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2012 Commercial Shoot At Six Flags Magic Mountain

By on 01/28/2012

Six Flags Magic Mountain Logo

Have you ever watched a tv commercial for a theme park and thought it would be fun to have been involved with the making of it? Well, I did just that yesterday for a Six Flags commercial and it was a blast! OK, full disclosure – not every moment was a blast, but the fun parts more than made up for the dull parts. What follows are some of the highlights of my day and how I became involved with the production. If you don’t want the magic of television commercials ruined for you, don’t scroll down. 🙂

About a week ago, Six Flags Magic Mountain put out a call on their Facebook page for extras to ride some roller coasters as they shot film footage to be used to create their 2012 television commercial. I submitted my information along with a few photos and was fortunate enough to have been chosen. The shoot took place on Friday, January 27 from 12:00-9:00 pm at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

When we first arrived, we went into the conference room of the administration building behind the park to turn in our paperwork. After that, a quick photo of each of us and then we grouped in Food Etc., under the Superman tower. Since the commercial will be shown during summer we were supposed to look the part, dressed in summer clothes, despite it being January. Good thing California doesn’t get very cold in the winter. Those of us in shorts, and a few extra, were shuttled over to The Riddler’s Revenge for the first shoot of the day. There were no cameras on the train that I could see. I think all the footage was shot from the ground. We cycled through about six rides total, changing the positions of some people a couple of times. We also stopped once on the final brake run for a bunch of still photos. Through the magic of the post-production process, they’re supposed to make those close-up shots look as if they were taken while the train was in motion. I suspect those shots will be used for print ads. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I didn’t snap any photos while on Riddler’s. When we were done, we all went back over to Food Etc. to regroup.

While on Riddler’s, another group of folks went over to Goliath to do some filming. Unfortunately, there was some technical difficulties and they didn’t get to ride. After some time sitting around and waiting, which there is a lot of in television and movie production, we were called back into action. The Goliath folks went back to that ride and we went down to Colossus. Before we got on the ride, Bugs Bunny was called in to do some filming with a bunch of young children who were brought in. Here is Bugs waiting for the kids to come over and get on Colossus:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

I was at Six Flags Magic Mountain a couple of years ago when they were filming another Six Flags commercial. I remember there being a pretty complicated camera setup with a very expensive looking camera mounted to the front of the train. When I saw what they were using this year, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Not because it was a joke, but rather because what they were using this year was so much simpler than what I remembered. Here is the entire camera setup for the on-ride footage being filmed:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

In comparison, the following shot was taken in March 2010. The setup was so complicated and the camera was so heavy, that they couldn’t keep it steady enough throughout the duration of the ride. In fact, every time it came back from a test run, something was broken on the camera. This literally went on for hours as they made fixes and tried to stabilize it even more for the next run. Comparing the two, you can clearly see that I was chuckling at the shear simplicity of using a high-end DSLR this year:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

Bugs Bunny went on one ride with the kids and decided to not go on any more. I’m not positive, but I think there was an issue with his headpiece. It was either too heavy and was snapping his neck back, or it was too tall and wasn’t clearing the head-choppers, or possibly both. Either way, Bugs made a quick exit and the show went on without him. Here you can see the photographer grabbing some still shots. Again, these will be ‘fixed’ in post-production to appear to be taken while the ride was in motion:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

After another ride or two without Bugs, we had lost the daylight on the structure and they decided to not film any more on Colossus, so we all went back to Food, Etc. where we met up with the Goliath folks. They were able to get in about four rides before the light disappeared. Here we all are in line for dinner:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

We had now been in the park for 5 1/2 hours, riding roller coasters over and over again, but we had not been provided any food other than water and soft drinks. I would have been more than happy to bring my own food, but I asked the day before and was assured that there would be snacks. There wasn’t. In an unfortunate incident, some people got so hungry they started to scout for food behind the counters and discovered cookies. The park personnel came in and said the loss prevention folks had witnessed the events on the security cameras and asked that we please refrain from going behind the counters. I was so hungry, I was ready to eat anything. Fortunately, dinner finally showed up and  the lasagna was pretty good:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

