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Thread: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

  1. #1
    Average Rocket Scientist Aero's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Chicago, IL

    Post Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    Aero's Guide To Mods

    Before I even get to the pre-intro, I would like to give a definition of Computer Modding. The best I have ever heard case modding described is from Paul “Crimson Sky” Capello's book, “Case modding is our expression of, and response to, the inevitability of our technological advancement. We are taming the hi-tech beast to help preserve, in some small way, our own fragile humanity”

    With that said, please note that this article is meant to inspire people's imaginations for mods. What I say here are tips for planning and designing, but please do not think a mod must be one of these.

    Ok, after talking with my friend for an hour or so tonight about modding I realized one of the hardest things for a new modder to do is to choose a theme. So after talking I decided I would write a little introduction for anyone who is interested in modding, but doesn't really know that much, or is having trouble finding a theme for a project. What is needed is a simple “Do's and Don't's of Modding”.

    Well, first thing to note is there are several different “themes” or classes of mods. But remember these are only generalizations, don't limit yourself to one type of mod, the moment you limit yourself is the moment you limit your mod.

    Ok, I decided to place Acrylic first because it is often the most abused case design. While there is nothing wrong with Acrylic, it is the easiest to mess up and go over board with. The easiest way to go overboard is with lighting. DO NOT go out and buy one of every color light you can. Green neon fans, with red cold cathode lighting, white LED's, and red, green, blue molex connectors don't make a great mod. Unless of course you really love the look .

    Heres a few rules to follow when using Acrylic, to keep from making common mistakes.

    1)Hide your cables well!
    Usually cables just make a case look messy, and with Acrylic this is only doubled. But hiding cables with a clear case can require a bit of imagination. One of the more popular Acrylic mods is the Orac³ mod.

    Everything is in plain sight but is still hidden.

    2)Keep lighting and neon colors to a minimum, a few LED's and fans are ok, but try to be smart with how you place them. Use colors that compliment each other, ie) green lights, red LED fans, with yellow and blue cold cathodes is proboly not a good idea :p.

    Other interesting Acrylic Mods are:

    Defyant's Storm'd


    Amberella's Lotus Blossum

    Recently a “Technological” class has become popular, I consider a “Technological” case anything that tries to remain elegant and sophisticated, while still looking high tech. Think Italian sports car. These often follow the maxim that simplicity is beautiful. Companies such as Lain Li are examples of these types of pre-mods.

    There are really a few steps that can be applied to almost any mod that really apply here. First of all, make everything Smooth. More so than in any other mod. To give a mod the futuristic feel thing should blend together. Take a look at Defyant's HP mods.

    Second, keep it clean. Hide your wires. Not only will this make your case look clean if you have a window, but it will increase air flow and help your computer run cooler.

    Now, if you are putting in a window, please don't use a window kit. While these may be fine for the average computer nerd, modding should have a special flair to it. Also, these often include a thick molding which if done right can look good, but generally looks odd. Windows can easily be made without molding if you take the time to properly finish the cut with files and sanding.

    An Excellent example of a clean no molding window is Vaantal's Metropolis Red.

    Metropolis Red also shows another design aspect besides simply no molding. Simply, its not a plain window. For some reason many a new modder thinks that a window needs to be square with a fan over the cpu. It doesn't have to be. Windows are often the most seen part of the case, make them interesting. Different shape windows also are important in themed based cases, such as Crimson Sky's Alien case.

    When designing a case, remember that a window need not be only a piece of clear acrylic. You can etch, sand, paint, or just about anything else to a window. Installing a window can be a complete mod in itself, but when added to a great paint job and creative design, several seemingly simple mods can create an amazing mod.

    So maybe you think Acrylic is too plain, and a smooth sophisticated case isn't for you either. You want something one of a kind. Something that simply looks different. Worry not, just build your own case, from scratch. Scratch built cases have been around for some time, but are building steam with smaller components available, computers are showing up in everything from toasters to toilets to cigar boxes.

    The biggest thing to remember when designing a scratch built case is airflow. Even if your going to water cool your CPU and graphics card, the Hard drive still gets quiet warn, and the Power Supply ain't a perpetual ice cube either. In a standard case it is important to plan for smooth airflow, usually entering the front, going over the HDD, then over the CPU or GPU and out the back. But in a custom built case you can move these around. Its often best to give 2 or more paths of air. Allow the air to come in, then split off, ½ to the CPU and GPU and ½ to the HDD. Crimson Sky's Nighthawk is a perfect example of good airflow design in a scratch built case.

    Air enters the case, and is the pulled over the HDD by one fan, and the PSU by another. He also used Aluminum for the HDD rack, Aluminum is a great conductor of heat and will help to dissipate it better than air flow alone. Also, it is very important to keep the airflow in and out of your case even. Most fans have a rating in cf, or cubic feet per minate. Try to keep the amount of ir you are bring in to the case equal to the amount of air coming out of the case.

