Having decided upon a Cobalt Flux platform as my future DDR interface, I decided that rather than suffer the taunts of "controller whore!" on Xbox Live I should instead build an Xbox compatible control box for the Flux.
This is difficult for two reasons:
The easiest way to overcome both issues is to simply use an existing 3rd party dance pad as the basis for a new CF compatible control box, which is what this project is. There are MUCH EASIER ways to do what I'm covering here. The easiest way to do it is to just take the housing and circuit board of a pad and wire in a DB-15 cable for the connection to the CF 2.0 platform.
- The control box has to register as a pad when connected to Live via Ultramix
- The control box needs to have a port for the Xbox Live Communicator
Unfortunately, I decided to go the hard way. Instead of using an existing enclosure, I'm building a separate box for the control box, one with its own on-box buttons for left, right, select (the A button on Xbox), start, and back (using the B button). This approach also requires that you sacrifice an otherwise perfectly good dance pad, since I am severing the dance pad's circuit board from the rest of the pad. Make no mistake, this is a costly project. By the time everything is said and done, the cost of the control box alone will probably approach $60-80 dollars.
In addition to the basic design, I will also be going over the implementation of an optional Power Mod. Basically, it's just a few extra steps to make it so the buttons light up. This is purely a cosmetic feature and does not enhance functionality in any way (aside from easily finding buttons in the dark), so if you want to cut some time and expense from the project, ignore the Power Mod instructions.
To speed up the page, any illustrations/images are linked in the text. If you wish to see the corresponding image, just click the link to have it open in a new window. Ready to start building? Here we go!
Turn the Beat Pad over so its back is facing up. Using a Phillips head screwdriver, open up the Beat Pad control box. Cut the black ribbon wires that go to the pad, then pull the pad apart from the control box and throw the bulk of the pad away. You can take the long way and cut all around the border of the pad using a utility knife or a pair of scissors (in case you're curious as to what these things are made of), but we won't be saving any of that material, so you might as well do it the fast way.
On the back of the circuit board is a black width of plastic that secures the switch wires. Go ahead and remove this by taking out the four screws holding it down. Do NOT throw away the screws. We'll put those to use later.
With the plastic removed, we can see that the 11 black ribbons connect straight to the circuit board. Looking at it from the back, the connections are, from left to right: Start; A; Right; X; Up; Ground; Down; Y; Left; B; Back. Don't bother writing them down if you're using the Beat Pad for this mod, as the functions of these circuit paths are noted on the opposite side of the circuit board.
Go ahead and peel the ribbon wires off the circuit board. They're only attached with adhesive. Then, pull the entire circuit board out of the controller housing. Don't throw the housing away, though. We'll be using that later, too.
Placing and Mounting the Circuit Board
Pull out your project box now. We'll be using the project box upside down with the lid on the bottom - normally, the lid is on top. Separate the plastic lid from the box (don't use the metal lid) and place it down with the inside facing up. Go ahead and plunk the Mad Catz circuit board on there to figure out where in the box we're going to mount it. I wanted mine to have the Communicator slot centered. If you want to do the same, position the board 7/8" from the outside right edge and 3/8" from the bottom outside edge. When I made mine, I made the mistake of mounting the board in too far, which meant the Communicator couldn't slide in all the way (I mounted 1/2" from the bottom edge). 3/8" should fix that. Of course, if you use a different pad as the basis for your mod, the board dimensions will likely be different, so you'll have to do your own measurements/positioning.
Once the circuit board is where you want it, use a pen to mark where the mount holes will be on the box lid by marking through the mount holes on the circuit board. The Beat Pad board has 6 such holes, but only 4 are really necessary to properly support the board. It's up to you whether or not you want to do all 6. With the mount points marked, put the circuit board to the side and grab a drill with a 1/8" drill bit. Go ahead and drill the holes all the way through the lid.
Once the holes are drilled, open up the package of standoffs. You'll want to insert the screws from the outside side of the lid (the side the circuit board won't be on). Once the screws are just through the lid, hold the standoff in place while you finish tightening the screw. Do this for all 4 (or 6) holes. With the standoffs in place, go ahead and mount the circuit board on top of the standoffs and use the remaining standoff screws to tighten it down. This is to make sure your standoffs are properly aligned and to get the board into place for further measurements.
Cutting the Cable and Expansion Slots
Mounting the board also locks it into place so we can figure out where to put the notch for the cable that goes to the Xbox. Bring the cord around to the front and place the flat edge of its indent on the lip of the lid. Mark the left and right edges of the indent on the lip itself. Go ahead and move the cord now. Grab the main box housing and place it on top of the lip. Now just make matching marks on the box where the cord would intersect with it and cut out a chunk of the box that's just big enough to accomodate the indented portion of the cord (this will make it so the cord can't be accidentally pulled from the box). My cut was 3/8" wide and 3/8" high. If putting the box on the lid pushes the cord down, then the cut isn't tall enough. Shave a bit away until the cord stays in place but isn't being squished.
Cutting the hole for the Communicator is a little more involved because we have to get both the horizontal and vertical placements right. To do this, I used the chassis from the Mad Catz pad as my guide. Remove the front two mounting screws from the circuit board. Now, take the upper half of the Mad Catz controller housing and place its mounting pegs into those screw holes - it should fit easily. Measure up from the lip edge of the project box lid to the top of the Mad Catz slot arc to see how far up on the project box your cut must go. You will use this measurement along with measurements from the sides of the box to the edges of the Communicator to determine your slot position. On my box, the measurements were 3.25" from either side and 15/16" up from the bottom edge of the main box (not from the bottom of the lid). Mark those measurements on the box.
