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Posts tagged “robb alvey

Why do we reward people for behaving badly?

Why I keep hearing stories like these is beyond me. But we do – and it’s important to know that they DO happen – but also that they are entirely preventable.

Earlier this month, a self-described “industry-leading enthusiast and blogger” live-tweeted horrible, insulting comments about guests at a park-sponsored event. Those posts have since gone viral in amusement and theme park circles, with all the comments criticizing the posts. The author has since claimed, “…they were a joke.”

People online didn’t buy it.

What’s truly scary – is that this is not the first time an incident like this has happened this year. During the spring, another “industry fan group” posted harassing comments towards a theme park’s public relations rep, after they refused to extend additional, special perks to them.

Why do we (as an industry) accept this is as “the new normal?” How does anyone or any organization like this continue to be rewarded for such egregious behavior?

Easy – because we allow them to.

We do it by clicking on their videos, their updates or subscribing to their social feeds. We invite them to media events, despite our misgivings. And we always seem to cave to their requests, even though we know better.

At what point are we – as an amusement and theme park community, both fan and employee – going to step up and say, “No more?”

No more body shaming of our fellow community members.

No more bad mouthing a park just because they didn’t extend perks to you.

No more clandestine filming or photography on rides, only to take said photos and videos and commercialize them without the park knowing.

And no more stealing of each other’s work.

It’s just a shame that those who are the problem in our community will never recognize it. Let’s help them see the light.

If members of our community (both groups and individuals) can’t handle the responsibility of being decent human beings, then it’s time for us as a community to rise up and deny them the privilege of being a part of our group. Stop clicking on their links, unsubscribe from their content.

Simply put, let’s stop supporting and rewarding poor behavior in our community, period. The general public might not affect change – but we can.

Who’s with me?


Roller Coaster Videos Moving From POV to Storytelling

There’s been a subtle, but noticeable trend recently when it comes to “roller coaster videos” online. And we think it’s for the better and far overdue.

While there are some that still continue to tape GoPros to the front of trains and then monetize (commericalize) their work – all without permits or sometimes without park knowledge – there is a growing trend among park fans to elevate the medium to a far more sophisticated level. What do I mean?

Well, check out this awesome, short documentary on Thunderbird at Holiday World:

Coupled with the work of Devin Olson Media, particularly on his “From Dreams to Screams” documentary series – the world of amusement fandom has gone from handheld ride footage to bona fide storytelling:

And we couldn’t be happier to see this trend. So, how can you help elevate the medium? Subscribe to these storytelling channels – while POV is fun, it’s telling a story that leaves a true mark on people.

Shameless plug: “Legacy of Arrow Development” documentary is still scheduled to make it’s debut later this year. Time to raise your game, everyone!


Insane Coaster Wars debuts new season, but still needs some off-season rehab

After filming all last summer, Indigo Films‘ “Insane Coaster Wars” debuted it’s third season last night – and I can’t help but comment on their latest “effort.”

The premise of the show, is a decent one – have people vote on specific aspects of certain rides, then rank them against other coasters around the world. Seems straightforward, right?

Experiencing a film date in St. Louis last summer.

At issue with most coaster and park enthusiasts (who make up a large number of the viewing audience) however, is the continued downgrade in quality of the traditional summer “coaster show” over the past few years. “Insane Coaster Wars” is just the latest in a string of low budget, low quality productions from powerhouses like the Travel Channel and Discovery. Just look at some of the reactions from last night’s debut:

Snip2 Snip3 snip4

So what can this show do to make itself better in the eyes of it’s core audience? Read on:

 

1.) Stop hiring actors and talk to real “coaster enthusiasts”

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who's also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who’s also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

SPOILER ALERT: Television isn’t what it always appears. Multiple sources have confirmed to this website that the “coaster enthusiasts” featured in each segment are actually…wait for it…local actors found on Craigslist, hired for around $300 each.

Yup, Craigslist. Home to “Casual NSA Encounters” and apparently beautiful & young roller coaster junkies. Didn’t you wonder why those featured riders always seemed to speak really good english…in the middle of Taiwan and Costa Rica?

Those “friends from college” who “visit the park all the time” – it’s usually their first trip ever to these parks. Yet, the graphic in the lower third clearly says they’re “Coaster Enthusiasts.”

