Fans visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood may have noticed a big change that’s been made to the Forbidden Journey attraction. The projected segments have been upgraded to vibrant 4K, and the ride no longer features 3-D media.
When the gates to Hogsmeade opened last spring here in Los Angeles, it was the third iteration of the Warner Bros./Universal endeavor – the first being in Orlando in 2010, and the second in Japan in 2014. While each version of Hogsmeade features the massive Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction, the Southern California installation was unique in that the projected media guests encounter throughout the ride was presented in 3-D. Riders had to wear “Quidditch goggles” for the duration of the experience; customized 3-D glasses made exclusively for Universal Studios Hollywood. The added component of 3-D media was met with mixed reviews. Some fans felt that it absolutely pulled them further into the suspension of disbelief while on the ride; others felt the glasses were distracting, and felt they were wearing “blinders”, which made them miss a good portion of the ride’s detailed practical sets.
Universal Creative hoped that the use of 3-D in Forbidden Journey would make the transition between its elaborate practical scenes and those that are completely digital cohesive and less visually jarring for riders. While it certainly was an exciting and ambitious effort, at the end of the day, it really didn’t make that much of a difference in the overall ride experience; certainly not enough to justify the additional operational costs involved. The company still wanted a more “realistic” presentation of the ride’s media sequences, and the notion of converting the footage to 4K took hold. By December of 2016, the 3-D element was gone, and fans could tell things were changing inside the attraction.
In the months to come, each of the “media domes” where most of the ride’s action sequences take place were converted to ultra-sharp 4K projection. In addition to the upgrade in resolution, the frame rate of the digital media was doubled from 60 frames per second to 120 frames per second; that high frame (HFR) rate gives the sequences a “you are there” look – it’s very smooth and looks really good. I’m a big fan of attractions that use HFR such as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, and now Forbidden Journey here at Universal Studios Hollywood. The colors pop, the images are very crisp and clean, and we don’t miss the 3-D element whatsoever.
During the recent downtime to convert the attraction to 4K, other tweaks were made – and continued to be adjusted over the last couple of months, including changes to show lighting throughout the ride, and better covered sightline issues that became very visible without wearing the 3-D glasses. Forbidden Journey looks fantastic now; it wouldn’t surprise us if both Orlando and Japan eventually convert to the 4K projections as well.
If it’s been a while since you joined Harry and the gang for ride on Forbidden Journey here in Los Angeles, it’s time to change that. You will see a major difference in the quality of digital media. Congratulations to Universal Creative on a job well done. We love The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and these upgrades have made the entire experience even more magical!
- Rick West