Dark Ride Content

The Attractions Technology Lab is a themed entertainment industry event hosted at Oceaneering each year. This year, a collective of 22 companies came together to showcase the latest in dark ride technology, hardware, show controls, content, audio and ride vehicles. Fivestone Studios was invited to join the team! Our contribution was 90 seconds of fast paced CG content for the Scraprunners dark ride, taking the viewer from the car garage to the finale scene.

Dark Ride Content


This year’s dark ride concept, Scrap Runners, features a cyberpunk chase through a futuristic city. Fivestone Studios developed the section after the ride leaves the hangar and enters the city. Riders fly through vibrant cityscapes before being caught by the police. Multiple challenges had to be overcome for the Fivestone team to take on this project:


  • Tiny Team – This project was pulled by our amazing 3D guru and technical director, Kevin Harkness, and Justin Eslinger, our Director of Innovation.

  • Huge Digital Set – over 3 kilometers of cityscape needed to be created for the city.

  • Massive Render Times – With over 1.5 minutes of high-resolution CG at 5560 X 3560 and 6240 x 2160 pixels across two screens we needed a solid render solution.

  • Tight Timeline – Of course, our deadline was short. We only had 8 weeks to create this while juggling other projects in the studio.


We utilized Houdini to help scale our world creation capabilities. Its procedural systems enabled us to rapidly prototype and finalize a massive set as well as build custom tools to fit the needs of our city. 


Another great feature was the bespoke city builder tool that allowed us to quickly build roads, sidewalks, and place buildings and props. We also created custom camera tools to help animate the camera across a large virtual set.



We utilized Unreal Engine 5 to render and bring the animation to life. We have explored Unreal on past projects, but this was our first full-on production entirely in Unreal. We knew it was the right tool for the job because of its ability to load and render vast scenes and billions of polygons. The real-time lighting and reflections sped up our look development and helped us quickly light and compose scenes. A few other Unreal features we love are:


  • Volumetric rendering – With Unreal Engine 5.3, we can heighten the realism of clouds, explosions, and particle trails thanks to volumetric rendering.

  • Decal System – Unreal’s powerful decal system helped speed up our workflow because we didn’t need custom textures for every object. We could rely on tiling textures as a base and then place unique decal textures along the ride path as needed.

  • Blueprint – The Blueprint scripting tool enabled us to quickly build custom tools and behaviors for the assets in the scene.

  • Real-time render switch – When we were ready for a final render, we were able to switch the real-time rendering over to full path tracing with only the click of a button to get a finished, polished frame.

Emerging Technologies

Working on this project taught us so much about the tools we can use to develop, previsualize, and render content for our clients. In addition to Houdini and Unreal, here are a few more we are utilizing:


  • Virtual Reality – We rely on pre-visualization tools like VR to better inform our creative decisions. We can take the CAD data from our dark ride partners and build a virtual recreation of the ride that even includes projecting our content onto digital versions of the real screens. This helps us rapidly prototype and improve the experience as well as keep stakeholders up to date on the latest developments of the project.

  • Universal Scene Description & Material X are also becoming an integral part of our pipeline. These tools enable easy sharing of assets and materials across different software packages.


We are extremely grateful to work on this dark ride project with the incredible team at ATL as it has allowed us to push the creative and technical envelope further than we dreamed possible.


Our team is world-class, demonstrating our commitment to bringing our A game to every engagement. Here are a few of our allies that helped craft this project.
Executive Producer
Traylor Woodall
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Molly Piveral
Head of Production
Matt Thomason
Technical Director
Kevin Harkness
Director of Innovation
Justin Eslinger

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