When you are a born and bred New Yorker, you don’t usually find yourself doing NYC touristy type things, because lets be honest – we know everything (just kidding). However, this past week I was given a chance to experience The Ride for purely the technical aspect of it. On hand was sound and lighting designer, Brett Jarvis, who gave us the skinny on what makes this ‘Ride’ a magical mystery tour.
The Ride takes you on a four and a half mile journey around the city, covering iconic locales in midtown, all the way to Columbus Circle. As The Ride makes its way around the city, you come across performers who come alive on sidewalks when The Ride drives up next to them. Some of the actors sing, dance, and even rap as you look on from within a bus. This all happens as bystanders either gawk or play along while you watch the entertainment unfold right in front of you – outside of the bus.
The Ride is essentially a huge multimedia show on wheels. In total 60 to 70 performers and technicians, drivers, etc. bring ‘The Ride’ to the masses everyday. The bus tops out at 13 feet high, 45 feet long, and 8 feet wide – just meeting the federal requirements allowed on the NYC streets. The bus also sports a stadium style seating that faces the street instead of facing the driver, 9 tons of HVAC capacity – that is enough to cool 9 homes! Along with more than 3,000 LED lights, 40 screens and a surround-sound system and floor shaker to further enhance The Ride experience for those aboard it. As we walked around The Ride and observed the exterior LED’s and speakers that interact with street performers, we also got a peek at the belly of the beast which houses two Apple Mac Pro towers that work in tandem to operate the software of the show. Throughout the show there are 7,500 different cues that work in a logic path. The software built for the ride is completely custom and also allows flexibility on NYC streets. This is essential when the The Ride comes in contact with street fairs, inclement weather, or the ever bustling holiday season. Re-routing the bus to different routes becomes essential and having the software that can change when things don’t go according to schedule, makes the show even more entertaining and continue to flow without riders even noticing. Senniheiser was also commissioned to make the mic and audio system for the buses and they designed it in such a away that it doesn’t interfere with the Broadway shows performing around it. Communication between buses and the homebase work via VOIP too.
Some other interesting facts about The Ride:
*There are currently on 4 buses operating
*Each bus costs 1.3 Million and the tech alone costs $250k to $300k
*It goes home at night to Hoboken
*The Apple Store of 5th avenue is the fifth most photographed building in NYC.
While experiencing the Ride, the vehicle was even given the bird by an onlooker as we turned the corner – and it wasn’t a hired actor either. You just never know what you’ll see on the crazy streets of Manhattan. I won’t give other fun tidbits away but you’ll certainly be entertained on this ride – whether you a NY native or a visitor. Even this city gal learned a few new things about her hometown during this tour that left me with a sudden urge to go listen to Empire State of Mind. The Ride lasts for 75 minutes and departs from the New York Marriot Marquis at Times Square. It will be running from April 11th to December 31st. It costs $65 for peak times (Fri – Sun) and $59 for off-peak times (Mon – Thu).