Keeping your monitor in top shape

by Yeehaw McKickass, 26 January 05

As with any arcade game, keeping your monitor in top shape is paramount to it’s success. If your players can’t SEE what they’re playing, they’re simply not going to play.

Luckily, there are several simple things an operator can do to keep a DDR monitor crisp and clear. As many of the subjects in this guide deal with components inside a machine, only machine owners and operators should attempt any of these.

Additionally, the information in this guide was gathered using a Korean machine. If you have a Japanese machine, there may be some differences.

Table of Contents:
  • 1. Location and simple upkeep - location in relation to lighting
    • Machine location and ambient lighting
    • Procedure for cleaning front glass
    • Procedure for cleaning monitor
  • 2. Introduction to operator controls and the guts of your monitor
    • Monitor neck and board
    • Remote board
    • Color gain and Bias Controls, operators color grid
    • Flyback
    • Final note
  • 3. Common problems and solutions
    • Improper colors
    • Duplicating or blurry picture/colors
    • Dark or light screen
    • Settings keep changing
    • No Picture
  • 4. Serious problems and solutions
    • Flyback brightness changes screen color -and- Various discoloration on screen
    • Monitor Controls Don’t respond
Location and simple upkeep - location in relation to lighting
The location of your machine is one of the biggest factors to revenue and playability. If you have your machine located in the back of your arcade, or sitting in your garage, you’re not going to make any money off of it. Optimal location for any game is in a high traffic area. However, DDR adds further concerns when it comes to the life of the machine, playability, and effects on neighbors based on sounds.

While these are all factors to be considered when placing your machine, you should also pay attention to the lighting around where you’re going to place it. Not enough light, and you run the risk of people running ito the bars or falling off the pads. Too much light, and you get a glare than can make the screen impossible for a player to see.

Generally, you don’t want your machine somewhere it can reflect sunlight, or have lights pointed directly at the glass. The simple solution to this is to either move or eliminate lighting causing the problem, or move the machine to a different area in your location.

Remember, if a player can’t see or interface with the game, it doesn’t do anybody any good.

Keeping the glass covering the monitor clean is another easy way to keep revenue up and players happy. Many times, players will place their hands on the outside of the glass and leave sweaty smudges, reducing visibility. Windex and a paper towel is the simple solution to this problem.

You also have to keep the monitor side of the glass clean, as it attracts dust. To get the glass off, you can either remove the screws from the top metal bracket, remove the bracket. and pull the glass up; or remove the screws from the front panel (where the start and select buttons are), and lift the glass out from bottom. Again, windex and a paper towel are all you need.

Simply put, your monitor is a dust magnet. Depending on your machines location, you may need to do this several times in a week. To accomplish this, simply use one of the methods listed to remove the front glass, then wipe down with a paper towel sprayed with windex.

And remember, if you think your monitor is dirty, it probably is.

Introduction to operator controls and the guts of your monitor
There are several knobs and dials you can use inside your machine that have various effects on what’s displayed. But first, here’s a view of what you’d see when you open the back of your machine.

In this picture you see is the back of the monitor and the board attached to the neck of it. In this picture, there aren’t any controls on the neck board that need to be fiddled with.

Here you can see numerous knobs and a green board with knobs on them. This it the main board and the remote board (despite the fact that in the picture, it’s not very remote).

Speaking of the remote, here’s a picture:

The remote in your machine may look different, and if you have a japanese machine, it’s in the coin door.

Here’s the listing of what each knob is and does clockwise from the lower left knob:
  • Brightness - increases/decreases white balance
  • Horizontal Size - Widens picture on screen
  • Ewpc - Horizontal hold, being turned too far one way or the other causes picture to warp.
  • H(orizontal)Phase - Trapezoidal controls for an inner bulge
  • H(orizontal) Hap - Trapezoidal controls for outer bulge
  • Vertical position - Up/Down location of picture on screen
  • Vertical hold - Similar to Ewpc, but affects screen in an up/down motion
  • Vertical size - Widens picture on screen vertically.
Jumping back a bit, here’s a close up of the knobs on the monitor board

With the exception of my labeling on Blue gain, all the knobs are easily read in that picture.

