Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Brogent: Up and away

In flying theaters and media-based attractions, Brogent soars

by Kevin Dazey

The flying theater format has established itself as one of the evergreen experiences in theme parks and as king of the media attractions genre,” says Stefan Rothaug, Marketing and Sales at Brogent Technologies. In fact, chances are good that visitors to flying theaters at theme parks or destination attractions will be riding Brogent. The manufacturer is a leader in the field, with some 35 Brogent i-Ride or m-Ride systems installed and operating around the world since 2010.

Stefan Rothaug

A flying theater is a type of motion simulator, combining immersive cinema (often on a dome or curved screen) with programmed motion and special effects. Configurations and seating arrangements will vary by size and type of venue, but a fundamental element is suspended seating, with guests’ feet dangling to reinforce the sense of flight (and fun). With all components well-executed and working in concert, a flying theater delivers, as Rothaug says, “a realistic and believable flight experience that is sure to excite and delight visitors of all ages” – in other words, a hit attraction that tends to attract multiple visits.

From apps to ascent

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Brogent’s roots are in the realm of software engineering for mobile phone app development. An AV-related project for Taiwan’s National Palace Museum provided the company with tools and experience to take into new markets. “The most important things that made Brogent become what it is today are the various experiences it acquired and the spirit of taking new challenges,” says Rothaug. “Over the past 22 years, market changes led us to explore new opportunities. Brogent became a leading manufacturer of not only the flying theater, but also media-based attractions.”

The popularity of the original flying theater (“Soarin’ Over California” at Disney’s California Adventure, which opened in 2001) suggested a promising new direction in attractions. Operators around the world got into the game, and Brogent was spurred to develop and market its own flying ride system. E-DA World theme park, when still in pre-opening development stages near Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, wanted a signature flying experience and found a willing partner in Brogent. After recruiting simulation technology professionals to the team and a few years of development, “Feeling Taiwan,” the very first “i-Ride” flying theater, debuted with the opening of E-DA World in 2010. “After the E-DA project, we seized another chance to deliver the first flying theater overseas – FlyOver Canada, a standalone attraction that opened in 2013 in Vancouver to great success and brought Brogent to the international market,” Rothaug says. FlyOver Canada, a Pursuit Collection attraction, brought together an attraction “dream team” including former Disney Imagineer Rick Rothschild of FAR Out! Creative Direction, Moment Factory, Christie, Sherpas Cinema and Six Degrees Music. Brogent had found a business niche wherein it could excel.

The “Rides”

At 24 installations to date, i-Ride, the initial Brogent flying theater design, continues to be adopted into a growing number of theaters at theme parks and standalone sites. The foundations of i-Ride are electric-powered motion bases with gondolas featuring suspended seating. Given that each ride vehicle is capable of six degrees of freedom (heave, surge, sway, roll, pitch, and yaw) it can be programmed to deliver a gentle or more dynamic experience depending on show type and intended audience, while 4D effects complete the package. The boarding operation is simple, directing guests to gondolas located on different levels of the theater. When the action begins, a railing is retracted and the gondolas slide toward the screen, plunging riders into the action with feet dangling. This modular setup does mean staffing all levels when at full capacity, but on slow days or in case of mechanical issues, individual gondolas can be taken out of service and others can remain operational.

Several years after creating i-Ride, Brogent introduced a second flying theater option, the m-Ride. It is more compact and requires less height than i-Ride, thereby able to serve additional markets and locations where space is more restricted. In comparison to i-Ride, m-Ride focuses on the pitch movement that enhances the thrill of falling actions. It also adds a spectacular reveal moment where riders rotate 180 degrees to face the screen.

Even with two flying theater ride systems to satisfy clients’ needs, Brogent had interest from venues where i-Ride and m-Ride were out of reach. Developing a third ride system has presented another opportunity to build on success and meet additional market demand, with o-Ride. “A flying theater often needs huge space in terms of width, depth, and height while budget is another major barrier. Therefore, the introduction of o-Ride is to overcome those challenges,” Rothaug explains. Announced in late 2022, the o-Ride stands as the company’s most economical flying theater system, while offering unique qualities. Rothaug adds, “The special design makes it more compact, but with the same capacity and flying experience. The compact design of the motion modules also makes it the ideal choice for locations or existing buildings with limited access during installation. With the introduction of o-Ride and multiple AV and content choices, Brogent is pleased to offer a full product range of flying theater systems.”

Now with three flying theater options in the catalog to suit varying budgets and spaces Brogent is in position to gain more momentum and reinforce its standing in the field. Per Rothaug, their success is due to multiple factors. “Brogent’s patented motion platform is designed to generate the smoothest and most agile movements to fulfill every motion needed from gliding to falling. Another factor is the ride’s storytelling and media elements that are carefully crafted to transport visitors to another world. Brogent’s flying theater systems are designed for maximum content flexibility, keeping audiences engaged with fresh scenes.”

