£26 million buys you a whole lot of roller coaster. Need an example? Just look at Universal Studio's newest 3D mega-attraction, Transformers: The Ride.
The attraction is the latest to be based on a proprietary ride technology that Universal pinoreered back in the 1990's with The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride in Orlando — described as a "flight simulator on a track" system. Simply put, "This is without a doubt the most technically advanced ride that Universal Studios has ever done," said Chick Russell, Universal Creative's show producer.
The six-minute ride utilises a fleet of motion-platform vehicles, capable of pitching rolling and rotating 360 degrees, to carry a dozen thrill-seekers at a time through the heart of a simulated Autobot vs. Decepticon firefight. In actuality, guests are whisked about a 5,600 square metre building along 600m of track in front of 18m tall photorealistic 3D Transformers while gently being lifted as much as two stories into the air to follow the onscreen action.
The fight takes place on 14 individual screens — an oversized front and rear, as well as miscellaneous compound curved and additional flat panels to deepen the audience immersion. "When you go see a movie, even if you bring something forward in the screen, it's always going to be cut off by the border of the screen," explains Jeff White, one of the visual effects supervisors at Industrial Light and Magic who's worked on all three Transformers films, as well as the new ride. "The ride was entirely new for us. The audience can't see the edges of the screen, so we can bring our characters as far forward in 3-D as we wanted to."
Images are displayed in stunning 4k x 4k resolution — that's quadruple what you get in a normal 3D flick — through an array of 34 Christie projectors with custom 3D lenses. The images were painstakingly rendered by ILM over a span of two years. "Almost all of our work is in 3D. The Transformers, the robots, the backgrounds -- all of it is the heaviest, most complicated characters we can possibly work with," said White. "Optimus on the first film was over 10,000 pieces — every robot is easily over a million polygons."
"We were using every single server and computer that ILM had. This was the most complex project ILM ever worked on." Russell, who previously worked on the wildly popular Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, said. In addition to the incredible visuals, each car sports 5000-watt, 14-channel audio. It's like being Shia LaBeouf for a few minutes, without having to hate yourself.
Image credit: Universal Studios Hollywood
The ride's creators are interviewed at the ride's debut.
a behind the scenes look at the making of the ride.