Dummy Monitor for Photo Shoots and Product Demos




Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

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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    7 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is very clever, but I don't have/don't want to buy a motorcycle battery. instead, I plan on using a 12v regulator to skip the battery and use wall power.


    Reply 3 years ago

    If you're going to have a wire in it anyways, why not just plug it in to a computer instead of the wall? Your logic here doesn't make sense


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool!!!

    I can't help thinking that in a production environment the approach would be to simply chop the back of the monitor off with a Roto-Zip, tape on the transparency, add some diffused LED lighting, and crudely mask the back with tape and matboard. Your way is less destructive and far more elegant.

    Another approach might be to use something like a Raspberry Pi. You could tape it to the back of the monitor and run it off of a small battery power pack. Then simply display the desktop image of choice. I've run my RPi off of an Energizer XP1800 for many hours, and I imagine that your motorcycle battery could run it for days. (Maybe a small automotive inverter for the monitor itself?)

    I also love your USB Typewriter kit. It's given me all sorts of ideas. I've built your kit and started to cobble together a version built from the PC board in a wireless keyboard.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done. Would have saved me hours of time in photoshop removing wires


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I do industry pictures from time to time to, and its a good idea...
    Well documented and narrated...


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a really awesome (and necessary) DIY project for product/stock photographers!

    I'll take five.