MAMEngineer’s Bezel and Marquee Printing
by Kevin Steele
After all the work I had put into the MAMEframe, it
seemed a shame to keep using a generic “MAME” marquee that
I had printed out in sections on my Epson photo printer. The machine
needed something fancier, something custom, something brighter.
I had heard of people taking their marquee designs to the local Kinko's
print shop to get it printed, and it seemed a hit-or-miss affair, since
some got great results, and others, well, didn't.
Enter Tom Beckendorf, i.e. MAMEngineer (email
byterag "at" hotmail.com). A regular poster on the Usenet Alt.Games.Mame
newsgroup, Tom offers an “at-cost” marquee-printing service.
For $25, Tom will take your custom artwork and print it on .005mil Mylar
at 600dpi, and mail it back to you (flat-ship, if possible, otherwise
in a protective tube).
I contacted Tom and mailed him my artwork, a stylized
5" x 24" MAMEframe logo:
My Marquee Design for the MAMEframe
Once he got my artwork he emailed me with
some interesting news: in addition to printing marquees, he was planning
on offering bezel artwork as well, printed on high-gloss photo quality
paper. He wanted to do a “test run,” and was wondering if
I would like to have a bezel printed as well as a marquee. This, as you
can guess, was an offer too good to refuse. Back into Photoshop I went,
and quickly cooked up a bezel design for the MAMEframe:
The Bezel Design
The bezel area was large, at least in
my opinion: about 24" w x 22" h. I knew this was going to result
in a very big piece of paper. I mailed Tom the CD with the artwork (the
Photoshop file for the bezel alone is over 110MB!). His site mentions
an average 10-day turnaround, so I went ahead and ordered a new tempered-glass
pane to cover the bezel when it arrived.
Unfortunately, due to a number of unfortunate
twists of fate (and a dead email address), it took about two months to
get the final printed bezel and marquee. (Tom has apologized profusely
for this — you know, sometimes things just happen.) To
make a long story short, I finally was handed a long cardboard tube by
the postal carrier, and I eagerly opened it up to find my bezel and marquee:
The Printed Bezel, Ready for Trimming
The bezel artwork was fantastic — the
colors were perfect, the ink coverage wonderful, and the paper felt thick
and durable. I had to lay it out for a while to let it “unwind” after
a long trip, but it very quickly flattened out.
Then I noticed a surprise in the package.
There were not one, but two marquees. It seems Tom had accidentally
printed the marquee with the wrong color settings, and after re-printing
the marquee with the correct settings, he went ahead and sent both marquees.
The Bezel and Marquees, Ready for Mounting
I was a bit disappointed in the way the
marquee came out. The colors were very light, almost “washed out” and
faded. The mylar film is great, though — it's a frosted translucent
white, and very strong even though it's also very thin. I mounted the
marquee and lit up the MAMEframe, and my fears were confirmed — the
marquee looked very washed out, and it was hard to even read the logo.
The Marquee, Lost in a Blur of Light
Taking the second marquee (the one with
the color settings mistake), I overlaid the first marquee with the second.
The result? Much better, in my opinion — the colors were more saturated,
and the logo had more contrast with the background:
Closeup of the Doubled-up Marquees
One thing about Mylar, it lets light through.
A lot of light through. These pictures don't tell the whole
story, since it was hard to get a good photo of such a bright marquee.
I actually would have traded some of the brightness to have deeper, more
After some suggestions online, I tried
out a blacklight bulb instead of a regular fluorescent tube. Unfortunately,
things went to the opposite extreme — instead of being too bright,
now things were too dark:
The Marquee with a Blacklight
Besides the darkness, everything was just
too purple for my taste. I took out the blacklight bulb and went back
to the doubled-up marquee and a white fluorescent tube. I also tried
putting a piece of white paper behind the marquee, but that's actually
worse, since all it does is cut down on the light and add the fiber-pattern
of the paper to the marquee.
Anyway, I finally just gave up and decided
things were good enough as is. I trimmed everything to the right size,
cut out the area in the bezel for the monitor, and set everything up.
All in all, I think it came out very nice:
The Finished Artwork, Installed
Unfortunately, I did discover that the
bezel buckled a bit, and didn't sit as flat as I would have wished. I
should have ordered two 1/8" thick pieces of glass instead of just
one 1/4" thick piece. This would have allowed me to “sandwich” the
bezel artwork between the pieces of glass, flattening it down and holding
it in place. Back to the glass store, I suppose — I might even
make the back piece of glass “smoked.”
Tom Beckendorf offers a wonderful service for anyone
building their own MAME cab, and the bezel printing especially is top
notch. If you're interested in getting your own bezel or marquee printed,
check him out at www.geocities.com/ncenginear.
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