Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
For my home business (usbtypewriter.com) I do a lot of product photography showing customized computer workstations. But setting up a computer workstation for a photo shoot involves a lot of setup (since I have to move the entire workstation from my actual desk over to the photo set), and the ugly distracting computer wiring always clutters up my shots anyway. So I decided to create a dummy computer monitor -- one that glows as if it were connected to a computer but magically has no cabling connected to it at all.

This self-contained monitor could also be used for product demonstrations, window displays, art installations, furniture showrooms, or any other place where a realistic-looking computer workstation is needed, but without the messiness of wires or the need for a working computer to drive it. For anyone who makes and sells computer junk online, I'm sure this will be helpful, too.

Step 1: Supplies

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
You will need the following inexpensive materials:

- a junky computer monitor with a working backlight
- small magnets (10 or so)
- a 4-channel CCFL Monitor Backlight Inverter ($8 here on ebay)
- access to a printshop that can do "backlight prints".
- electrical tape
- super glue
- screwdrivers and pliers and stuff
- UA7805 voltage regulator
- 0.1 uF cap
- 0.33 uF cap
- 12 V lead acid battery
- velcro

Step 2: Disassemble Monitor

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Take your monitor apart. The goal is to take all the electronics out except the screen. All the circuitry must go. All the wiring must be carefully unplugged.

Here I am using a Dell 1708 monitor.

Step 3: Remove LCD

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Now that you have the screen all by itself, carefully remove the LCD screen (the tinted piece of glass in front of the backlight). On my monitor, a rectangular steel border clipped the LCD onto the backlight, and I had to remove that piece first. The LCD may have some circuitry attached to it with flex cables -- remove those too.

Once you have removed the LCD, clip the rectangular steel border you removed back onto the backlight.

Step 4: Clip the tabs off the bezel

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
To make it easy to take the bezel on and off, clip off the tabs that lock it in.

Step 5: Glue magnets to the bezel

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
The bezel doesn't have tabs anymore, but we still need a way to gently hold it in place against the screen. So I suggest you attach small magnets to the inside of the bezel, which will stick to the steel border that braces the backlight.

Step 6: Connect the CCFL Inverter

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Attach the CCFL inverter board to the leads that go out to the backlight. The connectors for CCFL are standardized, and should fit right into the corresponding jacks on the inverter board.

Once it is plugged in, secure the board to the back of the backlight with double-sided tape.

Step 7: Wire up the voltage regulator and battery

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
For some silly reason the CCFL board runs on 12V, but also requires 5V control signals (ENABLE and ADJUST).
So, we need to connect a 5V regulator -- the UA7805 -- in between the battery and the inverter board, as shown in the diagram below. The circuit produces a 5V signal and connects it to leads 3 and 4 of the power connector for the inverter.

The power connector, which should come with the CCFL Inverter, has six wires leading from it. Here is the pinout:

1: V+ (12V)
2: V+ (12V)
3: ENABLE (5V)
4: ADJUST (5V)
5: GND
6: GND

I found it convenient to attach the voltage regulator circuit to the back of the monitor -- but you could just as well fit it inside.

Step 8: Insert the backlight into the enclosure

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Using double-sided foam tape, securely attach the backlight back into the enclosure in such a way that it will not fall out.

Step 9: Attach a backlight print

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Go to your local printshop and get a "backlight print" made that looks like the desktop of a computer. I had 6 different desktops made up, to use for different situations. Cut the backlight print out with a 1/4" border on all sides, then lightly tape it to the backlight's steel border with electrical tape. Then reattach the bezel to the screen, so that the magnets sandwich the backlight print in place.

Step 10: Connect the battery and power up!

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Now, reattach the monitor to the base and connect the battery (minding the positive/negative polarity!). The backlight should power on and illuminate the backlight print. Once it is working, use velcro to affix the battery onto the back of the monitor out of site.

Step 11: Take some photos!

Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos
You are so done! It looks so good! Now sit back and bask in your fake screen's glowy rays of glowing glowiness.

Here is an unedited photo I took for usbtypewriter.com, using my dummy monitor rig. I am quite proud of it -- look at how the monitor reflects off the keyboard!
 
 

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