A fantastic Pinsider named oga83 has provided us with an all-inclusive color LCD display alternative for traditional plasma dot matrix displays used in the most popular Bally, Williams, Data East, Sega, Capcom, and Stern games. SmartDMD, in short, is a piece of software than runs on a Raspberry Pi portable computer and serves as a stand-in replacement for expensive and obsolete 25 year old plasma DMDs. To familiarize yourself with the system, go here:
If you are interested in going this route to replace your plasma, LED, or DMD Extender display system, you will find this guide helpful. I will cover all parts involved and list instructions on connecting everything together to make a working replacement full-color display solution to keep your games reliable and working for years.
List of required parts
Official Raspberry PI Model A+ 256M 700MHz Broadcom BCM2835 CPU 256MB RAM HDM: $30
ebay.com link » Official Raspberry Pi Model A 256m 700mhz Broadcom Bcm2835 Cpu 256mb Ram Hdmi
5V 2A Micro USB Charger Adapter Cable Power Supply for Raspberry Pi B+ B US Plug: $5
SmartDMD board from oga83: $70
Kingston 4GB MicroSD HC MicroSDHC Memory Card 4 GB SDC4/4GB with Adapter: $6
ebay.com link » Kingston 4gb Microsd Hc Microsdhc Memory Card 4 Gb Sdc4 4gb With Adapter
HDMI DVI VGA Audio controller board for 15.6" B156HW01 LP156WF1 1920x1080 lcd
ebay.com link » Hdmi Dvi Vga Audio Controller Board For 15 6 B156hw01 Lp156wf1 1920x1080 Lcd
12V 4A AC DC Power Supply 4 Amp 12 Volt Adapter Charger LCD Screen 5.5mm * 2.5mm: $8
ebay.com link » 12v 4a Ac Dc Power Supply 4 Amp 12 Volt Adapter Charger Lcd Screen 5 5mm 2 5mm
NEW LG PHILIPS LP156WF1(TL)(B2) LAPTOP LCD SCREEN 15.6: $58
ebay.com link » New Lg Philips Lp156wf1 Tl B2 Laptop Lcd Screen 15 6
LAPTOP LCD LED SCREEN 17.3" FOR LG LP173WF1(TL)(C1) LP173WF1-TLC1: $60
Connect the small 14 pin connector on the DMD driver board to the SmartDMD input socket as shown using the supplied ribbon cable. Be sure the red stripe is on the side marked pin 1 on the DMD driver board and on the left side when plugged in to the SmartDMD board. With the game off, plug in the power connector on the DMD driver board.
Carefully insert the GPIO header on the Raspberry Pi board into the corresponding socket on the SmartDMD board. Connect the socket furthest from the USB ports on the board. Insert the micro SD card into the Raspberry Pi's SD card slot, and connect one end the HDMI cable to the Pi's HDMI out connection.
Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to the LCD controller board's HDMI input. The remote board and LVDS harness should already be connected to the controller. If not, attach the main harness lining up the dots/arrows on the plug and receiver socket. Attach the remote board harness. Attach the flat LVDS connector to the display's socket on the bottom. I would suggest taping down the black sleeve protruding from the contacts to prevent it from wiggling loose during installation. Finally, attach the 12v power supply's DC plug to the controller board's power input connection. Attach the 5v power supply's micro USB plug to the Raspberry Pi's micro USB port.
Plug in the power supplies, turn on the game, and the SmartDMD logo will display briefly on the screen followed by the game's DMD image. You will get a good starting picture, and from there you can insert the SD card into your PC and use the Pinball Browser utility program to customize the image, register the product key, as well as make further geometry and position adjustments using the LCD controller's included remote board.
Configuring and using Pinball Browser with SmartDMD
SmartDMD uses Pinball Browser for configuration.
Click on the SmartDMD tab and the SmartDMD configuration button.
You will be asked to navigate to the drive letter/path corresponding to your SD card containing the SmartDMD executable. Open SmartDMD.txt in the similarly named folder and the main window will appear.
Choose the display resolution that best matches your screen.
Enter a positive number to reduce the size of the DMD image or a negative number to stretch it out. Here are some good 128x32 settings to get you started.
Select the manufacturer of your game.
Choose upscaling scheme. Leave this at None for plain dots.
If using colorized display ROMs, specify how the color information is being stored.
Position on screen
Adjust the Horizontal and Vertical sliders to adjust the image's position using the Screen Preview window.
Enter a number corresponding to the thickness of your border and choose a border color.
Dot shape and size
Choose from a list of preset dot shapes, or draw your own 8x8 bitmap. The size of the bitmap affects the size of the image.
Add and remove background images that will surround your DMD image. If you add multiple images they will rotate in a cycle.
Enable network broadcasting of the DMD video stream in real time.
This is the list of palettes. Click New to add a palette, Default to make the selected palette default, etc. Click Auto to automatically generate a monochromatic gradient from the currently selected color.
Click a color to display the Windows color chooser for that shade.
To enter your license key click Enter License on the main Pinball Browser window. When making your donation, provide your token ID and the eight character serial number displayed on the SmartDMD splash screen to oga83 to obtain your unique license key.
Remote SmartDMD display
Click the screen button under the SmartDMD tab to receive a real time stream of your DMD over your local area network (if configured) and post screen captures to Facebook.
Building the kit
Now we are ready to assemble the kit to use in your game. In this example we are replacing a 128x32 plasma display in a Data East Jurassic Park.
Begin with a 1/4" thick sheet of plexiglass. Score and cut to the same dimensions as your 15.6" LCD display panel. Mark and drill 5 holes for the game's original mounting posts for the old DMD. Do not drill the top center hole as the display will cover this area.
Cut a channel from the rear lip on the top of the speaker panel equivalent to the length of you sheet. This will allow the display to fit cleanly within the DMD window. Perform a test fit of your sheet on the speaker panel.
Mark and make a small cutout for the screen's LVDS video connector.
Affix the plexiglass sheet to the back of the LCD panel using adhesive velcro tape. This will allow you to replace the display panel later should it fail. Be extremely careful to get the alignment as straight as possible during this step.
Remove, clean, and line the plastic window inlay with 3/8" width standard density weather stripping. This will provide a cushion for the display panel and ensure a good fit.
Secure the inlay window with tape on both ends to prevent it from shifting when installing the panel.
Install 2 1/4" rubber grommets per mounting post to ensure a safe and solid fit for the panel. For the bottom center post you will need to trim 1/3" of the material to leave enough room for the LCD's bottom edge.
Install your plexiglass display panel over the posts, securing with nuts. For this kit we oriented the display upside down, leaving the video connector on top. This allows for best viewing angles during play.
Next we will begin installing the boards on the back face. Starting with the display driver board, install two more grommets for the three mounting posts and fit in place. Secure with 3 nuts and remember to attach the ground strap for the corresponding corner post.
Install the remaining boards using adhesive feet and zip ties. I would suggest adding a small piece of foam below the GPIO header on the SmartDMD board to provide extra support when installed on the Raspberry Pi. We arranged the LCD controller board so the HDMI plug provides support to the floating corner of the DMD driver board.
Remove any lamps or LEDs that will be in the way when installing your completed kit. Run power adapters for the Pi and LCD display controller through the cabinet and power up. Continue adjusting image size and position in Pinball Browser to get the best fit.