Regardless of the inauspicious climate created by the coronavurus pandemic, Legoland Windsor Resort has continued to invest in its infrastructure – including upgrading its 4D cinema and opening the UK’s first Flying Theatre attraction, Ride of the Sky Lion.

The new attraction is part of Legoland’s Mythica, an area inaugurated for the park’s reopening in early 2021. The Legoland production team overseeing the design and installation of the new ride looked to long-term audio supplier and consultant, Dave Shepherd of DS Audio for an audio system to accompany the experience. Shepherd specified EM Acoustics’ new flagship Reference Series R10 system.

The upgraded 4D cinemaShepherd’s brief was  to design a world-class sound system for the Flying Theatre ride with consideration to budget and future technical expansion. He began by researching US installations for known issues.

‘The ride includes a 15m high parabolic metal screen and three floors of moving gondolas to create an immersive flying experience through the World of Mythica,’ he explains. ‘With localised scent, water spray and wind devices on each gondola adding to the experience, it was essential that dynamic audio be an integral part.’

Shepherd’s research identified intelligibility as a known problem in similar rides in the US, which made loudspeaker choice and placement critical. ‘I recommended the R10s from EM Acoustics, as the almost clinical response of these loudspeakers combined with exceptionally low cabinet resonance compared to similar products, ensures the audio reaches the guests with minimal distruption from the perforated metal screen.

‘As the ride building was almost a perfect cube with limited acoustic treatment, the speaker had to do the vast share of the work in delivering intelligible audio,’ he continues. ‘With a highly dynamic musical score and dramatic sound effects, the rigging flexibility and choice of waveguides on the R10 played a key role in the solution. ‘We used ten R10s distributed behind the curved screen in such a manner that we avoided reflections from the screen itself and were able to position the audio exactly where it needed to be.’

To enhance the cinematic experience, three EM Acoustics S-218 subwoofers are used in a steered cardioid configuration at the base of the screen. EM Acoustics DQ Series amplifiers complete the installation.

Matt Phillips, Senior Project Manager at Merlin Entertainments (operator of Legoland Parks), oversaw the creation of the Mythica area, and in particular the Ride of the Sky Lion’: ‘It was apparent very early on in the process that DS Audio were innovative thinkers and would take care of the whole delivery from supplier liaison, to design, test and commissioning. The end result is absolutely world class – the audio system is simply breathtaking and I’m looking forward to working with Dave Shepherd for future projects.’

UK’s first Flying Theatre attraction, Ride of the Sky Lion

Following the completion of the ride, work began on upgrading the control system for the Lego Studio 4D cinema, which had been in place since 2003. Here, Shepherd specified the same Reference Series R10 enclosures for the main LR elements – a choice wholly endorsed by the production team. These complemented the existing EM Acoustics MSE-159 centre and EMS-81 fill speakers that were installed a few years ago to replace previous failed components of the system.

‘The flexibility and slim profile of the Reference Series loudspeakers allowed me to position them in a more suitable place than the existing speakers to give a more natural placement as part of the 15.1 system, as well as giving a vastly improved sound,’ Shepherd says.

In addition to the R10s, two S-218 subwoofers were installed to upgrade the LFE element of the system. ‘The uncompromised performance of the EM Acoustics products has bought new life to the 4D cinema, which had run on its original system since opening as a theatre in 1996, and was converted to a 4D cinema in 2003.’

‘The decision to use DS Audio and EM Acoustics was an easy one,’ says James Dobbs, Global Entertainment Manager for Legoland Parks. ‘EM Acoustics recently provided an upgrade at both our Harbour and Puppet Show venues, and the sound reproduction at both of those venues is excellent; it made total sense that they would provide the speakers for the 15.1 audio at the cinema, just as they did for Ride of the Sky Lion.

‘The audio system in the Mythica ride is nothing short of spectacular so it was a logical step to adopt a similar approach to the cinema. Rebuilding the system with 15.1 audio required out-of-box innovation and thinking, something that Dave is known for. I’m pleased to say that the systems for both attractions have proven to be reliable, sound great and, in the case of the cinema, look great – which as a venue operator is all you can ask for.’


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