Last night’s episode featured two “coaster enthusiasts” who had never been to Kennywood – and in fact, had not been to a park, “in years.” True enthusiasts don’t take years off – they rarely take months off.

What’s even more ironic – if the production company wanted to save  up to $1200 per segment (and it’s obvious they do) simply stop hiring actors – just call on the local region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts – not to just fill the seats, but to TALK on camera. Not only are many of our members familiar with being interviewed – we’ll do it for FREE!

Some of the phrases that are used by these actors must also drive park managers nuts. Things like, “I felt like it was about to fly off the track,” or “I can’t believe I survived,” really make PR Managers have GREAT days. Simple rule to follow: Never mention death or dismemberment on TV when referring to amusement parks. You don’t say “bomb” at airports and on planes…

 

2.) Compare rides “Apples to Apples” 

Outlaw Run and La Avalancha? How are those two rides even remotely similar? (They do both loop, but they’re built completely different). The best way I can describe it – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s as if the people in charge took suggestions from people who actually knew what they were talking about – then threw those papers up in the air, and randomly pulled out rides.

 

3.) Be wary of those who make money off parks

Robb Alvey – who was once the  “host” of the program –  has now been relegated to a “Creative Consultant” production credit off-screen (which is a major improvement in my humble opinion). That being said, his wife was featured on the premiere show as a coaster enthusiast, along with one of their friends. I’d call them non-actors, but both he and his wife have agents.

Now, doesn’t this scream nepotism to anyone else besides me? Then again, at least us true coaster enthusiasts know she actually is quite knowledgeable about the subject.  Too bad the producers edited her in a way that ensured she sounded just like any other clueless park guest.

Don’t even get me started on how his presence on the production team could directly influence his view count (and income) on his commercialized videos on YouTube…

 

4.) Allow park experts or bloggers to vote, not the general public

Let’s face it – most of these Craigslist actors (and indeed other park guests) don’t even know about the other rides they’re comparing, so how exactly can you compare them if you’ve never been on them…oh wait, isn’t that how the Mitch Hawker Poll runs? : )

 

Conclusion:

While the show did make some minor improvements and tweaks, it’s still the same copy / paste generic “coaster show” that’s polluted the airwaves for far too long. Yes, the POV is good, but it’s everything around it that just brings the show down.

If you’re looking to support a quality roller coaster / amusement park program, consider sharing our “Great American Thrills” concept with your favorite cable channel or production company. We promise the enthusiasts we feature – will actually know what they’re talking about:


Industry Leaders Support Great American Thrills

You’ve seen the recent support from coaster fan sites for Great American Thrills®, now – we’re proud to have industry leaders Irvine Ondrey Engineering stepping up and sharing our idea for a better amusement park travelogue show!

Industry leaders support Great American Thrills®

You know you’re onto something when fans of the industry you want to highlight like the idea – but when companies WORKING in the industry you’re looking to highlight want to help spread the word – that gives you an extra-special feeling.

I’m fairly certain “Insane Coaster Wars” (by Indigo Films) or “Ride-iculous” (by High Noon Entertainment) don’t have that sort of support from within the industry they’re covering; but then again, neither of those shows are as “authentic” as Great American Thrills®!

Thanks again, Irvine Ondrey Engineering – and remember, we can’t do this without YOU! Keep sharing the video with all your friends, family and favorite television networks – let’s get Great American Thrills® on the air, together!


Great American Thrills TV Pitch Gaining Steam!

This week, we were honored to watch as several of our friends in the amusement industry stood up and said, “WE WANT GREAT AMERICAN THRILLS® ON OUR TV’S!

From our friend, The Coaster Guy:

Kurt Dahlin, The Coaster Guy

To our friends on Screamscape:

screamscape capture

To our new friends at BehindtheThrills:

btt

It looks like the Great American Thrills® pitch is really gaining steam! We’ve also been contacted by several other sites interested in interviewing both Nicholas, Robert and I about the project – so stay tuned and KEEP SHARING THE VIDEO WITH YOUR FAVORITE CABLE CHANNELS!


Great American Thrills® Official Pitch

After months of planning and years of dreaming – I am proud to present the official “pitch” video for our Great American Thrills® concept:

But, we need YOUR help! We need you to share this video with all of your friends, family and websites that you visit, especially television social media pages, such as Discovery, Travel and Destination America. The more eyeballs that see it, the better the odds of it being discovered – so SHARE AWAY!

