made, including preferences for the USB cable.

    #9 3 years ago

    Great writeup/review/install primer! Thanks for posting it. Thanks for using TZ as your guinea pig, too. Makes it nice for us with a TZ, it makes a great point of reference. Any chance you can post videos showing the before/after LED OCD effects running at full speed?

    #10 3 years ago
    Quoted from Miguel351:

    reat writeup/review/install primer! Thanks for posting it

    Thanks and you are welcome.

    Quoted from Miguel351:

    Any chance you can post videos showing the before/after LED OCD effects running at full speed?

    I have a video of a full speed LED OCD. It is below.

    » YouTube video

    Enjoy.

    #11 3 years ago
    Quoted from herg:

    Wow, thanks for the thorough review!

    When I sent that board to Altan, I was really just curious about how it would look in slow motion using the camera he used to video the stock TZ. I really appreciate the work he has put into this.

    Thanks Herg. It was a fun project.

    #12 3 years ago

    Quick update: I made a side-by-side video that shows the WPC behavior on the left and the LED OCD behavior on the right. I've edited the "review" in the first post to include this video (and I removed the original separate videos)

    Here is the side-by-side video in case you just want to check it out without going back to the first post.

    » YouTube video

    #13 3 years ago

    Another great video. You should do one that shows a side by side of all incandescents vs. all LED's with the LED OCD installed in the door and pops. Slow motion and full speed.

    I think it'd show all those on the fence about this setup how absolutely little(if any) they'd lose with the switchover.

    Just a thought....

    #14 3 years ago
    Quoted from Miguel351:

    You should do one that shows a side by side of all incandescents vs. all LED's with the LED OCD installed in the door and pops. Slow motion and full speed.

    I think Altan has decided to leave his TZ as-is and put LEDs in a different machine. If that's the case, it would be a lot of work that wouldn't benefit him to make the videos you're talking about. I honestly didn't send the board to Altan trying to get people off the fence. I was just curious about how it would look in slow motion.

    #15 3 years ago

    That's right. I'm going to try it in a different game. I have not found TZ to be a game that needs LEDs.

    I'll update the first post with a paragraph about uninstalling LED OCD and reinstalling in a different game.

    #16 3 years ago

    Looks great. I put my name on the preorder list for a Stern version. If GI implementation gets added for B/W I'd like to get one for my TZ project.

    #17 3 years ago

    Hey what's the default of the controller if you just hook it up and don't program a profile at all?

    #18 3 years ago
    Quoted from markmon:

    Hey what's the default of the controller if you just hook it up and don't program a profile at all?

    The default is to drive everything with the 85% profile.

    #19 3 years ago
    Quoted from herg:

    Recently, however, I've had some reports that it isn't working in all cases, and, in fact, my new laptop seems a bit finicky with the long cable.

    If people are leaving that long cable attached to the board and there's ANY pull at all on the board, IE the hanging cable isn't supported completely, it's likely it's breaking the solder joints that attach it to the board. I keep having to fix my USB devices and reflow stuff like surface mount pads on USB connectors because my kids yank on whatever device is sticking out of my computer and then the connector is jacked. I can imagine that same issue occuring over time with a cord hanging out of it and shaking around.

    Once I get my CPU board back in STTNG, I will make a video so you guys can see a "default" profile with extremely bright "super" style bulbs in inserts. It looks amazing.

    #20 3 years ago
    Quoted from altan:

    The default is to drive everything with the 85% profile.

    This is currently how I have mine in my GNR. It looks fantastic; it's such a huge improvement as-is that I haven't felt the need to sit down and tweak it yet.

    -1
    #21 3 years ago

    your pop bumper caps are in the wrong order.

    #22 3 years ago
    Quoted from dgoett:

    your pop bumper caps are in the wrong order

    Ugh. Someone pointed that out a while ago (in a different thread). I forgot it about... just one of those 2 minute fixes I haven't done! When I pull that Led out of the bottom bumper, I'll fix them.

    #23 3 years ago

    Iv got one of these in my Spiderman, and I love it I wish I could put them in all my machines. But the fact that the software is Windows only is probably what is dissuading me from doing that. The OCD part is the ability to tweak every single bulb in the software settings, and I can't do that with my macs or android devices.

    Obviously out of scope, but it would be super cool if I could connect it with my android tablet and tweak things right there. Just dreaming.

    #24 3 years ago

    The fact that Herg has this working at all is a huge service to the community. I can't imagine he has time to recompile his code and then provide ongoing support for iOS, Android, Mac, the next OS du jour, etc. Run a VM or borrow a laptop.

    Altan, thanks for posting this. I have a TZ that I was thinking about putting one of my OCD boards in and this video has helped a lot. In my opinion an OCD board is the only way to go in LOTR if you want LEDs and TZ has similar lighting effects.

