Thumb nail of the eight scan files of the front of the backglass.
Each file is about 10 MBytes in size.
Once they are all
scanned it is time
to use Photoshop. I started with a new 300 dpi project with
dimensions slightly larger than the backglass. One tricky
is that the backglass has a
lot of mirroring. These areas scan poorly, and will make the
manufacturing more challenging. Also there are of course
areas such as the score glass areas. For this reason,
areas need to be defined on the artwork. Photoshop makes it
easy to later change the color of the transparent areas, and assign a
color later if I decide to not reproduce the mirroring.
Photo of the back of the Space Shuttle backglass to show the opaque or
Gray is opaque, white is diffuse.
The overall concept of
reproduction translite is to use several layers of artwork.
Starting with the layer closest to the player:
- The 'front' layer. This is the layer that will be
from the scanned image.
- The 'mirror' layer. This will provide the
and the mirroring around the words "Space Shuttle".
- The 'white' layer. This will provide the diffuse
layer of the Moon, Shuttle and Earth because the previous layers are
printed on clear film, or are only used in strips (mirror layer).
- The 'mask' layer. This layer will obscure the
specific areas and provide highlighting for others. It looks
the image above.
The mirror layer may be omitted if it proves too challenging to
implement. However, it is possible that it can be done by
mirrored film such as what is used in one-way mirrors. I
a roll of the material and will be experimenting with it.
The eight front side images stitched together and defects
removed. The checker box indicates the transparent areas.
I think this is a very beautiful backglass.
The mask layer that is at the back of the backglass. Note the
scattered dots to
match the stars, and the gradual fade on the exhaust plume and volcanic
eruptions on the
mask layer is put in front of the front layer and
then set to 75%
transparency. Note the brighter areas where the
mask is transparent. The words
at the bottom of the glass are only
visible when backlit.
Initially, I was going
to scan the
back (mask) layer also. I then realized that it would be more
precise and easier to derive the mask from the front layer. I
copied the words "Space Shuttle" from the front layer, and pasted it
right back in. This caused the image to align perfectly, but
new layer. After a lot of "Select By Color" and "Fill"
operations, I was able to turn the red-yellow lettering to transparent
on a black field. For the Moon, Shuttle, background stars,
Earth, I simply drew those large areas in by hand. This
me to precisely control the gradients such as by the exhaust plume and
the volcanic eruptions on the Earth.
The words at the bottom of the mask were typed in with a font that
looks similar, merged into the mask layer, and then turned to
transparent by "Select By Color" and "Cut".
As a proof of concept, I decided to make a miniature demo unit composed
of various layers.
- For the main artwork, I printed the front and mask layers
onto clear transparencies using a color laser
printer. Since a color laser does not print white, I can
transparent areas by assigning white to those sections.
- The backglass has a mirrored border all the way around, and
words "Space Shuttle" are framed in mirror. To mimic this
I cut out a band of material from mirror film. This material,
when applied to ordinary glass, converts it to a mirror look.
decided to skip mirroring the area around the words as I would have to
do some very intricate cutting. Only the outer band is
- For the white color, I found at the local Michael's craft
some translucent white paper that has a very low amount of blockage to
backlit light. Regular office white paper is very opaque and
a high attenuation factor to light from the back.
These four layers were sandwiched together to form the miniature demo
The front and mask layers printed on conventional transparencies as a
A translucent white sheet of material is sandwiched in between to
the white color, and
mirror film is used for the mirroring.
The four layers are
taped to a pane of glass from
a picture frame. This allows me to hang the demo unit as
art in my game room.
Backlit version of the sandwiched printed transparencies. The
at the bottom can be seen.
The framed demo mini translite next to the full-sized one.
the good color match.
the artwork II
After I assembled the
above demo unit
consisting of the four layers, I decided to build up a simpler unit
without the mirroring. Although the above provides the most
accurate reproduction, I think it would be a lot of effort to register
all those layers and tape up the mirror film. It would also
difficult to roll it up for mailing and storing. For these
reasons, I decided to make a second demo unit with a simpler
concept. This consists of simply printing directly on the two
sides of the translucent paper.
The front and mask layers printed directly onto translucent
Easier to roll up and store away.
This result looks good
in the above
image due to the bright flash. With the naked eye and ambient
light, the version printed on the translucent paper looks dull and
lifeless. Another version printed on white office paper looks
bright and beautiful. The lesson here is that the substrate
which the translite is printed is very important. It should
bright white in reflection, and be very low attenuation in the backlit
With the involvement of two RGP members, I ordered a
test print of the artwork.
Full-sized printing of the translite (left) next to the original unit
The above photo of the
translite and the backglass shows that the color match of the red and
yellow is very close, but the blue is a shade more purple than the
original. Also, there is a slight haze of the translite when
ambient light is incident at certain angles. This is
visible in the top of the translite. This is shown better
in the photos below.
Another angle of the two next to each other.
Portion of the original backglass for reference. Lit by the
overhead fluorecent lights.
