The folks at Game Zone gave us a call about converting the van that they tow their gaming trailer with into a gaming bus. We had them stop by Pinnacle Autosound with the bus so we could take a look at it. What they had was an empty bus. The scope of the project would include TV mounts, wiring, upholstery, bench fabrication, lighting and installation of all the parts. While it was a huge project, we hate to turn down a challenge, so we booked an appointment for the bus.
Preparation for Building
Once we had the bus at our shop, the first thing we had to do was prepare it for the work we needed to do. The floor had many metal parts bolted through it, for previous seating. Those all had to be removed. The bus also once had a power lift gate for a wheelchair. Many pieces of this system, mechanical and wiring, were still in the bus. We spent hours going through the wiring systems and removing the parts that were associated with the lift mechanism. This not only would make our upcoming wiring work easier, it would also make it easier for anyone servicing the bus in the future.
The AC for the bus previously was in the rear of the bus and was now going to be in the center on top of the roof. There were wires, cables and hoses associated with that system that we removed. Again, the goal was to remove any parts that were not needed to simplify what was left. We were going to be adding plenty of our own wires, so we wanted everything to be able to be as organized as possible.
With all the old parts removed, we gave the interior a good cleaning and prepared to work our magic!
Gaming Bus Design
The concept for this bus was to have 6 independent gaming zones. There would be 2 rows of benches with monitors mounted at angles above the benches. The person sitting on the bench would look above the people sitting in front of them to see the monitor they would be playing on. To provide the players with audio, a pair of speakers were to be located in the tops of the benches, so the players would hear the sound for their monitors right at ear level. The idea was to get the speakers close enough to the gamers, so they didn’t need to be turned up so loud that the sounds all of the different games blended together. In addition to the video and audio, we were also adding lighting below the monitors and in the storage areas in the benches.
Miles of Wires
Because of all the different lighting and audio-video zones, this build was going to require a LOT of wiring and cables. We started by running the wires that would go behind the monitor mounting plates. This included the speaker wires, HDMI cables and the power wiring for the USB charging ports and lighting. These cables were neatly routed and secured in the factory wiring loops found along the perimeter of the roof. Some of the wires were routed to the future gaming console rack, and others to the front overhead storage area. We made sure to label all the wires we were running on both ends, so when it was time for all the connections, there would be no questions on what went where.
Overbuilt Monitor Mounts
The bus owner’s concept of having the monitors over the heads of the gamers was a great one, it maximizes the usable space in the bus. What wouldn’t be great, however, would be one of those monitors falling on some young gamer’s head! We wanted to make sure no one got hurt while in the care of the Game Zone so we made sure that our design for securing the monitors was over the top. We knew we would need some adjustability in where the mounting brackets would be positioned so we wanted to build in as much flexibility as possible. What we planned out was a 2×12 on each side that would be mounted with steel brackets we would fabricate. The brackets would give us numerous mounting points to make sure that the 2×12’s, and monitors they would eventually hold, were solid. We were thankful that there was a lot of exposed metal framing on the sides and top of the bus. These points gave us very secure mounting locations to bolt the brackets to. Once we had the brackets all bolted in, we were able to screw in the 2×12’s. To help hide any parts of it that might be seen after the monitors were installed, we painted the 2×12’s with a flat black paint.
Benches, Lots of Benches
Every now and then we are smart enough to realize that sometimes its ok to ask for help. In the instance of the benches for this bus, we happened to have a moment of enlightenment and realized we should get some help. We enlisted the help of a trusted friend with a cabinet making background to construct the benches for us. This would free up our time to focus on other parts of the bus. We worked together with the bus owner to come up with a design for the benches that would fit all the criteria, then handed off the plans to our friend.
We designed the benches to be in six pieces. This made the most sense for not only construction, installation and transportation, but also for the natural layout of the seating. The top of each bench would have two speakers and a USB charging port, to charge the controllers. We also made room at the top of each bench for two storage pockets, for convenient storage of game controllers. When drawing out the plans for the benches we noticed a big area of space under the seating area. After a brief chat with the bus owner, we learned that having a space where gamers could put their personal effects would be a bonus. So, we turned the bottom space into a storage area!
In addition to benches, we would also need a cabinet to house all of the game consoles, audio amplifier, etc. Once again, we were smart enough to ask for help and tapped our cabinet friend in for another round of fabrication. The goal was for the cabinet to serve its purpose and disappear in the bus. To that end, we planned for it to be completely black.
