#VR: Along for the Dark VRide

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As we all know, immersive experiences aren’t new. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember being trampled by a herd of horses of the American West as you held on to the railing at Disneyland’s Circle-Vision 360°watching “America the Beautiful.” Or, maybe the 3D Captain EO butt rumbling ride into outer space starring Michael Jackson. Maybe you jumped into Universal’s motion dark ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” in Orlando. (Coming to Universal Studios sometime in 2016.) Relative to VR production, the VRush is on with new entrants popping up seemingly every week along side VFX companies, tools companies, VR “studios” and traditional production companies. Last week however I decided to pay a visit to one of the best themed entertainment companies knowing in my gut that there was much to be learned from 3D/4D dark ride creators. After all, for my money they represent a great marriage of immersive story and technology. I was inspired and ignited. VR had already revolutionized their business from a previs perspective allowing their clients to don a HMD and be in the ride long before production began. Now the opportunity for them to move into VR production not only seems logical, it seems destined.

The companies creating theme park attractions all over the world already possess a basic understanding of what I call “immersive forward moving narrative,” which some consider to be the biggest challenge in VR storytelling. All these experiences have one thing in common. They are story-driven. And, these companies have developed technology, tool sets, production processes and best practices that can actually be ported into VR. The same holds true for the rides themselves with modification of the assets.

Dark rides have continued to push the envelope in the last decade. Take a look at the list of the Top Ten Dark Rides compiled by @incrediblecoasters. Please note that not all coasters are dark rides and not all dark rides are coasters but they’ll explain that. Then visit Triotech’s site for their award winning XD Dark Ride. As you learn about and watch videos of these dark rides imagine the skill set applied to VR Storytelling.

Five years ago while meeting with the same company I met with last week I postulated that within the next decade or so you would be able to have these experiences in your home. We are certainly headed in that direction thanks to VR and haptic development.

Meanwhile the collaboration between storytellers and 3D/4D themed entertainment companies offers yet another path to VR production.