The same portion of the printed translite. Note the haze due
Using some water, an illustration of the effect of applying a clear
coating onto the translite.
The haze is reduced.
In general, the printed
looks very good, especially when backlit. However, as
above, there is a slight haze on the front when the light is reflected
at certain angles. I decided to see if it was possible to remedy this
by clearcoating it. Tests showed that the printing is
to water and alcohol. As a simulation of the effect of the
clearcoat, I poured some water over the printing, and the result is
shown above. It shows that the contrast can be enhanced by
applying a layer of clear. The black gets darker, and the
slightly more saturated.
The words at the bottom are printed on transparent plastic, and then
fastened to the back of the translite. Just like the original
the words are vaguely visible from
front, but can be seen when backlit.
(This is a backlit image).
The words that are
backlit by status
lamps in the backbox (Stop & Score, TILT, etc) are printed on
transparent plastic, and then fastened to the back. I found
adhesive method that is invisible from the front, but does not dry
hard, which allows the translite to be rolled up for
also allows non-destructive removal of the printing in case it needs to
be changed or repositioned. Another important requirement is
the printing has to be stuck tight to the back of the translite, or the
words will blur.
the artwork IV
the protoype was
printed, I had four more done, and they are shown
below. Two went to Australia, and shipping took three weeks.
The production batch of four translites.
Comment from some of the recipients:
looks GREAT! I
now have to dig out my other
SS, and start collecting the pieces for it.
I also need to get a few clear glasses made....
Thanks for doing this, and great job! :)))
|Got the translites
must say that they are better than I expected, the material quality is
excellent. You have done a great job.
found another printer that could print the translite with a potentially
better texture on the front surface. I decided to try another
The fifth test print. The haze on the front is much reduced,
the blacks are darker.
Original backglass on left, Print V on the right.
Another comparison. Print V on the top, Backglass on the
The result was very
satisfactory. The haze was reduced, and the translite looks
better lit from the front. The dark colors are darker, and
increased the contrast of the image. The contrast in backlit
was as good as the previous print.
Side by side comparison. Backglass on left. Print V
Three copies of Print V ready for shipment.
Comment from a recipient of Print V (5/3/2007):
Got the Space Shuttle "print" and
great. I cut out the area that are supposed to "see thru" and trimmed
the outside edge and did a temporary setup, and boy oh boy what a
difference it makes, especially when playing the pin and the lights are
flashing for the engines, it just makes a
visual sense. Its
like having a very nice car but you put that crappy ,little spare tire
on it and it just doesn't look complete, well same thing without the
print you made. A big thank you and great job. I'm part of
arcade group here in Houston, TX called H.A.A.G(Houston area
and we have a show(with arcade machine and pins) and ill be
getting my Space Shuttle ready for the show. Big
you it will be complete. I will be putting a link to our group about
the work you have done, people in our group love when some one does
something like this to keep the spirit of the old arcades alive. Thank
It is most satisfying to me to have a small part in saving a Space
machine from being parted out!
See below for a photo of his machine at the show.
The H.A.A.G. show
Oct 30 2007. The above recipient of the translite sent me
picture of his restored machine at the show.
the translite had some astronauts sign his:
Charlie Bolden (who later became NASA
Administrator), Hank Hartsfield and Jon McBride.
Dana sent me this picture of his restored
He also installed an overlay
Adam sent me the above picture. His
brother got the trans light today and put it
in and it looks great!! You could never tell that it's not the
Finally completes my machine!!
Picture from Robert and his restored machine. I provided
other items, and the entire machine looks beautiful.
Another translite installed. This one from Maurizio.
Translite on Jody D's machine.
Ed, Got the
translight the other day and after sizing it up with a piece of glass,
made another Space Shuttle pinball machine complete and whole. I cant
how thankful I am for the work you put into making the translight. Once
you for saving another machine. Thanks Karl
Comment above from a repeat customer.
Another machine with the translite (11/2014).
In February 2007, the Space Shuttle astronaut crew of the
final Servicing Mission
the Hubble Space Telescope
group for crew orientation and
training. During a social event, I asked
them to sign a copy of my translite.
The Crew of STS-125 signing my Space Shuttle Translight. They
delighted to see such beautiful artwork on a pinball machine.
It was a nice opportunity to talk pinball with the astronauts
of work-related topics.
In order: Scott
"Ray Jay" Johnson
(RMS Operator), John
The signed translite. It should look great on my pinball
Backglass Links I have
over the years
- October 28, 2006 - Project started on a rainy day in
October. On this day, backglass was scanned, and photoshop
used to create the front and mask layers. For reference
information, the thickness of the glass is 1/8" (about 0.131" with the
paint). It is 28.5" wide and 21" tall.
- November 1, 2006 - Printed demo miniature
- November 2, 2006 - Printed second demo
- November 14, 2006 - Received full-sized
printing of translite.
- December 2, 2006 - Production of four
- February 6, 2007 - Print V
is a success.