From our press release today:

NEW COASTER SHOW CONCEPT AIMS TO SHOWCASE AMERICA’S GREAT AMUSEMENT PARKS

 REDWOOD CITY, CA: Today, Kris Rowberry and Nicholas Laschkewitsch, producers of the popular “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, are proud to debut the official television “pitch” for their Great American Thrills® travelogue show concept. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeIJ6Kd__M0

The show follows host, Kris Rowberry, as he and his crew – headed by Laschkewitsch – travel the country to find their next thrill, based on suggestions and recommendations sent to them via social media, using the #GreatAmericanThrills hashtag.

“We all know social media is a huge part of our lives now,” said Rowberry. “So why not use it to its full potential – beyond just getting something trending?”

“Other shows may use hashtags or handles, but we’re the first one to utilize the medium to this level,” said Laschkewitsch. “In the process, we’re getting the authentic park experience from the people that know parks the best – their fans.”

Contributors to the show have the opportunity to join in on the fun: if their post is chosen, they get an automatic invite onto the show – which offers the chance to be on TV.

“We noticed that most ‘coaster shows’ have featured the same three parks,” said Rowberry. “We want to tell the stories and meet the people of the other 99% of amusement parks here in America.”

“When coaster enthusiasts aren’t watching the current slate of ‘coaster shows,’ that should tell you something,” said Laschkewitsch. “Our concept is simple: Bring back the passion of enjoying the great American amusement park, with the latest in modern technology.”

“But we can’t do this show alone,” said Rowberry. “We need fans of coasters and travel shows to tell their favorite cable networks they want to see Great American Thrills® on the air this summer!”

Both Rowberry and Laschkewitsch are proud members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, an organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of roller coasters worldwide.


Texas Giant: Leave the Speculation at Home

It’s only natural to want to try and speculate on what exactly happened last Friday night at Six Flags Over Texas. I’ve even caught myself doing it on occasion to friends or co-workers, who have asked me about the unfolding situation.

But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

With inaccurate eyewitness reports, the urge to find out as much information as possible before anyone else has it – we as humans tend to want to fill in the facts when there’s an unknown. The speculation had already begun today, as well as recommendations for change, despite not even knowing what exactly occurred.

People were already getting in front of the media, illustrating, “…where she fell out,” and were even calling for “Over the Shoulder Restraints” or OTSR on more rides, as if they would have clearly prevented this accident from occurring. All of this was being done without any formal information on what exactly happened.

Speculation can only lead us as a society to a skewed, unwarranted perception of the event. Currently, that misconception is: “…because someone died on a roller coaster – ALL OF THEM must be dangerous!”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is this, folks: You’re more likely to be hurt riding an ESCALATOR at the mall than you are on a looping roller coaster. Parks don’t want accidents – they want you to feel safe. It’s very much a “self-policing” industry. Gone are the days of the Roaring 20’s, where rides that killed became MORE popular.

While we live in an age of instant communication, instant answers – this is one event that we must wait for. Only time will tell what happens next in this investigation – but can’t we all just give this investigation just that, a little TIME?


Illegal POV Filming – When Will They Learn?

I hate to be a broken record – but if you’ve been reading my writings on illegal, handheld POV filming on rides – then watching this video should come as no surprise to you.

If you think filming on rides is harmless behavior – how would YOU like to be hit with a GoPro Hero3 at 55mph?

Thankfully, no one was apparently injured in this situation.

Here’s the kicker – while the ride starts well after the train has been dispatched and out of the eyesight of ride employees – the lift has not one, but TWO cameras on it. There’s got to be a better way of preventing this – and there is!


Advertising in an Amusement Park – Practice what you Preach!

This large, banner ad is currently up at Six Flags Over Texas, hanging on the outside of the “La Vibora” bobsled coaster station. It’s promoting MetroPCS – but the cute green Android figures aren’t what caught my eye…it’s the fact that the ad is encouraging people to have their phones out on rides:

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

It’s okay to film and photograph on rides with your phone, according to this ad – but not according to park rules and announcements.

Don’t believe me? Check out the figure with the “M” on their shirt. Yup. They’re snapping a photo while the ride is going. What’s even more troubling – they’re snapping a photo on what appears to be a swing ride – an attraction that had just debuted when I visited this year (2013); in fact, it’s the tallest in the world at 400 feet.

