|Shanghai/Shenzhen OCT dark ride. Photo courtesy Electrosonic.
Burbank, Calif. USA – As developer OCT builds and expands its network of theme parks throughout China, the company has called on Electrosonic to provide all the AV solutions for two new dark ride attractions at Happy Valley outside Shanghai and Window of the World in Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong. Although a thousand miles separate the theme parks, the two attractions were virtually identical in size and scope for Electrosonic, which supplied full projection systems and screens, the main show control system, 4D effects, audio and lighting. Electrosonic worked in concert with Huss Attractions who provided the complex ride system and brought in creative content producers Super 78 Studios.
Both attractions are movie-based dark rides featuring complex curved screens and a quad projection system with custom lenses, dynamic audio reinforcement and 4D effects. In Shanghai, “Flight of the Dragon” depicts an aerial journey over China showing vast landscapes, metropolitan areas, terraced farming and mountain ranges – sights that average Chinese theme park visitors may never get to see for themselves. Likewise, in Shenzhen, “Flying America” depicts the scenic U.S. from its cities and landmarks to its national parks and diverse terrain – vistas that even Chinese tourists travelling to America can’t expect to see in a single visit.
“Our main challenge was that OCT had never built attractions like this,” says Electrosonic project manager Thursby Pierce. “Add to that the usual logistics of shipping equipment into China and clearing customs – both very time-consuming processes.”
Each attraction features three ride arms with 30 seats per arm in rows of 10. Seats are at ground level at the start of the ride and then rise to vertical in the show position forming top, middle and bottom rows. The ride arms move synchronously with the video images and sound effects, giving the feeling of flying over the scenery of each country as wind effects, water sprits and scents are delivered at appropriate moments.
“We worked closely with the client and [ride-arm supplier] Huss Attractions to design the attractions to be as immersive as possible,” Pierce reports. “We served as lead designer for the placement of the vehicles in relation to the screens and projection systems, supplying information on how to configure the rooms and where to locate equipment.”
The show was written and directed by Brent Young of Super 78 Studios. The video system for each of the dark ride systems incorporates four Christie Roadster HD18Ks that project a stitched image onto an 80-foot diameter Spitz complex curved screen. The video is edge-blended and geometrically corrected to fit the screen. Content resides on a DVS server whose 24 drives efficiently stream media. Medialon show control uses SMPTE time code to sync the video with the audio and ride system.
Electrosonic furnished Back Stage Technologies’ 4D effects for the dark rides. A fan, water sprits and scents are attached to each seat and are used, for example, to give the illusion of flying, to simulate the mist of Niagara Falls and to emanate the fragrance of a pine forest in “Flying America.” The 4D effects are controlled by Medialon. Moving-light fixtures were also supplied for pre- and post-show effects along with show lights to facilitate loading the ride arms.
Peavey MediaMatrix systems provide digital audio signal processing. JBL speaker cabinets deliver 12 channels of audio to each attraction: 8 channels behind the perforated aluminum domed screen on catwalks and brackets plus subwoofers and left, right and rear surrounds. Electrosonic designed all the catwalk systems in both buildings to allow for easy speaker and lighting access.
Each attraction has two Electronic Equipment Rooms (EERs). The main EER is located above the ride vehicles, suspended from the ceiling, and also serves as the projection booth. The Medialon show controller, DVS server and Peavey audio DSP processor are housed in this rack. The second EER is at ground level and features the audio amplifier racks that feed the 7.1 theater surround sound system.
“All systems are accessible backstage so servicing can be performed during the shows,” Pierce notes. “We left room in the racks for more equipment should the client want to expand later, and there is a lot of space on the server to handle more content. We also provided additional space for racks and power service to accommodate future expansion.”
Pierce assembled an expert team to work on the Shanghai and Shenzhen projects. “Having Electrosonic offices in China was priceless. Gary Belshaw, from Electrosonic Hong Kong, was integral to the success of the attractions,” he says. “Gary took on crew chief duties, was onsite driving the local subcontractors and handled the show programming with help from Electrosonic engineer Tony Peugh.”
The rest of the Electrosonic team included: John Notarnicola who was responsible for projection design and set up and acted as projectionist; Stephen Scott who provided 3D CAD models of the domed screens and projection systems; Tim Smith who served as general engineer helping with audio design and the placement of the screens relative to the ride vehicles; and Nancy Liu from Electrosonic’s Shanghai office served as the client sales liaison.
Digitop Hong Kong provided site supervision and expert technical assistance at both venues. Shenzhen-based Artco furnished all installation labor and handled custom bracket fabrication for both attractions.