Alton Towers Resort is well known for building ‘world’s first’ attractions, and its latest addition is no different. Towering over the Staffordshire theme park is a new wooden rollercoaster dubbed Wicker Man, and despite its construction, it uses real fire to wow all those who ride it.

We know what you’re thinking – fire and wood hardly seem like the perfect pairing, but it’s pulled off through elaborate special effects, and a few tricks. While there is real fire, it’s kept far away from any combustible materials, and the ‘fire’ that is seen within the Wicker Man statue is in fact a clever effect created using a ProLights AlphaPIX video system.

To get the desired effect, Alton Towers Resort turned to A.C. Entertainment Technologies to assist with specifying and supplying a solution that would complement the real flames to get flame-like effects even closer to riders. Alex Tweedie, Alton Tower’s entertainment technical manager, has had a long-standing relationship with AC-ET, so knew it would have the right solutions to achieve the desired effect. After discussing the details of the project with Chris Beardwell from AC-ET’s specialist video sales division, projection was discounted as it would not be bright enough during daylight.

Chris recommended the ProLights AlphaPIX 6T LED display, featuring 5,500 nits worth of brightness to be effective in daylight, IP65 rating, and a 6.6mm pitch option offering the best balance between a convincing fire effect and meeting the tight budget.

Based on the specification, Alex initially ordered 20 of the 640mm x 720mm modular panels, which were configured in various ‘Tetris-like’ clusters of different shapes and sizes around the Wicker Man structure – including overhead when the ride passes through its chest. Alton Towers Resort was so impressed with the spectacular flame effect that they ordered another 20 panels for the ride.

AC-ET supplied the complete video system, which also included two Novastar VX4S controllers linking the video panels to a Green Hippo Hippotizer V4 Amba media server running the flame effect content; all power and EtherCon Ethernet control cabling, which was assembled to specification and custom lengths by AC-ET’s in-house Tourflex Cabling service; as well as a second Amba server to run content in the ride pre-show area.

Working alongside Chris, Peter Nesbitt in AC-ET’s specialist lighting sales division specified various luminaires to help create the right atmosphere for sales opportunities when passengers exited the Wicker Man ride through a gift shop featuring branded merchandise.

The lighting package included ProLights Eclipse HD LED Ellipsoidals, ProLights Accent 1Q LED washlights, City Theatrical Qolor FLEX RGBA LED light strips and ProLights Panorama IP Beam moving lights to provide effects during a media launch event.

Alex Tweedie comments: “Everyone involved with the ride is really pleased with the technology solutions provided by A.C. The ProLights panels do a fantastic job of convincing visitors that the Wicker Man structure is really on fire. Along with the excellent lighting recommendations, A.C.’s product specialists have once again delivered a first-class service which met our project needs perfectly.”

It seems that the solution has been a rousing success for the Alton Towers Resort, as the company has had to contend with several issues plaguing the real fire since its opening date just over a month ago. That means that while guests visiting the attraction won’t be able to enjoy a real flame, they will still get the effect of the Wicker Man being on fire thanks to AC-ET’s solution.

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