After dinner, we were just waiting for it to get dark before we started filming again. Dark, you say? Yes, dark. Six Flags has never promoted their parks, or more specifically their coasters, in the dark before. Most people know that parks stay open past dark, but you never see that in the television ads. In an attempt to try something different, they decided to try and capture people riding their roller coasters at night. As we made our way over to Goliath, you could clearly see that it was very well lit up from within the structure:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

The train was already rigged with a camera on the front. The front bumper was removed and a custom, L-shaped piece was attached that provided a platform onto which they were able to mount a camera. A couple of stabilizing bars were added and they were ready:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

You probably missed it in the previous picture, but the white stripe you see across the front of the car is actually a light bar made up of tiny LED lights. The intent is to light up the front of the rider, but not be visible when the camera is filming from the front. You can see the battery pack taped in the bottom corner of the car:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

In the middle of the train, they added a second, smaller camera to catch some of the action towards the back of the train:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

Here is what the light bar looks like turned on. It was very bright sitting in front of it:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

The back of the headrests on the front four seats of each car had a small light box attached. It was about 3×5″ in size and was also very bright. Here you can see the black gaffer’s tape that was used to help attach it to the back of the headrest, as well as what the train looks like with some of the lights turned on:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

Here we are on the train with the lights on. This is obviously the car with the second camera on it. The person sitting in front of this camera, and that person changed a lot, had to be extra energetic and make sure they didn’t look into the camera:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

I took this shot before our very first run of the night. You can see the photographer ensuring the primary camera up front is focused and locked down. You can also see the difference between the light bar and the light boxes. Both were incredibly bright in your face, but at least we could turn down the brightness of the light boxes while we were sitting in the station. The people with the light bars were not as lucky:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

I couldn’t resist sneaking in a self-portrait. This is a great shot that shows how well those lights illuminate everyone on the train, but aren’t visible themselves:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

At the end of the day, I think my final tally was six cycles on The Riddler’s Revenge and sixteen on Goliath. I’m a little sore from Riddler’s, but it was worth it. I met a lot of very nice people, including some who were familiar with this blog, like Mason here:

2012 Six Flags Commercial Shoot at Magic Mountain

Seeing the train lit up like a Christmas tree on the track is so cool that I can’t even describe it. I can tell you that after the first test run, without any people on-board, the park immediately started to get calls from people driving by that saw it and wanted to know what the heck they were doing. You’ll catch a quick glimpse of it in this short video capturing some of the highlights of the day:

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of the making of a Six Flags commercial. I have no idea what the final product will look like, or when it will first air, but I know from what I saw that it’s going to be very unique and memorable. Look for us!

8 Comments

  1. caleb

    01/28/2012 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks for the update. I really wanted to attend this… but I’m under 18! Hopefully they will have another in a few years.

  2. Ryan O

    01/28/2012 at 11:28 pm

    If only I was over 18…

  3. Eric

    01/29/2012 at 12:25 am

    I thought about trying out for this event, but decided not to. Over the years, I have participated in a few shoots for The Discovery Channel or The Travel Channel. As you mentioned above, there is a lot of sitting and waiting when shooting shows or commercials. As for the food, I’ve encountered similar issues. Long days with little or no food. One shoot at Superman–The Escape, our lunch was a bunch of cold cuts and some bread for a make-your-own sandwich. Not very nourishing—or very good either.

  4. Alex

    01/30/2012 at 5:11 pm

    man i wish i was there and i wish i was 18 hahaha

  5. Zac

    01/30/2012 at 9:47 pm

    goliath really does look cool! i wish they could permantley attach lights like that, its would look so cool at night!

  6. Pingback: Fright Fest 2012 Overview At Six Flags Magic Mountain |

  7. roger

    10/01/2012 at 1:57 pm

    WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO POST THIS COMMERCIAL?

    • Kurt

      10/01/2012 at 2:32 pm

      It wasn’t just a single commercial. They’ve taken bits and pieces from that day and used them in every commercial they’ve released so far this year. I’ve even heard they used the footage of Goliath running at night in commercials for the other Six Flags parks as well.

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