    Ok, so you may not like acrylic, or technological, or scratch built. Maybe you want a case modeled after a game or movie. Well, no problem People are always building cases from movies or games. I think it would be a crime not to point out Crimson Sky's Doom 3 Project Mars City here. It is possibly the best game based mod I have seen.

    Well, theres not much to say about Project Mars City. If you have seen the work log join up on the forums at and check it out.

    Well, there are many think to look at when building a game or movie based case. The first step is easy. Play the game or watch the movie. If its a game, take screen shots and study level design, charaters, vehicles, weapons, everything. After you think you know the design well enough, pick an aspect you like. Be it a certain building, or vehicle. And then take more screen shot of that. Study it, see what mak it special or different. Then take those aspects and start drawing or modeling how you want to incorporate them in the case. If you like the fenders over the tires on car, or the way the amour looks, give it a place in your case. Remember this is your case, do what you like. Don't say, I think other people will like this, say I love this.

    One of the things that adds realism to thee cases are pieces taken from model kits. This is referred to as Kit bashing. No it doesn't involve a hammer and toy cars. Although it could. It generally means aking pieces from several kits and using them in the case. Its one of the things that gives Project Mars City its amazing realism. These pieces can be anywhere, even between the windows in Mars City.

    Well, I think that about wraps up this guide. The last thing I can stress is plan out your mod. If you custom building a case be sure to make sure the motherboard, HDD, PSU, basically make sure you won't build the case and have to have a separate DVD drive or PSU. Also aim high. Don't worry about something being to ambitious. If you have an idea you like go for it. You really don't have anything to loose. As usual if anyone has anything they would like added here just let me know and it will be added

    Mods reference in this guide:

    Lotus Blossom
    Metropolis Red
    HP-4 Flame'D
    Alien Case Mod
    Project NighHawk
    Doom 3 Project Mars City

    NOTE: You need to be a member of the forums at to view Doom3 Project Mars City and NightHawk. Also if you would like your mod removed from this for any reason or you would like to have the link to your mod changed to another site please let me know.

  2. #2
    Paradox Sausage DaveW's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Scotland, UK (NOT England)

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    *round of applause*

    That's actually some damn good info for the aspiring modder. More a list of what not to do than anything else, i think you've managed to point out every newb's biggest mistakes and slap a great big 'WRONG!' sticker on them all. Good show.

    computers are showing up in everything from toasters to toilets to cigar boxes.
    Computer in a toilet? Where?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdbnsn
    Ideas are just knowledge soaked in alcohol.
    Quote Originally Posted by jdbnsn
    Did I just get in a Volvo? Volvo's don't have guns!

  3. #3
    Average Rocket Scientist Aero's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Chicago, IL

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    Thanks Dave. I guess thats what I was going for.

    The next article is going to be about materials and tools, so it might take a bit longer :p.


    Oh and Toilet PC:

  4. #4

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    Great stuff, Aero.

    I'm so glad to see these guides poopping up on the forum here. All of them have been fantastic so far.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    its nice Aero it realy help'd me alot thanx for the guide .. I APPLAUD YOU !!!

  6. #6
    Woodworking unicycling bodybuilder tybrenis's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Doylestown, PA, United States

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    Very nice guide Aero! A great tutorial for newbs and beginners.
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveW View Post
    Jon has altered his cock to compensate.

  7. #7
    punk as **** public_eyesore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Pasadena, CA (NOT Canada...or Mexico)

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    nice job man

  8. #8
    Average Rocket Scientist Aero's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Chicago, IL

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    thanks guys. I'm glad it's helping some people. Also I'm working on a tool's list (look down about 6 threads). Which will be updated when I get internet next. (Out of town right now).

    Well, mod on yall.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    I would like to request a tools/materials list for moderate levels of modding. Do I need a dremel? Yes? What bits should I get? What kind of paint should I buy? How much does acrylic cost and where can I get it? Just a few of the questions that I am currently facing. Sure, these questions and more can be answered in various worklogs, but that would mean poring over many different worklogs as not every worklog uses the same tools or maybe not even all the tools.

  10. #10
    Water Cooled
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default Re: Aero's Guide to Modding Part 1- Design

    these questions and more can be answered in various worklogs, but that would mean poring over many different worklogs
    I think that's part of the fun. I think a major compulsion in this hobby is the "scrounge Factor" - picking something out of a trash bin/off a shelf and asking "Hmm how can I use this in a mod?".

    Prices will depend on where you are in the World. I have about 20 modding sites and doube that of suppliers of all kinds of things relating to modding, kit bashing, hacking, etc. If people don't explore they won't find new things.

    Depending on how much time you spend, you can probably absorb a lot of it in under a month. Good adventuring and have fun

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