    -Jay

    #25 3 years ago
    Quoted from Frax:

    If people are leaving that long cable attached to the board and there's ANY pull at all on the board, IE the hanging cable isn't supported completely, it's likely it's breaking the solder joints that attach it to the board. I keep having to fix my USB devices and reflow stuff like surface mount pads on USB connectors because my kids yank on whatever device is sticking out of my computer and then the connector is jacked. I can imagine that same issue occuring over time with a cord hanging out of it and shaking around.
    Once I get my CPU board back in STTNG, I will make a video so you guys can see a "default" profile with extremely bright "super" style bulbs in inserts. It looks amazing.

    Maybe, but not in my case. I looked at it under the microscope, and the joints are solid. The connector I used is also not just surface mount, it also has two through hole alignment pins that make it a good bit more stable. I chose that connector for that very reason.

    With my desktop, I can use 30 ft of cable, but with my laptop, about 10 ft is the max.

    2 months later
    #26 3 years ago
    Quoted from markmon:

    Hey what's the default of the controller if you just hook it up and don't program a profile at all?

    I have a Dell tower Windows 7 machine in my home office. Moving it to vicinity of a pinball machine is not practical to program the OCD board. Does the OCD board have to be installed in the PB game to program it?

    #27 3 years ago

    i think so - i think it receives power from the game, not the USB cable.

    #28 3 years ago

    you can get 100' USB cables or extenders. USB adapters to cat5 are available also that can run 300'.

    #29 3 years ago

    Awesome review, I still need to install the two I ordered last summer. I need to get over the "fear" of needing to drill into my game, I keep thinking I should fabricate some 100% reversible bracket...

    #30 3 years ago
    Quoted from BC_Gambit:

    Awesome review, I still need to install the two I ordered last summer. I need to get over the "fear" of needing to drill into my game, I keep thinking I should fabricate some 100% reversible bracket...

    If one's WPC, you could always just sell it to me if you're afraid to install it. I'll stick it in my Jackbot.

    #31 3 years ago
    Quoted from Frax:

    If one's WPC, you could always just sell it to me if you're afraid to install it. I'll stick it in my Jackbot.

    No both Stern, and both will get installed... someday soonish

    #32 3 years ago

    The board does not necessarily have to be in a machine, but it does need power. You would also not be able to see the changes you are making until it's installed back into the machine.

    Long USB cables can sometimes work, but they can be problematic. The USB specification says 15' is the max length. I have used 30' successfully, but I have also seen it fail with 30' cables. I have not tried active repeaters or the CAT5 extenders. Finding a laptop to use temporarily is the best option.

    The default settings will work, so you don't have to make changes to use it, but it can look better if you tweak it.

    7 months later
    #33 2 years ago

    Sorry, but I had to resurrect this thread.

    I ordered 2 of Herg's boards back in March. I finally got them in June but put them aside till I had the time to dig in and hook them up. Yeah, dig in. I don't know much about board work so I was nervous about what the install would entail. So I found this thread. TY Altan for the great install info. It really helped to understand things before even removing the translite.

    Well, I just installed the first one in my South Park. The install was a BREEZE! I couldn't believe how easy it was with the perfectly, well written installation instructions included in the kit. You simply can't mess this install up.

    Now, I have to say, that the LED's in my SP looked bright and beautiful and added so much to the machine. But the ghosting and flickering was just awful. After installing the LED/OCD board the game now looks AMAZING!!! No flicker, No ghosting, no erratic light patterns during modes, it's just...well...AMAZING!

    I simply can't praise this thing enough and the fact that people are able to come up with and develop things like this is beyond understanding. If you've been on the fence about this product, get off and get this thing.

    All I can say is that if you are tired of the ghosting and flickering in your games from your LED bulbs, this board is a MUST have. Although many of you know this as the wait time on this takes awhile. But I promise, the difference this thing makes is WELL worth the wait.

    Thanks Herg for coming out with this product.

    #34 2 years ago

    Yup, this will need to be in the budget for any game I pick up from now on. I play regularly on games that have been LED'd, but not OCD'd, and the results are generally not so good.

    #35 2 years ago

    I just installed it in my WOF and it makes the game 1000 times nicer. Only took 20 minutes from start to finish. That's how ridiculously easy it is. Can't recommend this enough. Now I have to get them for all my pins.

    #36 2 years ago

    Thanks for the feedback. I'm really glad you're happy with them.

    It has taken me a while to get caught up with orders, but I'm pretty close now. There's a bunch of Stern in stock, a few GI, and I have a batch of Williams/DE ones being made.

    #37 2 years ago

    I am waiting to buy LEDs for my No Fear until the next run of these for Williams. These really are good enough that I don't want to bother upgrading to LEDs without one. I have a GI OCD sitting here waiting as well.

    I haven't had a game without these for a while, and after seeing some of the LEDed games at CAX without these boards, it was pretty bad. There are very few mods that are 100% needed, but this is at the top of the list of mandatory mods.

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