At this point we had all of the fabrication complete and parts ready for the next step. The next step was to begin the process of upholstering pieces in and out of the bus. When it was brought to us, the roof of the bus was shiny white. This would not go well with our goal of pushing the focus to the screens and ambient lighting. In order to change the color, and also help a bit with reflected noise, we used a low nap black carpet to cover the roof. This would help make it disappear, and also help the bus to be not quite so loud inside.
The next parts we had to cover were the long “walls” of the bus. We had created two long panels that would fill the space between the top of the benches and the bottom of the monitor support beams. To blacken them, and help with reflected sounds, we once again went with our black carpet.
The next to the last thing to be upholstered was the floor of the gaming bus. The color scheme for the interior was blue and black, so to define the walking space, we chose blue as the color for the floor. The carpet was glued down using a commercial grade adhesive, for long term durability.
Our final upholstery project was to cover the benches. We had outsourced the fabrication and upholstery of the bench cushions, but the benches themselves were something we chose to tackle. The cushions were going to be two-tone, with a blue stripe at the top of the backrest cushions, and the rest of that cushion and the bottom cushion being black. In keeping with that theme, we upholstered the tops of the benches in blue vinyl. This would complete the blue lines when looking down the length of the bus. The bottoms of the bench faces were upholstered in a black vinyl. Finishing off the bench upholstery was the inside floor of the bench storage areas. These were upholstered in the same blue carpet that we used on the bus floor.
Gaming Bus Assembly!
All the work we had done so far led to the final stage of the project, assembly! We first loaded in all of the benches into the gaming bus. Then they were fastened together with bolts. The whole bench assemblies were then carefully aligned and bolted through the floor. After the benches were installed, we then installed the side “walls” of the bus. These were fastened into wood pockets we had created on the back of the benches. The tops were screwed into the monitor support beams.
Now that the bench assemblies were in place, we could install all of the mounts for the monitors. Having the benches in place allowed us to properly align the brackets for maximum headroom of the players. We had researched the various mounts available and chose a mount that would securely hold the monitors, while allowing for adjustment, and removal for servicing. These brackets were installed into the 2×12 support beams with large lag bolts, to ensure they would stay in place.
With those items checked off our list, we were then able to install the cabinet that would house the gaming consoles. This was bolted the floor and secured to the side of the benches. We routed all the wires from the monitors and speakers into this cabinet.
Final Wiring and Lighting
The pieces were all in place, it was time for more wiring. We started the final wiring process with installing the speakers and USB ports in the tops of the benches. Rockford Fosgate Punch series coaxial speakers were chosen for their great sound, efficiency and rugged grille.
Our next step was to move on to the lighting. We added RGB lighting strips to the inside of each of the storage compartments under the seats. We also added strips along the monitor support beams, these lights would shine down below the monitors and “paint” the bus walls with color. The wiring for the lighting went to the front top storage compartment. There we installed a power supply and lighting controller. The final part of the lighting was to install the controller plate. This piece has a rotary knob that allows the user to adjust color, brightness and lighting patterns.
The bus owner was going to be in charge of installing all the game consoles in the cabinet. Our task in the cabinet was to route the power strips, organize the HDMI cables and install the audio amplifier and wire it up. The twelve-channel audio amplifier provides audio output to each of the six pair of Rockford Fosgate speakers, giving each station its own stereo sound. Independent volume controls on the amplifier allow the owner to tweak the audio settings for each zone.
Monitor Installation and Logo
One of the most exciting parts of the build was the installation of the monitors. Up to this point, the bus still didn’t look very complete inside. Adding the huge 55-inch monitors to the bus threw in a big heap of WOW factor. We were finally able to stand back and look at how awesome all of the pieces came together. One final piece we added at the very end was a cosmetic trim panel to cover over the breaker box in the rear of the bus, over the emergency exit door. We made a trapezoidal shaped cover that finished that area for a much cleaner look. We didn’t want to waste that extra space, so we took the opportunity to create a two-color acrylic sign on our CNC laser to add some branding to the interior of the bus. The final touch for the logo was some RGB LED perimeter lighting.
Gaming Bus Completion
If you have read some of our other build posts, you will notice that this project was much larger than our typical job. We had the gaming bus for about 2 weeks of intense work. More time was spent planning out the layout and wiring. In the end it was all worth it. We had radically transformed a shell of bus into killer gaming machine! The owner of the bus was thrilled with the work we had done and couldn’t wait to get it on the road and full of gamers. Normally we end our build logos suggesting if you want similar work done to call us or email us. For a project such as this one, though, please bring your bus by.