What follows is my personal opinion. It's by no means gospel on what to do with your game! But here's what i think:
There are three non-bulb related mods you can do that really have a major impact on the overall lighting effects of the game.
1. Mirror blades. On this game in particular, mirror blades really give it an expansive, space-like feel, and kind of doubles the number of angles light can hit the playfield from, thus reducing shadow.
2. I *highly* recommend LED OCD and GI OCD boards for this game. LED OCD makes the whole game look amazing with LEDs -- it adds a subtle fade effect that mimics the softness of incandescent bulbs, and eliminates ghosting and strobing. also, without GI OCD, the shield inserts will not function correctly, and you lose a lot of the light show with the GI. non-ghosting LEDs do not solve that problem, nor do they softly fade in and out like the OCD boards do.
If you do go with those boards, they work best with standard LEDs rather than non-ghosting ones.
3. I also changed the pop bumper caps, the inlane guides just above the pops, and also the various posts and star posts all over the game from red to purple. Since the dominant color on the playfield background is purple, these changes make those areas match the rest of the game, and makes the whole thing look cleaner and more cohesive. Purple and Red don't really go that well together. Plus, I think it's nice to reserve the color red for the truly important stuff on the game -- the Extra Ball, Jackpot, Return to Duty, and Final Frontier inserts. This is of course optional, but I think the game looks a lot better with fewer red parts jumping out at you from unimportant areas of the playfield.
(This is off topic, but I did tons of other mods to the game that don't pertain to lighting. non-lighting related mods I really like include ColorDMD, translucent rubbers, and the Hallmark ship upgrades. Oh and also the outlane extenders! They make those outlanes just a tiny bit more fair!)
Anyway, back to bulbs ... here are the principles I followed that ended up working out best for me:
For the Inserts and Controlled Lighting:
- Color-match all the inserts. If the insert is green, buy a green LED, and so on. (except for the shields ... i'll get to those)
- The white Star Trek emblem arrow inserts can be either warm white or cool white depending on personal preference. Since they're white, if you really want to, you can make them any color you want by changing the bulb color. I've considered trying to make them look "gold". I also had color-changing LEDs in there for a while, but decided that was way too distracting. mine are cool white at the moment -- i think that's probably best.
- I used a fast color-changing LED in the "Worm Hole" insert near the Delta Quadrant side ramp. It pretty much only lights up during the Worm Hole mission, and helps highlight which shot actually completes the mode. (the side ramp)
- Most of the inserts in this game are lit by sockets that are horizontal or at an angle. The best way to get the insert fully and evenly lit is to buy flex-head bulbs and then bend them so that the LED is as far away from the insert as possible, while still pointing directly at it:
flex head (resized).png
For General Illumination:
- For this particular game, cool white looks better than warm white for the general illumination and bulbs under playfield plastics. the colors on the playfield are mostly on the cooler end of the color spectrum (blues/purples/teals) and as a result, cool white illumination makes those colors pop. Cool white light also helps to de-emphasize any yellowing of white areas or plastics. (warm white bulbs are better for games like Funhouse, where yellow/red/orange are the dominant colors).
- Get frosted bulbs for the GI.
- On my GI, I put mostly cool white (frosted), with some purple frosted bulbs around the outer edges. Anything that shined directly onto the playfield was cool white, though. The purple is definitely optional, and i think most people prefer cool white all the way around. personal preference there. I definitely wouldn't do the whole GI in purple, though, and you definitely want to avoid "clown puke" syndrome where you put different colored bulbs in different areas of the GI.
- The large green shield inserts on the playfield are actually part of the GI circuit. for those, I used BLUE bulbs instead of green -- it makes them look kind of blueish-teal color that matches the logo. I feel like shields on the show were usually blue anyway, plus I like to save the color green for lock and bonus multiplier inserts. Also, these look better with either frosted bulbs, or flex head bulbs bent so that they are far away from the insert. Otherwise you get "hot spots" instead of even diffusion of the light across the insert.
- For the the GI sockets underneath the cannons, I used flex head super bright Cool White LEDs, and pointed them at the playfield area above the flippers.
- For the GI sockets underneath the inlane plastics, I did the same -- i used flex-head bulbs and pointed them at the flippers, to help light up that area.
- Consider adding some spotlights. The Neutral Zone in particular is hard to light with the standard lighting package. (i ended up putting a flex head under the wing of the Klingon Bird of Prey, and angling back towards that area, but a spotlight might do a better job).
For reference, here's an old picture of my game. this is from several years ago. i've replaced that darn broken plastic and fixed a lot of other stuff since then, but this is basically the look i'm describing here.