Black and White Twilight Zone Pinball Machine
For many people pinball reminds them of the past, as well as old movies, sports teams and black and white TV shows.
There are many who remember being young and playing pinball at the local corner store or small arcade. They have nostalgia about the good old days of their youth. Life was simpler back then. Many people want to go back in time and choose to relive that feeling by buying a pinball machine for their own game room so they introduce that feeling with their family. One of those Pinball machines for us was the Twilight Zone pinball machine
The Twilight Zone pinball machine is a cool game that has many modes, unique features and challenging gameplay. A few cool features this games has are the Powerball, the working clock that keeps time, the Magnetic flippers on the upper playfield and the working gumball machine that stores pinballs in the gumball machine like a real gumball machine would. The Twilight Zone has been at the top of Pinside’s top 100 for a long time.
Pinball certainly has evolved since those early days. Incorporating better sound, mods, full color lcd screens, high tech mechanisms grew the customization of new and used pinball machines by the pinball community. This sparked boutique pinball companies like Spooky pinball to form and manufacture pinball machines like America's Most Haunted, Rob Zombie pinball machine and their latest creation Alice Cooper's Nightmare Castle pinball machine. So we got to thinking, we know we love pinball because we own a pinball retail shop, we are very creative and are always modding games and customizing games. What would we do if we customized a game?
We looked at the Twilight Zone Pinball machine and asked ourselves what makes the Twilight TV series so cool. Our answer was that it was televised in Black and White. So we decided to take this Classic pinball machine, which was produced in full color by Bally Mfg in 1990 and make it look like it came from the TV series that was broadcasted in Black and White in the early 70's.
We didn't Know A Simple Idea Would Be So Difficult to Execute!
Converting a original Twilight Zone pinball machine to all Black and White involved many steps which we had to learn along the way. Some of the things we had to do was to generate new Black and White artwork. We scanned in all graphics and converted all art to grayscale. The hardest part was the playfield. How were we going to get the art onto the playfield? Airbrush, direct print, silk screening or an overlay? We tried a few methods and ended up direct printing onto the playfield. Another tricky element to the project was making a new set of plastics from scratch. Not to mention completely taking a game apart and restoring all moving parts to like new condition.
Even with so many challenges ahead, we knew that a black and white Twilight Zone pinball machine would be worth it.
And that’s how it started. Just an idea.
With this idea in mind, we started working on the project five years ago. First thing we did was to completely strip down an existing Twilight Zone cabinet. We removed all cabinet decals, we removed all posts, all mechs, all rubbers. We removed everything and then started sanding inside and outside of the cabinet.
We sanded the back box to bare wood. We sanded the cabinet to bare wood and in the end we sanded the actual playfield to bare wood and inserts. Of course those inserts have color, so we had to knock each one out and clean up any adhesive left over by hand.
No doubt, people thought were were crazy to completely strip such a classic to this unrecognizable form, but in the back of our minds was the crazy idea of a Black and White Twilight Zone pinball machine. And this blank canvas was our starting point.
After taking the cabinet down to bare wood, we had to put on a new black and white decal set. Our art director, Lonnie Mihin, printed out the original artwork that he had modified to be completely monochrome.
With a new set of decals, we were able to get the cabinet looking great. The benefit of redoing the cabinet is that we were able to clean up all the small scratches and gouges that had accumulated on the pinball machine over the years. With a little sanding, and some filler, The cabinet was nice and sharp and ready to accept the new decal set.
We also wanted the screen to be black and white, so that meant replacing the old dot matrix display. This was actually a very easy upgrade. We purchased a mod that replaces the DMD with an LCD panel. With the LCD panel in place, we installed a custom program that mimics the look of the old DMD, but would allow us to change the color to pure white. These screens are similar to what comes in the new games from Chicago Gaming Company, so it’s not entirely new technology.
The First Real Hiccup
We had to source every single insert in clear. For the most part this wasn’t a challenge, but one part did prove difficult to obtain. We were only able to find the lightning bolts for the upper playfield from a private collector in Australia.
Once the lightning bolts made the trip halfway around the world, Stern pinball released their Iron Maiden table which has the exact same bolts. If we had only waited a week or two more, we could have gotten the part directly from them!
With the lightning bolt fiasco figured out, we moved on to figuring out how to recreate the playfield in black and white. The obvious answer was to print directly on it. We also needed high resolution copies of the original artwork.
The Next Hiccup
Our art lead was able to take the artwork and make it grayscale. With grayscale copies of the artwork, we found someone to directly print on the playfield wood. This was the make or break moment. If it didn’t work, we were most likely out of luck.
Luckily, the printing did work, kind of. While we were able to print directly on the playfield, there was a goof up made where the front of the playfield looked great, but the back was blurry. This was caused by by directional printing which is a faster way to print but printed at to differnet points and was not a good method for an uneven playfield.
Unfortunately for us, this meant more sanding. Once we got the playfield back to bare wood and inserts, we tried printing again with a single direction method. This time it turned out perfectly. An automotive clear coat sprayed on top shinned up all the paint and inserts, and we were ready to start repopulating the playfield.
We carefully added all playfield plastics, bolts, mechanisms, ramps, and we even added a few Black and white mods that were not available on the original game.
We added a metallic silver rocket, Talking Tina, the Robot named Simon, The car from the “hitch-hiker” episode, and the plane from the “gremlin” episode. These mods also all light up when activated in the game.
We also switched out the Astrology clock board since it was originally green. We sourced a white board for the clock from a guy in Germany. We also added a looped wire ramp just to make it look extra special.
All in all, we couldn't be happier with how our Black and White Twilight Zone came out. And it seems that it’s been met with great enthusiasm.
Our game even was awarded “Best Modded Pinball Machine” at the 2018 Pinball Expo, so it has seemed to turn quite a few heads.
We want to thank those who have helped us along the way to making this idea a reality.