Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Hollywood goes high-def

Candlesticks float above the riders on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood. The park, which had removed the 3-D feature on the ride, is adding high-definition images.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Less than four months after Universal Studios Hollywood removed the 3-D feature from its Harry Potter flying simulator ride, the park has upgraded the attraction to include high-definition images of fire-breathing dragons, enchanted trees and evil flying creatures.

The images shown during Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, once projected on the ride’s wraparound screens at the rate of 60 frames a second, are now projected at 120 frames a second. The park described the technology as 4K-HD, referring to horizontal resolution of about 4,000 pixels in high definition.

The ride, which uses sets and various technologies, including animatronics and film projection, gives riders the sensation that they are flying with Harry Potter around Hogwarts Castle and through a Quidditch match while escaping a dragon, Dementors and an enchanted willow.


It is the centerpiece ride of the $500-million Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion that opened in April, the latest in a series of new attractions added to the park over the last two years. Although Universal Studios Hollywood remains a smaller rival of Disneyland, its latest offerings have improved its ability to compete.

In December, the park quietly removed the 3-D feature from the ride, eliminating the need to put special glasses on each rider. The 3-D technology was touted as setting the California ride apart from a similar attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla.

At the time the 3-D feature was eliminated, park representatives declined to explain the reason. But several riders and theme park enthusiasts had said the Forbidden Journey ride made them nauseated.

Visual 3-D effects have been in use for years in other Universal Studios attractions, such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Transformers the Ride: 3-D and King Kong 360: 3-D. But the Harry Potter ride’s sense of motion can feel extreme as seats are lifted and tilted dramatically while riders watch moving images on a wraparound screen.

Universal Studios Hollywood officials now say they had long planned to convert the 3-D technology in the ride to 4K-HD.

“We continually evaluate our attractions and made intentional enhancements to the Forbidden Journey ride to effectively transition from 3-D to state-of-the-art 4K-HD at 120 frames per second, which is double the original film’s speed,” park spokeswoman Audrey Eig said. “As a progressive theme park, we determined the increased frame rate would offer an even more intense and immersive experience for our guests.”

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2:20 p.m.: This story was updated to include a comment from Universal Studios Hollywood about why the 3-D technology was removed.

This article was originally published at 12:05 p.m.