A howling wind seems to engulf the theatre as a menacing, 80'-high (24m) twister and driving winds bear down on the audience. They duck to escape debris which appears to be flying straight toward them from all directions.
In a few minutes it's all over, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. But, as they pass through the exit doors, in front of them is a garage seemingly badly damaged in an actual tornado. The roof has been torn off, signs hang at odd angles, and crushed oil drums and debris are scattered about. The experience was just a simulation at Twister: Ride it Out!, at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando--wasn't it?
Relax, it's just Aftermath, a themed retail environment dubbed as having the "strewn look" by Sven Pavlik, lighting director of the store's design firm, Pavlik Design Team in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The walls of the 2,000-sq.-ft. (180 sq. m) "garage" are corrugated galvanized steel, and oil drums are really merchandise display fixtures. Shelves and racks of Twister merchandise are hung on upended sections of picket fences. TV monitors replay storm footage, while others are tuned to The Weather Channel, just in case.
Pavlik says the illumination solution, including Abolite pendant lights, was designed to provide a calming atmosphere after the storm. The 20'-high (6m) ceiling is blacked out; the exposed rib structure curves from 12 to 14' (3-4m) above the swirl-patterned concrete floor. "The focus of 90% of the lumen output is on the product," he explains.
All the Osram Sylvania lamps providing general and accent illumination in Aftermath are halogen incandescent. Color temperature, in the range of 2750-2900K, was chosen to simulate the warm sunlight that typically occurs after a real storm. Indy Lighting accent lights are "like beams of sunlight coming through the clouds," Pavlik describes.
Dimming flexibility occurs in selected areas. A sequencer to selected lamps provides a flicker effect to reinforce the stormy conditions associated with a tornado.
General store illumination levels were kept to a low 200-300 lux to provide a lighting "step" for visitors to adjust from a dim light level as they exit the ride. Merchandise displayed on floor and wall fixtures, however, is punched up to 1,000-1,500 lux. This 5:1 ratio provides a dramatic stage-like display environment that pulls the shopper's attention to the merchandise.
Aftermath opened in mid-1998. Visitors exiting the ride generate 95% of store traffic, estimated at 4,000-5,000 people per day.