It also happens to be located next to the main roadway entrance to the park. Boy, that be a heck of a way to start your day when you’re driving into the park and your windshield shatters from a loose cell phone, don’t you think?

If you’ve read my previous post on this topic, this epidemic of cell phone filming is only going to become worse as the Millennial generation becomes of the age to own a cell phone. Showing ads like this, then telling them to not have loose articles aboard the ride? It just wreaks of, “What were they thinking?!?” and it’s just plain DUMB in my opinion.

Seriously – how did this ad proof get by both the corporate offices AND the local marketing officials?!?

“But loose cell phones never hit people or fall out of hands! They’re not as big of a threat as you make them out to be!”

I probably would have confided to you that I’ve never seen an injury as a result of a phone getting loose and hitting someone…though I do have proof that phones are coming loose:

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Cell phone carnage under Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast at Six Flags St. Louis.

That was before this past weekend, however. That’s when I DID witness several people get injured by a loose cell phone at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The guest whipped out their cell phone after concealing it on the “Double Shot” freefall tower attraction just as it launched – and wouldn’t you know it – the phone got loose, fell 125 feet and promptly smashed into guests waiting in line.

This madness simply has to stop – before someone else is either injured or outright KILLED by a flying, loose article. Ads like this aren’t doing the parks any favors. They’re literally shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.

“I think you’re reading into this ad a little too much – people don’t get encouraged by ads or do what they say…”

You sure about that? Because I’m lovin’ it.

You thought of McDonald’s just now, didn’t you? Feeling a bit hungry all of a sudden? As much as we don’ t like to think it, advertising is a very powerful tool to control behavior – so to encourage the very behavior you’re trying to eliminate in your safety spiels and park map rules is well – not the smartest move in my book.

My point is this – advertise all you want to your guests, but at the very least, practice what you preach!

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


How to use YouTube to Combat Cell Phones on Coasters

Seems counter intuitive, right? How can the very thing that allows dangerous, illegal POV video to be so popular be used to stop it? Well, read on and find out:

Arguably, cell phones are one of the greatest inventions of the past century – the convenience of being on contact whenever, where ever. The freedom to upload photos and videos at any moment – including while guests are on your rides and attractions.

You don’t have to hear me tell you that cell phone filming on rides is an epidemic in our industry. It’s pushing insurance premiums higher and higher. A projectile of that density, loose at 65mph could be several injury lawsuits just waiting to happen, not to mention the bad publicity in the media.

Before the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster even opened to the public at California’s Great America this past month, guests were seen filming on the ride using cell phones. When opening day came, the second train of the day that featured general public passengers had three (3) cell phones out.

“But we already provide guests with storage options while they’re on rides!”

Sadly, that doesn’t matter. The mentality of guests today, specifically Millennials, is to not experience the ride they’re on, but to record and share the experience with all their friends. The more “Likes” on Facebook, the higher “Thumbs Up “ count on YouTube, the better.

 “But, it’s free publicity!” 

Yes, it is free publicity – telling everyone online that it’s okay to film on your rides – and risk the safety of everyone around them. It’s nothing a good marketing campaign of your own marketing team couldn’t accomplish (see #3).

So how then, does your park stop this major liability and potentially lower your insurance premiums at the same time? It’s actually a simple, three step process:

1.)  When it Comes to your Park’s Policies, “Grow a Pair”

Stark as it is, it needs to be said. For so many years, park guests have received warnings about what NOT to do at a park. They’ve received so many that they’ve become complacent to them. A good comparison would be to think about the last time you actually picked up a safety card in an airplane and read it. That’s the same mentality going on with your younger guests.

Also to consider – Millennials expect warnings. They’re willing to go right up to the warning and only back down when confronted. This is a generation where “everybody’s a winner,” and there’s little to no consequences to their actions. If your sign says “anyone caught with a camera on a ride will be removed from the park” then DO IT. (While deleting or confiscating the offending device.) The only way to change guests’ behavior is to show them that you mean business.

For example, Six Flags New England has a single warning sign at every high profile attraction. It reads, “Any cell phone or filming on this ride will result in immediate ejection from the park, no refunds and a 5 year ban from the park.” That gets people’s attention. In addition, all of their ride auto spiels also include a warning: “Anyone using a cell phone or MP3 payer to record while on the ride is subject to immediate dismissal from the park by Six Flags Security.”

