I'm proud to finally present a project I have been working on for the last year. Bit of a journey and will get a bit nerdy, so if you want to just check the final result you can jump to the bottom. Bear in mind, this was never meant to go into full production. I started with the intention of just building one for myself and I ended up getting a small lot of extras made up.
I obtained a beat up TMNT DE a few years ago and decided to install a Pin2DMD in it. The first issue I faced is that the x16 Pin2DMD did not physically fit the back box door due to the location of the pin connector. The second issue was that the existing colour file was based on virtual pin dumps and would not work correctly. I set out to fix these issues and things grew from there.
I initially contacted Malenko to see if he could fix the issues of his colour file but he was very busy and had sold his TMNT pin. Around the time I started, 64 colour support was added to Pin2DMD hardware, add to the fact I needed to redo a lot of the triggers I decided to start this project from scratch. If you have seen what this pin looks like for it's DMD then you probably know it's pretty... basic. When I first saw it I couldn't believe it was licensed as most of the content did not resemble what I had grown up with. I decided to replace the majority of the original content with updated, more recognisable content. So I created my own colour file using the arcade game as inspiration. I won't get into too much detail of how I did mine just in case, but real hardware was used and every frame was imported, edited by hand frame by frame and then exported with a unique palette for each scene. I then ran into an issue with the editor because it had a palette limitation and I had broken that. You will be happy to know that the latest firmware supports more than 250 palettes so that is no longer a problem.
The colouring process has many components, it's not just creating, colouring and editing the frames but also key framing scenes so they start at the right time and display as they should. The difference with this project is, the majority of the original frames have been replaced with new images and scenes. While it can save some time colouring, you end up exporting, importing, exporting and then importing again and you still have to manually colour each frame and any dots that don't look correct. As for triggering, the last thing you want to see is the old original frame pop up. I battled with this for months and worked with Lucky1 the creator of the Pin2DMD to get some bugs squashed that were causing issues. He was very quick to send me private builds to test and as long as I could reproduce the issue, the bugs were quickly dealt with. This not only helped my project but anyone else who had a colour file and anyone else who buys a Pin2DMD. As this whole project started a year ago I started on Firmware 3.15, I went back to update not too long ago and it is up to 4.38 as of writing! Every time throughout the development process that a new build of my file was created, I would check its compatibility against the latest firmware. There was a little issue recently and Lucky1 managed to find the bug and put out a brand new firmware that made TMNT even better! I could go on but there is so much more to tell. I can confidently say though that my latest file is compatible with the latest firmware. I've spent 100's of hours on the colour file alone.
During the colouring process, I contacted Lucky1 to see if we could get the original x16 Pin2DMD modified to fit a standard TMNT back box door. It took a while to get this happening due to everyone schedules so this was when I decided to relocate the DMD to the speaker panel and the light box to the back box door. It made sense on so many levels, this would allow for a full size Colour DMD, a better position for viewing and it would retain full functionality with the light box so you could easily see what mode you were in. What's better, when I started my colour file I made sure it would have both full screen and half screen scenes that was compatible with real hardware (half size) and virtual pin which can use full size. This was like the safe area on 16:9 footage, if you had the half size DMD, you could still see all relevant information but if you had the full size DMD you could enjoy more content. Making this choice from the beginning saved me a lot of work for this step. After this was all decided, Lucky1 came back to me and I helped him redesign the original x16 half size display to fit natively in a DE TMNT and a Checkpoint without using a saw to chop up your back box. This was uploaded for everyone to access.
While the colour file was coming along, I started on designing the layout needed for everything to work as a converted unit. I wanted to make it as plug and play as possible and I wanted it to be up to a certain standard that I would be happy with having it in my own machine. This process took a lot longer than I had hoped and it was a massive learning experience too.
Basically I tried to get as much done in Australia as possible, WA specifically. Unfortunately this was when WA was free as a bird and not only was every business in the manufacturing industry busier than ever, they had seemingly increased prices across the board. While I tried for months to make it happen in WA, even getting replies was becoming difficult, so it was Victoria to the rescue! For the speaker panel, I wanted it as close as possible to the original but with a larger cut out. The way this thing was folded, pressed and manufactured was not as simple as I thought. Thanks to Holy Snes, who without him this whole project wouldn't even exist, he was able to help me find someone in Victoria to build a sample for me. Not only that, he helped design a new speaker panel from scratch using the original as a base to work off with a few improvements too. After I was happy with the panel I got a small order shipped to WA which I then got sample powder coated. After going to a bunch of local powder coaters and trying different finishes, the end result was a triple coating with prep and a textured black finish.
The light panel was also being designed at this stage and it had a lot of prototypes. It had a PCB, light boxes and acrylic which went on top. These were also designed by Holy Snes from the PCB to the light boxes. We went through so many different designs and materials to try and get the best looking result. I didn't want it to detract too much from the game but also be enough so you could keep track of what mode you were in. The PCBs were hand soldered in Victoria, the light boxes were prototyped and produced in NSW and the Artwork and acrylic was printed by Noodle Shirt in Sydney. I had purchased an Arcade Marquee for TMNT from someone on AA who told me Noodle Shirt printed it, so I finally decided that it had to be him to print these to get the quality I required.
The harnesses for everything were also hand made as I always see a lot of people use screw terminals and wire. I didn't want to do any of that so I opted for molex connectors so everything could just plug directly into your existing cables on the TMNT Pinball machine. This makes installation much easier and straight forward to understand.
Another touch was the speaker grill inserts. The first thing that did my head in was finding a green that wouldn't clash with everything but also blend in somewhat. I think it's a personal choice so I also got them done in plain black as well, just in case people wanted that option. It was a small number overall so that wasn't much of an issue. Holy Snes also designed a bunch of inserts made of stainless steel that went over the grill. There were 3 designed and he got a sample of each done up. After much back and forth and doing a survey among people I had to pick one and the Sai's won. He loved a different one which didn't win, probably don't bring it up with him or mentioned Checkpoint to him ; )
One of the main components has been sitting here waiting since last year, that is the actual Pin2DMD. The manufacturer offered some new finishes on the PCB so I chose a matte green for the DMD PCB as well as the light panel PCB. No one will see either of these details when the machine is on and closed but I thought it would be fitting for this project.
There were lots of other components to consider for this project that I didn't really think of until a problem or situation presented. These were items such as stand offs, screws, nuts, what type of acrylic to use for the main DMD, testing a heap of speakers, and finally the actual box to ship it in. I searched online and ordered some ready made boxes but I wasn't happy with the strength. I ended up getting some custom boxes made locally and they finally arrived today. This is the reason for the post as I told myself I wouldn't announce anything until I had absolutely every part of this project on hand.
So that's it. If you made it this far without skipping the entire post, congrats and thank you! I have attached some pictures of the product as well as some videos of it running on a real machine. I plan to list the small amount of units I have shortly for sale for anyone who is interested in upgrading their DE TMNT.
A lot of hard work and love has gone into this project, so thank you for taking the time to check it out! and for anyone who actually wants to play it on their Virtual Pin, it's actually a free download which I will also attach here.
I would like to thank the following people for helping me throughout this whole project, everyone played a meaningful role in getting this completed and I thank you so much for your help!
@Holy-SNES Without him the project wouldn't exist. Lucky1 Creator of the Pin2DMD! @Wob for testing the colour file in its infancy right to the end and for his massive contribution to the Pin2DMD scene in general. Martin Knoppke for his help with LCM and just in general! Malenko for his original works that led to new work. Noodle Shirt for printing the artwork! @Arcade King for giving me a platform to post my stuff on! and anyone else I may have missed who contributed some way to this project.