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VDC on handling the rigours of the theme park environment

Adam Jafrabadi, export and technical consultant at VDC Trading, reveals the combination of factors behind theme park projects and how to maintain customer interest over repeat visits.

Adam Jafrabadi, export and technical consultant at VDC Trading, reveals the combination of factors behind theme park projects and how to maintain customer interest over repeat visits.

What are some of the challenges unique to working on theme park projects?

One of the key challenges with theme parks is the need for reliable technology that can operate on a 24/7 basis for a significant period of time. Any breakdown in rides is going to negatively affect the customer experience and cost the venue money so it’s crucial that all installed kit is of the highest standard and is able to handle this rigorous environment.

In addition, many theme park upgrades have to be completed to very tight deadlines in the park’s close season, something that can be a challenge when the venue is trying something new for the first time. For example, VDC recently completed a project for Derren Brown’s Ghost Train at Thorpe Park. This unique ride combines live action, VR and show scenes yet time was very tight to come up with a custom solution that would guarantee ride reliability. Listening to the venue’s needs and developing a close relationship with the venue’s in-house AV team was crucial to the project’s success.

How has the technology requirement in theme park installs changed over the last few years?

There hasn’t been a huge change in technology requirements in theme parks in recent years. There has always been a need to deliver an experience that visitors can’t get at home and that continues to this day – the only difference is that personal technology has developed visitor attractions need to ensure they can exceed this. It is also important that theme parks can maintain customer interest over multiple visits – this being the case, the technology should, in some ways, be secondary to the story that is being told and the experience the visitor should be enjoying. The theme park industry has been at the forefront of technological developments for many years and we believe this will continue to be the case going forward as the focus remains on creating the best possible customer experience.

What are some of the emerging technology trends you are seeing across the theme park sector?

Virtual reality, 4D/5D and the increase in immersive experiences are just some of the trends we’re currently seeing. Again, visitors to theme parks these days expect a unique experience and VR is a great way to change elements of a ride without having to invest in a whole new infrastructure. Going forward it’s likely that many established rides will invest in a VR element to offer something new to returning visitors, something that is already the case with Derren Brown’ s Ghost Train.

There is also a continued focus on quality in theme parks, whether that’s the latest in projection technology, the need for high-end sound or the very best in storytelling, the key thing is that all elements come together to create a unique, engaging experience that will encourage visitors to return again and again.

Tell us about a recent installation project that highlights VDC’s expertise in the theme park sector.

Jonny Burns, show services technical manager at Thorpe Park Resort, explained: “Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon takes guests through a multi-sensory experience and is a technological feat in terms of theme park technology. For the 2017 season following guest feedback for more scares, we decided to bring a more realistic technology experience to life within the 20 tonne suspended carriage, so we revisited sections of the ride to make it fully immersive. VDC supported us in our journey to accomplish this.

“VDC were instrumental in listening to our ideas and then exploring many options; it was obvious when they came in they had the knowledge and know-how to work with us to give guests an even better rider experience.”

Adam Jafrabadi added: “After meeting with the engineers at Thorpe Park and discussing their plans for the 2017 season we were able to make a couple of prototypes and, after a few tweaks and upgrades, we came up with a custom solution that fulfilled the brief.”

Since the ride has reopened, guest feedback has been positive: “Guests have been thrilled with the changes,” concluded Burns. “Working with VDC has allowed us to deliver the scares and the immersive experience that our guests crave.”

Picture: Daniel Lewis