With those measurements marked, grab the Mad Catz top again and hold it up against the side of the project box, lining it up with your left, top, and right markings. Then, trace the arc of the Mad Catz slot onto the box. Grab the lower half of the Mad Catz housing and finish off the bottom half of the slot in the same way. With the slot trace in place, drill a hole or two within the area to be cut as starter holes and then start cutting out the slot. I would provide great advice on just how to do that, but I don't have any. Cutting that slot was a pain for me. If anybody has good suggestions, contact me and I'll include them here.
Once the slot is cut out, tighten the circuit board back down on the standoffs, assemble the project box, and try to plug in your Communicator. If it seats completely, good job. If it doesn't seat all the way, then your slot could be in the wrong spot or it could simply not be big enough to allow enough of the Communicator through (I ran into this problem). If the latter, plug the Communicator in as far as you can and then note where it is bumping up against the plastic of the box. Pull it back out and start shaving away at those areas. Repeat until the Communicator fits properly.
Mounting the D-Sub 15 Connector
Next we'll mount the D-Sub 15 connector. I chose to center my D-Sub on the side of the box that would be facing the pad, but you can place it wherever you like. To mount it as I've done, measure in 3 3/8" from either side of the box and mark the width of the rear portion of the D-Sub at the bottom edge. We want the cut to be just big enough to slide the D-Sub up into the notch. If we cut for the full width of the D-Sub, we won't have any underlying box plastic into which we can attach the mounting screws. Once your notch is cut (tall enough that the bottom of the D-Sub is flush with the bottom edge of the box), use the two short screws from the Mad Catz circuit board retention bracket to mount the D-Sub to the wall of the box. I ended up using some small bolts/nuts that I had lying around as it was simply easier to drill holes and connect it that way, but the Mad Catz screws should also work just fine if you can get them started into the plastic.
Drilling the Button Holes
Only a few more holes left to cut. We'll need to drill out the holes for the various buttons. For my buttons, I chose a layout that would achieve the following:
Design your layout in whichever way works best for you. If you want the same layout, however, I created a template for use in drilling out the holes. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of alignment and placement. If you choose to alter the template for a different box size, don't simply resize the template as that will also resize the drill and button guides. You'll need to just copy those elements into a new template image sized to what you desire.
- Place the Left, A/Select, and Right buttons closest to me
- Put the B/Back and Start buttons within reach, but not close enough to be hit accidentally
- Leave an open space for graphics
Assuming you're using the template, cut it out along the black border and tape it to the top of the box. As the template will get destroyed during drilling, start off with the smallest holes - the two that are immediately to the left and right of the bottom center button. These holes accomodate the mounting pegs on the underside of that button. You can use a common 1/4" drill bit for those, as the sizing doesn't need to be exact. Once those holes are drilled, move to the left button and drill it out using a 1" wood bore bit. Repeat this for the other two buttons along the bottom. For the Back and Start buttons, use a 7/8" wood bore bit. Once all the holes are drilled, remove the template and clear off any remaining bits of shredded plastic. The holes for the Back and Start buttons are going to be too snug, so sand those a bit until the buttons just drop in. Insert each of the other buttons to make sure they all fit properly. Be sure to check whether or not the mounting pegs of the rectangular button sink all the way into the holes drilled for them. If they don't, shave away some plastic until they do. On the inside of the box, you might notice that there are two plastic circuit board standoffs right next to your Back/Start holes. Snip those off - they'll get in the way later when you try to tighten down those buttons.
If you are doing the Power Mod, you will now need two more holes - one for the power jack and one for the switch controlling the lights. I chose to put these on the front right of the box so that the majority of cables were coming out on one side (Xbox cable, Communicator cable, and now power cable). For the switch, just drill a 3/4" hole. For the jack, drill a 1/4" hole. Then just mount the switch and the jack (it'll be snug... twist it in) and you're done.
That's it for cutting holes. We're all finished with what is arguably the most boring part of this project.
Applying GraphicsIf you're going to apply graphics to your box, now is the time to do it, before we start locking down all the buttons and getting them wired.
If you want your box to look the same as mine, grab the template_file.zip archive, which contains Photoshop files for the box top, the 8x3 side panels, and the 6x3 side panels. Also included are the freeware fonts I used to create the lettering. All of the PSD files have their elements split over several layers so that you can easily change any element you wish. If you do modify it, I only ask that you send me a pic of your modified graphics just so I can see your own cool design.
Once you have the design down, you'll want to print it to 8.5"x11" Full Sheet adhesive stock. I went to a local print shop to have this done and had two sets of complete graphics made, just in case I messed one up. It ran me just under $15 for six pages. When you get your graphics, all you have to do is cut with a utility knife along the graphic borders (and cut out the button guides, for the top panel), peel them from the backing, and apply them to the box.
You'll have two holes to cut out on the Communicator side of the box (one for the Communicator slot, one for the Xbox cable notch), two more holes if you do the Power Mod (hole for the rocker switch and one for the power jack), and a notch to cut out for the DB-15 connector. Making these cuts after the decal has been applied is the easiest way of doing things.
We're now ready for the guts of this project - the wiring.