Genk, Belgium, 2nd August 2019 – Painting with Light, the Belgian-based light technology specialist, successfully infuses dark rides with their light technology expertise. It involves more than putting some bulbs and light fixtures but requires a deep understanding of ride dynamics. Light specialists need to consider visitor perspectives and angles during the entire ride, as well as story development throughout the different scenes. Alongside sound and other effects, the lighting adds dramatical and theatrical impact, enhancing the overall visitor experience.
According to theme park design authority David Younger ‘A dark ride is a predominantly indoor tracked attraction through sets, taking its name not from being dark inside, but because of the use of artificial illumination throughout: without it, the attraction would be totally dark.’ This clearly illustrates the importance of carefully planned and sophisticated light technology in dark rides.
Crucial light element in dark rides
Painting with Light successfully worked on several Alterface dark rides like Bazyliszek, which received multiple awards, including Thea Awards, Park World Excellence and Star Awards. Most recently the team was commissioned by Alterface for the light technology at the new Popcorn Revenge dark ride in Walibi Belgium, a theme park owned by French entertainment group Compagnie des Alpes.
The Painting with Light experts designed and installed the complete lighting infrastructure for this ride, illustrating the diverse skill sets and experiences offered by its experts working on both entertainment and architectural lighting projects. This brought a dynamic ‘crossover’ theatrical-environmental approach to lighting the different ride areas, adding to the atmosphere, fun and animated buzz.
For Popcorn Revenge, the light specialists needed to drill down into the whole experience and sensory journey in detail before even starting to specify lighting fixtures. “We really had to get our heads inside the psychology of the Popcorn Revenge characters and storyline.“ says Luc Peumans, CEO of Painting with Light.
Popcorn Revenge marks the world premiere of the innovative non-linear Erratic Ride, routing vehicles via different paths and rooms, each time giving visitors another experience. Alterface CEO & Founder Benoit Cornet comments: “The importance of lighting a dark ride is often underestimated, yet it’s a crucial element to enhance visitor experiences. It’s been a pleasure for Alterface to work with Painting with Light, infusing our interactive attractions with their valuable expertise.”
Ultimate dark ride experience
The main general requirement was that lighting enhance and support the highly detailed video action appearing on the screen in each space, plus additional elaborate scenic elements. It had to help ramp up the gameplay and blend seamlessly with other visual elements to give everyone that ‘ultimate dark ride experience’. Eleven areas in total needed imaginative lighting, including the individual theatre spaces through which the ride cars pass plus the queuing area and car loading station where up six people are allocated to each vehicle.
The complexity of detail required was probably the most exacting challenge. After receiving the technical drawings of the scenery and descriptions of the visual material in each space, this was translated into a technical lighting design, including illustrations of how the lights would be used and explanations of practical aspects like cabling and maintenance.
Maintaining flexibility in the lighting design was another major challenge. All the movies playing in the theatres might be changed or modified in the future, so lighting had to be thought through not just for what is there now, but potential updates or reworks yet to come.
The Painting with Light team chose a mix of architectural and show lighting fixture: Most of the architectural units highlight the many highly detailed decor aspects of the ride. In the theatres, effects lights are instrumental in building a sense of anticipation throughout the all-action ride.
The right light for every mood
“Every area needed a unique combination of fixtures. With the architectural and décor lighting being an essential element of the ‘show’, a fine balance of the two treatments was required” explains Luc Peumans. “Finding this synergy was one of the main overall challenges, and an area in which Painting with Light excels by adding luminescent magic!”
The dispatch area itself features four different moods – black light and UV denotes the ‘darkness’ and suspense; ‘angry’ is evoked with blue chasing lights; ‘happy’ sees the space lit with bright and positive colours and then there is ‘melodrama’ when the lighting descends into a gawdy, chaotic atmosphere with flashing and clashing colours.
Over 100 Gantom LED fixtures light the primary architectural areas, eighty Gantom DMX RGBW Floods are deployed ride- wide for highlighting and accenting props, curtains and other set pieces. Six Gantom Precision Z Spots in cool whites are picking out the graveyard theatre space spiders webs, bringing their intricacy alive with crisp bluish tints. Gantom One Pinspots are used in all the theatre spaces, ‘crowning’ the tops of the stages, and six Gantom Precision Z Floods are deployed lighting the popcorn machine outlets in the queuing areas.
Luc Peumans concludes: “We have again enjoyed some great teamwork, creativity and fusion of ideas and skills with Alterface and the other expert partners! Together we collectively produced a world class attraction that is a huge succes and a whole lot of fun for the park visitors!”