Time-Lapse Trends: roller coasters

Above: the iconic Corkscrew roller coaster at Alton Towers, captured before its demolition.

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

Often found in theme parks around the world, roller coasters are formed of miles of elevated track, offering tight turns, loops and excessive speeds for the adrenalin junkies among us.

An exciting leisure activity, roller coasters in their various forms provide remarkable subjects for time-lapse capture.

We thought we would begin with our own time-lapse solutions, having been commissioned to capture several major roller coaster builds.

A trend in our own work

‘The Smiler’, which cost £18m to complete, is the world’s first 14-loop rollercoaster. We time-lapsed the construction of this world-first attraction at Alton Towers – one of the most popular theme park resorts in the UK.

Taking nine months to build, we documented each vital stage of this project – beginning with initial excavation works, the construction of the roller coaster itself, and even featured footage of The Smiler in action.

But time-lapsing roller coasters does not always involve the ride in motion and its construction; it can also be applied to capture its disassembly.

Another roller coaster build we time-lapsed at the resort – Th13teen – could not have been built if it were not for the demolition of what came before it: the iconic Corkscrew, at the time Alton Towers’ oldest ride. Installing our camera system in a position that looked right down the helix of this world famous attraction, we ensured that we could capture an expert rendering to preserve the memory of the Corkscrew.

Public interest

Roller coaster time-lapses are also being used more frequently as part of marketing initiatives and other commercial efforts to help build up hype about particular openings.

Alton Towers featured our time-lapse video of the Wicker Man under construction in the lead up to the ride’s unveiling earlier this year. Using this mode of capture we were able to communicate elements of construction to the public that would otherwise have remained private.

The video – which Alton Towers shared on multiple platforms – proved to be incredibly popular (racking up almost 250k views on Facebook alone) and created lots of discussion online as people speculated what the ride has in store.

Indeed, roller coasters are big news and even feature as part of broadcast television. As any time-lapse video that we produce is ‘broadcast ready’, it is of no surprise that some of our footage was used by the BBC in order to as part of their report announcing the opening of The Smiler.

Roller coasters of any kind

Not all roller coaster-themed time-lapses take steel structures as their subject. This video (below) from ‘knexpert06’ details the construction of a replica scale-model roller coaster made entirely of K’Nex – a plastic toy building system.


Based on a dual-track ‘racing’ roller coaster, the completed structure is made up of an impressive 141′ 3″ (43.05m) of track and reaches 88 inches (2.24m) tall.

Condensing the time that it took to put this together, the time-lapse video provides a much more manageable way in which to observe such a project in its entirety and the level of detailed work needed.

So whether the nature of the project is construction, demolition, or for more hobbyist purposes, time-lapse is the ideal tool to bring out what is most remarkable about roller coasters.

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