Not really FAQs, but some notes that will make things that can sometimes be confusing a lot clearer, and that will help with your decision to buy a Total Lightshow kit.
There are different Pro models of the same theme!
Stern Pinball has manufactured two types of Pro for both Metallica and AC/DC themes. The older model has a wooden back box and was originally shipped from the factory with incandescent bulbs. Both themes have also been shipped in a variant called the LED Pro. The LED Pro is recognisable by its metal back box and factory installed LEDs in the inserts and GI.
Does it matter?
Yes it does. The LED Pros ship from the factory with a small PCB attached to each of the lamp headers. These are termination resistors and they address a phenomenon called ghosting. They also do a good job of cleaning up the lamp driving signals and are necessary for the Matrix Interceptor to operate reliably. If you have an LED Pro, your Total Lightshow will operate in its standard kit configuration. If you have an older model, you will need to purchase the inexpensive redshiftLED version of these resistor boards called the Matrix Terminator. You could also purchase the factory boards from a Stern distributor.
Development history and user discussion
You can find a lot of information about the history of the development of Total Lightshow, and discussion among current users on the following Pinside threads.
How does it work?
The Matrix Interceptor reads your pinball machine's activity. It does this by passively sniffing both the lamp and switch matrices (if you dont' know what these two things are you should definitely do a little looking around the interwebs to get up to speed before installing Total Lightshow).
Your Matrix Interceptor has been programmed to recognise combinations of lamp and switch behaviour which flag that certain stages of the game code are in play. Once the Interceptor knows where it is in the game it drives its own outputs in response to what is happening on your playfield. So, not only can it tell lights to flash when a ramp is hit for example, but it can tell the lights to flash differently if that same ramp is hit during a different mode in the progress of the game.
At certain times the Matrix Interceptor needs to tell the factory GI circuits what to do. It does this through a small break out board called the GI Interceptor. This board plugs directly into your factory GI circuit and then is also connected back to the Matrix Interceptor.
So what are the outputs of the Matrix Interceptor?
There are eight power outputs, that are all fully pwm controlled to a maximum of 6.3V. The pwm control is what gives the buttery smooth fade capability to LED bulbs connected to these outputs. There are also three serial outputs that will drive three independent strings of commercially available WS2812B addressable LEDs.
For GI Theatre kits, three of these power outputs are used to drive a string each of new blue, red and white (or whatever colours are required for your particular game)LED bulbs that are added to your playfield. Four of the outputs are used to drive the GI Interceptor. There is one spare.
Bulbs are not included
Many people have very specific tastes when it comes to bulbs in their machines, and you are probably no different. Some like clear lenses, some frosted. One SMD, twin SMD. Super bright, not so bright.. and as I am not a bulb retailer, I don't keep a large stock of different bulbs to cater to these varied requirements. Many people even have a drawer full of surplus bulbs that they can use. It is also quite inefficient and an undue tax on the planet for me to ship bulk bulbs from the US to Australia, pack them, and ship them straight back to the US. So, in the end I decided to leave the bulbs up to you. If you want to match the Stern factory bulbs I recommend the twin SMD from either Comet Pinball or Cointaker..
It looks daunting to install!
At first glance, maybe. But watch the installation videos and you will see how easy each step is. Just break down the job into small bites and it is easily achievable for anyone who is even slightly handy. There are risks with live electricity so ALWAYS turn OFF your machine before opening the cabinet. If, in the end, you decide it's too hard, simply have your local pinball tech or a pinball buddy help you out. To a tech this install will be almost trivial.
Some of your existing GI sockets will be unscrewed from your playfield and tucked out of the way. The new sockets that are installed into the playfield are an exact match for the Stern factory sockets and are installed in exactly the same way as at the factory. In most cases you will be screwing the new ones straight back into the hole of a factory socket you just dropped out. There is some MINOR drilling of pilot holes required in places where a socket is going into a new position. Technically you can screw straight into the playfield wood without drilling, but a pilot hole makes the job much, much easier. Please be careful when drilling, and place some tape on your drill bit as a depth gauge. redshiftLED cannot be held responsible for damage caused to your playfield through careless drilling. Of course, all mounting hardware is included.
What about the inlane ball guide GI?
When replicating the Premium lightshows, there is one small area where Total Lightshow does not venture. This is the area at the inlane return to your flippers. The reason is one of difficulty in mounting sockets. The new sockets are installed from beneath the playfield, and directly beneath the inlanes are the flipper mechanisms. To install sockets here you will need to remove your flipper mechs and this would suddenly more than double the installation effort. I have designed the kit to not need these few bulbs replaced.
Variability of pinball machine manufacture
Pinball machines are largely hand built. That's one of the things that makes them great. While much of the electronics should be standard across machines, things like cabling and hardware fastening can be variable. There is some chance that an unforeseen variability in the manufacture of your pinball machine, that renders your machine different to the machines on which Total Lightshow has been tested, may cause the performance of your kit to vary from your expectations. In the unlikely event of this happening, you will be able to get assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please just be aware that variation is an inevitability in machines with large numbers of moving parts that are hand assembled.
Effects on the warranty of your pinball machine
You should check independently with your distributor for any effects on your machine's warranty due to the installation of Total Lightshow. The kit does not send current directly into your machine, and is well fused so that any excess draw will blow the Interceptor board fuses before those of your pinball machine. It is highly unlikely that any design element of your kit can damage your pinball machine.
When connecting mods to your pinball machine it is important to know how much extra load you are placing on the pinball machine's supply, and to be careful not to load it beyond its available headroom. The Matrix Interceptor, driving LEDs is a minimal addition to the load on your machine. The GI Theatre kit, driving LEDs only has a peak draw of 350mA. When driving the rising grave marker motor in Metallica as well it peaks at 600mA.
There is a lot of discussion regarding the installation and use of Total Lightshow kits at the below link. Find out what people who already have the kit have to say about the installation process and the use of their kit.