By this point, an inexperienced user will look at the terms gain and bias and be confused. Another way of looking at these terms is to translate Gain and Bias to the terms used in photography, Hue and Saturation.

Simply, the gain(hue) controls change the warmth of a color, while the bias (saturation) controls change how much of a particular color there is on screen. Figuring out how to balance these best is achieved by going into Color Check in operators mode.

The last piece of hardware that has a controllable effect on the screen is the Flyback.

The flyback has DIRECT control over a monitor’s CRT guns, and can only affect two things:

Any time you have to adjust something on your flyback, you need to be careful, as it contains high voltage and amperage. The controls on all flyback units should be turned with a nonconductive screwdriver for maximum safety.

You may notice that both the remote board and flyback have brightness controls. This is intentional, as a remote board is generally meant for access from anyone, but the flyback is meant to be handled by trained personnel. Additionally, flyback brightnes is actually a high voltage limiter control. While this does increase brightness, it also increases the amount of radiation output from the monitor.

Before making any changes to the brightness setting on the flyback, be aware that this will have effects on any color settings. Flyback brightness controls tend to be magnitudes more powerful than remote controls.

One final note: NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS TO THE CONDUCTOR WIRE ATTACHED TO THE BACK OF YOUR MONITOR TUBE. This wire is normally red and attaches to the monitor with a suction cup and dual hooking system. NEVER attempt to remove or ground this without proper training. The stored voltages and amperages are strong enough to kill.

Common problems and solutions
  • Improper colors:
    This requires a keen eye, or even a second pair, but using the Color Check option in combination with the bias and gain controls will generally solve any problems with improper coloring. You may also want to check your brightness, if it’s too low, colors will appear washed out.
  • Duplicating or blurry graphics or colors:
    There are three things to check when one of these happens. First, your color bias settings may be too high for the color that’s going wacky. Second, your other color biases may be too low. Finally, and most commonly, your focus needs adjustment.
  • Screen too dark or light:
    Adjust your brightness. Use your remote board to make this adjustment before making changes to your flyback.
  • Settings Keep changing:
    Two major possibilities come up as to why a monitor setting would be changed.
    1. You have someone with unauthorized access to your controls. If you think this is the case, take further steps to secure your controls.
    2. Vibrations from the speakers in the machine are moving the knobs. While you could use silicone sealant or some other nonconductive substance to lock the controls in place, this defeats the point of there being controls. Only do this if you’re sure you won’t need to make adjustments for a while.
  • No picture:
    The first thing to check is to make sure all your machine is plugged in or getting power. As simple as this sounds, it’s often the case. From there, check your brightness settings. If that doesn’t work, check the connections on your board. Finally, look for a power input line (wires will either be black/white, or black/green/white) and test for 110 volts with a Digital Multi-Meter. (black probe to black wire, red probe to white wire). If your 110 volts is low, you need to turn it off. If you have at least 110, the problem could be anything from a cold solder joint to bad parts.
Serious problems and solutions
  • Flyback brightness changes screen color - and- Various discoloration on screen (in corners or at random):
    When one of these two happen, it’s usually a good sign your monitor is on it’s last legs. While you can use the controls introduced before to get your colors as good as you can, these situations call for drastic measures.
    You can start off by Degaussing your monitor. Japanese machines have a button (usually the bottom one) that degausses your monitor. If you have a Korean machine, you’ll need to get a hold of a Degaussing coil (basically a directional magnet.)
    If that fails, you can get an Analyzer/Rejuvenator like this one to test and repair the monitor. The major downside to this is the cost of a Rejuvenator: The particular linked model costs nearly $2000.
    The final steps are to swap your boards with known good ones, or replace your monitor.
  • Monitor controls don't respond:
    Again, check your connections and look for breaks in wires. Otherwise you’ll need to replace your board.
Thanks to
Bob Earl for getting the higher quality pictures of everything but the remote board, and providing input while I made adjustments to a monitor; Game Tech Chris for being a sexy beast, Zaps00 for informing me that rejuvenators do in fact exist, the DDRFreak contributor crew for looking this over, and anyone else I may have forgotten.