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk goes a step further. Ride attendants actively monitor the lift hill of the Giant Dipper roller coaster via security video. If a cell phone or other recording device is seen, the ride is immediately stopped and will not start again until the offending device is put away. If the device re-appears after the lift, security is called to wait at the station, takes away any tickets or passes the guest may have and is escorted immediately off park property.

Now that you’ve taken the first steps to stem the flow of content at the source, it’s time to move onto where the content lives…online.

2.)  Actively monitor and police social media, especially YouTube.

This should go without saying, especially if you read my last post – but if you don’t watch your social media channels continuously, you’re in for a shock…

What’s your signature ride at your park? Go ahead and search it on YouTube, I’ll wait…

Okay, you’re back? Great – how many results came up? Each one of those videos are potential lawsuits from injured guests, who will blame you for allowing people to film on rides. The real scary part – these are only the videos that were tagged properly on YouTube – many more could potentially exist without proper tagging or incorrect spellings. (Not to mention Facebook videos as well.)

Remember, this is your property people are filming on. You are well within your rights as a park to have videos on YouTube flagged or taken down for safety, security or other reasons.

Use the ban as an opportunity. In the complaint, be sure to add a link to an authorized POV (point of view) video that came from the park, with a friendly reminder to not film on rides.

Some park-centric websites have gone so far as to monetize videos filmed at parks . Yes, you heard me correctly – they were filming commercially – and they paid none of your fees, had no insurance coverage AND you didn’t even know they were there. You wouldn’t allow a film crew to just wander around the park without your spokesperson, so why would you allow this?

3.)  Film (and share liberally) professional, on-ride video that you created or authorized.

Gone are the days of needing a film crew, jibs, cranes and more when it comes to making high quality video. A simple GoPro Hero with accompanying mounts will run your department about $400-$450 after tax. That’s a small price to pay to avoid millions in lawsuits.

Mount the camera on either the handlebars of the front car, or via the suction cup mount to a flat, non-porous surface. Duct tape can be used to stabilize the rig, but it’s not necessary in many cases. Never use any footage that could come across as shaky, or handheld. You’ll run the risk of having it look too much like a cell phone video; guests will be only encouraged to film on their own.

Now that you have authorized POV, post your video everywhere – not just on YouTube. Link to it via your other social media outlets – have it available for download for free (just be sure you include your personal watermark to show it’s really from the park). Have a QR code posted near the ride exit, so guests can scan it and receive a link to the video. It takes the work (and risk) of filming on a ride out of the hands of the guests – it’s already been done for them!

Combine that with active monitoring and better training for ride attendants, and you’ll see a significant decrease in after the ride and receive it on their phone. Take all the work out of guests filming and put it on yourself – you will see results quickly and hopefully, watch your insurance premiums decrease as well.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


The Good, the Bad and the Illegal Coaster POV

No, that THAT type of POV pervs…I’m talking about roller coaster POV! (Sorry to disappoint you – but you DID read the blog subject, right?!?)

Have you ever watched roller coaster point of view video or POV online before? Lord knows I certainly have. Ever wondered why the videos are sometimes jolty or always start AFTER the ride has started? Today, I want to show you how to identify good coaster POV, bad POV and illegal ride POV.

You can watch the video here: http://youtu.be/UJ2GjHIOJvM

POV has been around since the dawn of the motion picture – but it really gained notoriety after it was featured in the 1950’s film “This is Cinerama.” It saw its greatest surge in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when Discovery Channel began featuring it regularly on Memorial Day. When Robb Alvey started producing on-ride videos from parks he visited, POV saw an even bigger surge. The internet is now awash with RIDE footage from thousands of users – thanks to cameras becoming smaller and more powerful. It’s become incredibly easy for anyone to film, well, anything. But does that make it right? Let’s find out…

Many parks have had to enact policies that discourage loose articles, especially cameras. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk will stop the Giant Dipper on its lift hill if operators see someone with a camera or cell phone trying to recording video. Expect a greeting and escort from security if you whip it out after the lift, by the way.

So, how do you stop this dangerous practice and keep your fellow guests safe? Simple – stop supporting it. If you see any of the tell-tale signs of illegal coaster POV, don’t keep watching it – unsubscribe from that user’s YouTube channel. You’ll keep admission process down and keep the line moving!