Partnerships

Brogent has built robust partnerships as well as products in the flying theater space. The FlyOver series is an example. Following the original FlyOver Canada (2013) was a second collaboration, FlyOver America at Mall of America (Minneapolis, 2016), then FlyOver Iceland (Reykjavík, 2019). The next FlyOver launched in one of the entertainment capitals of the world – FlyOver Las Vegas, another standalone location, directly on the heavily foot-trafficked Strip (2021). The partnership continues; in 2024 Chicago’s Navy Pier will receive a FlyOver, and another will open in Canada at the base of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto’s entertainment district.

FlyOver Las Vegas takes guests over the American West landscape. Photo courtesy of Pursuit

LEGOLAND Florida Resort was the first to premiere m-Ride in 2019. Three more m-Rides would quickly follow in 2021 at other LEGOLAND properties in Denmark, England, and California. “We are very pleased to have long-term relationships with amazing clients such as FlyOver and LEGOLAND,” says Rothaug. “These close collaborations help us to grow and improve our products. They may have suggestions from an operator perspective for improvement or new ideas that can help us all stay fresh and innovative and keep audiences coming back. The brainstorming can extend to interior design, theming, ride system, and films.”

In regard to films, the proliferation of flying theaters has a side benefit of generating a custom content library that keeps expanding. “The more flying theaters our partners build, the more media content will be generated. It further enhances the movie library that can be shared or licensed,” says Rothaug.

More to explore

When tourism slowed in 2020 and 2021, Brogent ramped up its research and development (R&D) capacity to be in a strong position, ready to meet future demand once the leisure sector regained momentum. “We believed there would be huge growth in the tourism and amusement industry after the pandemic wound down,” says Rothaug. “Hence, the R&D team continued to build momentum and actively developed richer and more diverse high-end products, such as a new form of flying theater featuring an 8K LED dome screen and a hot air balloon simulator.”

Augmenting its leadership in flying theaters, Brogent also boasts a wide product portfolio of other types of media-based attractions. In early 2022 the first i-Ocean aquarium opened at the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology in Keelung, Taiwan. Described as a digital interactive aquarium, i-Ocean pairs marine life and interactive simulation technology. This project also further reinforces Brogent’s abilities in creating media content, and in theming design. Rise Up VR Airship made its debut in 2021, a VR experience utilizing a 6DOF motion base where up to four riders step into a hot air balloon-style basket, for a simulated journey to famous landmarks around the world. v-Ride360 offers a comparable experience, with or without a VR headset: a 360-degree, cylindrical screen that envelops a circular motion base to simulate a hot air balloon ride complete with 4D effects.

Rothaug notes that opportunity is ripe for media-based rides and experiences at all types of locations. “Media-based attractions have become increasingly popular in the entertainment industry and have become a major draw for theme parks, museums, and other entertainment venues. Leveraging the advantages of our motion platforms, advanced AV solutions, media content, and system integration, we developed other media-based rides of higher quality in the market.”

The last three years have also meant an enhanced focus for Brogent on further development of gaming-centric rides, most notably miRide, based around the company’s established electric-powered, 6DOF motion platform. “miRide is a one- of-a-kind racing simulator utilizing the mini 6DOF platform, steering wheel, and paddle control where gamers feel just as if they are truly driving on a real racetrack,” adds Rothaug. “Thanks to the competitive advantages and the extraordinary gaming experience we are bringing the miRide racing simulator to Hockenheimring, one of the most renowned racing circuits in Germany. This partnership is a huge step for Brogent to enter the world of eSports.” The miRide virtual F1 racing experience for Hockenheimring will be placed at the race track’s new welcome center and features a mini 4K LED dome screen.

Two specialized sales teams help to ensure satisfied Brogent clients around the world, throughout the entire process – from initial contact, to start-up, and beyond. “After the worldwide sales team finishes its duty of connection with clients, our after- sales team steps in to build and maintain the relationship,” says Rothaug. “This helps to foster trust and loyalty.”

While continuing to innovate and explore in new directions, Brogent remains committed to growing the flying theater space and finding new and better ways to serve operators. “Humans have always been fascinated with the idea of flight,” says Rothaug. “It is a dream that roots deeply in every culture and nation. Flying theaters offer a unique and thrilling way for people of all ages and nations to experience the sensation of flight. There remains huge potential for flying theaters as well as other forms of media- based attractions. We’re proud of our track record and stand ready for the next challenge.” • • •

Kevin Dazey ([email protected]) works in R&D at a manufacturing company and has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Wright State University. He writes for InPark about ride engineering and theme park operations. He enjoys hearing the design stories behind the rides along with all the technical details. Kevin is an active member of American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) and an avid vehicle hobbyist.

RiseUP combines a motion base platform with a curved LED screen to simulate a hot air balloon ride
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