TPR's Robb Alvey featured on Travel Channel's Insane Coaster Wars debuting TONIGHT!
Story from NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/arts/television/insane-coaster-wars-arrives-on-the-travel-channel.html
Best at Twisting and Terrorizing? Audience Decides
‘Insane Coaster Wars’ Arrives on the Travel Channel
Which roller coaster packs more chills: the one that launches you down the track at 128 miles per hour or the one that sends you up a 310-foot hill with only a lakefront view and your fellow riders’ screams to keep you company?
For the squeamish, either option is terrifying. But for coaster enthusiasts, these are tough questions that sometimes need to be settled in a battle, like the one starting on Sunday with “Insane Coaster Wars,” on the Travel Channel. It pits one twisty thrill machine against another, and, in a kind of “Coaster Idol,” asks its audience to decide the winner.
The channel has featured big drops and fancy loops in various roller coaster shows, but this time it turned to experts, like a physics professor who developed a device to measure riders’ heart rates and the G-forces exerted on a coaster, and Robb Alvey, who has fashioned an entire career out of coaster riding.
Mr. Alvey runs the Web site Theme Park Review, which collects posts about, and photos and videos of, theme parks and coasters all over the world. He also organizes tours to popular parks, for which he and his wife serve as guides and give their guests exclusive ride time on the best coasters. But Mr. Alvey also knows the technical terminology, like zero-G rolls (inversions in which weightlessness occurs), and on the show his function is to explain a coaster’s key elements and analyze how well they are executed.
How did he come to be considered a coaster expert? Speaking by phone from Disneyland Paris, where he was on a tour, Mr. Alvey explained.
“I’ve been working in theme parks pretty much all my life,” he said. “We just started traveling to theme parks for fun when I was in my 20s, and we started our Web site in ’96.”
That led to work with the Travel Channel, supplying serious coaster riders for its shows. “When you’re doing a film shoot, you need people that can ride over and over, because sometimes you’ll do 20 or 30 takes on a coaster, and if you get your average Joe in there, they want to vomit after a couple of rides,” he said, adding that he has been on more than 1,500 rides globally, including all of those in the series.
But Mr. Alvey’s record pales next to that of some fans on the show, like Darlene Bell, who has ridden the 230-foot-tall Diamondback at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, nearly 3,000 times. And as of this week, another fan, Gary Coleman, has ridden Diamondback 7,000 times since it opened in 2009.
The Diamondback falls under Extreme Heights, one of several categories highlighted. Others include G-Force Giants (rides that do the most to push you into — or lift you out of — your seat) and Splintering Speedsters (towering wooden coasters). The winner, determined by viewer vote, is revealed at the end of each episode.
But first the Travel Channel had to winnow the field to 24 coasters, explained Andy Singer, the network’s general manager. “We did a great deal of research that included interviewing enthusiasts, reading blogs, industry magazines and Web sites,” Mr. Singer said. “And then we were able to pick a cross section of what fan favorites were and the current record holders.”
The network also wanted to go beyond big parks like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, or the various Six Flags parks. “There’s a coaster in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, called Aftershock, and even though it doesn’t see some of the big numbers the other coasters do, it has a really loyal fan base,” he said.
As coaster technology has developed over the years, so have the methods for capturing the thrills on video. The production crew mounted small high-definition cameras on miniature remote-control helicopters to get shots of some of the coaster’s heights. And cameras were mounted all over the cars to record point-of-view shots, reactions and train speed. Some cameras used a fish-eye lens to cover more of the coasters’ tracks and surrounding environments.
“When we showed footage to some of the parks,” Mr. Singer of the Travel Channel said, “it was the first time they were actually able to see how their coaster technology worked.”