Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ride Films

I saw an ad for a simulation ride the other day. I think motion simulators showing ride films are cool. Bigger motion simulators are cooler.

When my boys were little, we would make a point to go to the large, commerical, motion simulator thrill rides in amusement parks whenever a really good ride film came out.

You've maybe seen some of these simulator ride films. They are large rooms with anywhere from two to two hundred seats, each seat attached to hydraulic or electric actuators. The means move in several planes of motion quickly. When combined with the giant screen and loud, surround-sound sound effects, the motion effects are nearly perfect. It's like being on on a moving airplane, race car, out of control mine cart, and so on.

According to a fellow who seems to know a lot about building ride film simulators, the software that controls these things involves a concept called a "motion base." Better motion bases simulate more degrees of freedom during the ride film simulation. Degrees of freedom is tech-speak for how many directions the base can move, of a possible total of six.
Degrees of Freedom
Heave (move up/down)
Pitch (tilt forward and back)
Roll (tilt side to side)
Surge (move forward and back)
Sway (move side to side)
Yaw (do the twist)

Most entertainment bases are "three-DOF" - that is, they can pitch, heave, and roll. Some also have surge and hence are four-DOF's . A very few are six-DOF's, or have a different combination of fewer than six DOF's.

The movement and giant screen tricks the mind into thinking it is flying or riding along, when in reality it is pretty much stationary. The sensation is so realistic it motion sickness in supceptable people (like me) But if that happens, one needs only to close their eyes to make the queeziness go away.

I used to look forward to each new movie/simulation release. My favorite was "Red Rock Run" which was sort of a out of control ride through a Martian mining operation. The first one I remember seeing is "Alpha One Cowboy." According to Wikipedia, the best known ride simulation is Star Tours at Disney World. My list of favorite ride films:

  • Red Rock Run
  • Space Alpha Cowboy
  • Star Tours
  • Secrets of the Lost Temple

Readers are invited to comment with their favorite motion simulator ride films.


pt said...

it's not a film really, but the star trek motion ride in vegas at the hilton is good.

Martin said...

Star Tours opened in 1987 according to Wikipedia. As a kid in the late 70s, I rode a space-themed indoor roller coaster at one of the Disney parks. Incredibly cool! And now I begin to wonder -- was that a simulator?