9 April 2010

My Backlit Dreamcast VMU

Love it or hate it, the DC controller was pretty innovative. Analogue stick in the "right" place, analogue triggers, and of course the VMU.
The VMU slotted into the controller and could display extra game information like health or ammo.

It also served as the memory card, and could download mini-games to play independently of the main console. Cool, right?
So I made a back-light for mine, no real reason other than why not?

First of all I opened the casing, in doing so I accidentally broke the wires going to the piezo buzzer.

I decided not to repair them. That way I didn't have to hear the annoying beeeeeeeeeeep when I turned the Dreamcast on with no batteries in the VMU(all the time).

There's not much room between the screen and circuit board for the back-light. I used a 0.4mm thick piece of perspex roughed up with some fine sandpaper to diffuse the light from a couple of LEDs.

I peeled the reflective silver backing off the LCD glass and stuck the perspex in place behind the LCD.
The original backing got creased, so I cut a square of Mylar foil from a chocolate bar wrapper and used that instead.
There's only about 2-3mm of room above the screen. So you need to use very small leds. I had a couple of white LEDs that were tiny enough to use.
tricky to solder and photograph
I put two of them along the top of the screen, glued to some perspex offcuts and hooked up to pins 1(+5V) and 7(GND) on the VMU connector with a resistor to limit the current to around 20mA.
It then all went back together, it's quite cramped though. You have to be careful not to over-tighten the screws holding the board in place to avoid pressure marks on the screen.
Reassembled, you couldn't tell it wasn't stock...
...Until you switch the lights off ; )
OK... it's not perfect. The light's not totally uniform (it's not as bad as the photo makes out though) You could even argue it's not even particularly useful.

But, it definitely looks cool and only took an hour to make, so overall I'd say it was a decent little afternoon project.


  1. Well done!
    at least you know how you keep yourself busy!

    Good stuff!