Sneaking Cameras on Roller Coasters: A Public Service Announcement
Technology’s a great thing. Who would’ve thought ten years ago that we’d be able to do the cool things that we can with our gadgets? Cameras have become so small that they can easily fit into our pockets. Or they can be integrated into even smaller cell phones. Just this week, Apple announced that the new, slimmer than ever, iPhone includes a video camera. All of the sudden everyone’s a reporter or documentarian. We can whip out our micro-sized cameras at the mall, at a fender bender, or at a concert. Unfortunately, this makes it easier than ever to smuggle cameras onto roller coasters. Years ago, it would have been pretty rare, but today a quick YouTube search for ‘roller coaster pov’ yields thousands of illicit POV videos.

I’ve never video taped a ride while I was riding it. But, I hadn’t really thought there was anything wrong with posting amatuer videos on the blog. For years I’ve had POV videos on my coaster review posts. One day, a commenter on the blog mentioned that they were planning on recording an on-ride video on an upcoming coaster trip. I realized that by posting the videos I may have been inadvertently promoting the practice of sneaking cameras on roller coasters.

Dad of the Year Sneaks Camera on a Roller Coaster (With His Kids)
Last winter, when I was working on the Roller Coaster Wiki I came across a video of a man who snuck his camera onto the aptly named 230-foot tall, 77 mph Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland. In the video, he documented his first attempt which was thwarted after he was told that he couldn’t ride with a camera. On his way out of the station he previewed his plans for a second attempt and exclaimed: “Stick it to the man!” He then sneaks the camera back onto the Behemoth.

Worst of all, he was riding with his daughter and son! Way to go Dad. Great job of teaching your kids right and wrong. Would you want to get smacked in the face by a hard, blunt object at 70+ miles per hour? Have we forgotten what that goose did to Fabio’s face? (Picture here. Caution, it’s bloody.)That’s what could happen if you lose your camera while riding a roller coaster or other thrill ride. It’s just plain stupid and dangerous. For some reason this dummy and many, many others must feel entitled to get their very own POV video.

And just in case you’re the selfish type that may not care about other riders and bystanders, you could also be flushing $200 or so down the toilet when your camera falls and breaks into a hundred pieces. I hope that I’ve made my point that it’s just not worth it to sneak cameras on roller coasters. I’ve posted the video that I’m referring to only to illustrate my point, not to promote prohibited POVs.

No More Amateur POV Videos & Some Alternatives
During my hiatus, I removed all of the amateur on-ride POV videos that I’ve embedded into the blog over the years. It wasn’t an easy task, but I think I’ve gotten all of them. If you happen to find any, please send me a message.

There are a number of alternatives to unofficial POV videos. They’re fun to watch, offer much better quality, and don’t put anyone in danger. Try one of these:

  • Official POV Videos – Theme parks like Cedar Point & Holiday World have uploaded official on-ride and off-ride videos. Visit their YouTube channels: Cedar Point | Holiday World. Do you know of other parks that do this?
  • Roller Coaster Documentaries – Every year cable channels like Discovery and the Travel Channel produce roller coaster documentaries. And these days their in HD! Here’s Montu featured on a Discovery channel roller coaster program.
  • Local News Videos – These days it’s common for new rides to open with much local fanfare including local news reporters getting a first-hand look at the debuting roller coasters. Here’s a professional POV video of Kings Island’s Diamondback.
  • CoasterTube & Robb Alvey’s YouTube Channel – Theme Park Review’s Robb Alvey has created a website to showcase all of the videos he and his crew have taken on their numerous trips around the globe. Robb gets permission from the parks to take POV videos. Many of the videos in the Roller Coaster Wiki are from Robb Alvey’s YouTube Channel. Also check out the Theme Park Review Channel and CoasterTube.
  • Off-Ride Videos – Off-ride videos are actually better some times as you can see more of how coasters interact with their surroundings. Here’s an off-ride video created by CoasterImage of Hersheypark’s Stormrunner.
  • Ride DVDs – Ride DVDs are becoming more and more common. They often include both on and off-ride footage and professional production.

Here’s footage from a ride DVD of Incredible Hulk and Rip Ride Rockit (below):

The bottom line is that you’re not James Cameron. You don’t need to tape yourself and your friends riding a roller coaster. Especially not at the expense of an innocent bystander who’s just there to enjoy a day at the park. As the name suggests, YouTube is all about you, but sometimes it’s better to consider everyone, not just yourself.

What’s Your Take?
How do you feel about POV videos and sneaking cameras on roller coasters? Have you taken a camera on a roller coaster? Leave a comment below. I’m kind of late to add this poll, but pick which option best describes your view on the matter. Poll added: 6.13.10
[poll id=”8″]

About The Author

Founder of My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

49 Responses

  1. CoasterFun

    Also forgot to mention that Carowinds even stated in a post that they did NOT give them ANY sort of permission to CoasterForce to film on the rides. So I close my case.

  2. Bobbie Butterfield

    What do you have to do or be or whom do you have to know to get permission to film a ride? I started a blog in the hope of becoming a roller coaster guru but that's not going to happen so I doubt that any park would grant me permission to film a ride, because I'm not a name in the industry. In fact I did approach one park to ask permission to film a ride and they refused because I’m not a Joel Bullock, Arthur Levine or Robb Alvey. I agree that taking a handheld camera on a ride is extremely dangerous if not downright stupid. I remember riding in the front seat of The Voyage with some guy who claimed to be a member of the media, claimed to have been on one of Robb Alvey’s trips and proceeded to record the entire ride with a handheld camera; how he managed to hold it steady on that coaster is beyond me. Media or not, he sure as hell was not authorized to record the ride but I didn’t say anything because it was frankly none of my business. Besides, I have personally recorded a number of rides but only with a safe, hands-free device – i.e., camcorder sunglasses securely fastened to my head with a cord. I don't even consider this to be in the same category as sneaking a camera onto a ride because the device is clearly visible to everyone! I don’t think that what I did was so awful, as the recording device stayed firmly in place even on rides with multiple inversions such as Talon at Dorney Park. However, I probably won't be doing this any more because I've been through half a dozen pairs of camcorder sunglasses and all of them have worn out within a matter of months and also because I joined ACE and their code of conduct prohibits taking a camera on a ride. Anyway, recording rides is probably best left to the pros but I did what I did for one reason: I wanted to be able to relive my rides, MY RIDES!!! When I watch one of my videos, I almost feel as if I am on the coaster. It’s like hey, that’s me on I305 and we are about to drop 300 feet, hallelujah! I hadn’t done much travelling in this country until this past season, when I went on 7 roller coaster riding trips – and having some of these rides on video is very, very special for me. Watching someone else's videos on YouTube is not the same because THEY’RE NOT MY RIDES!

  3. TheJediCharles

    Okay, my long-winded response…

    I can agree with matters of safety. What’s to disagree with? Also, set aside the issue of clumsiness, because people could lose objects during the ride that are considered by anyone as admissible, such as prescription glasses, a sandal or a class ring. Those aspects aside, the entire aspect of “you could drop it and disaster could strike” is becoming less and less a worthy foundation to base not bringing recording devices on to thrill rides.

    This issue runs interestingly parallel to the issue of driving with old cell phones; with the advent of hands-free devices, the issue change drastically and cannot be argued the same, or enforced the same. School zones aren’t enforced against using voice-only, in-dash cellular usage, and rightly so. The increase of texting has again worsened the issue, but technology is again making it possible to reverse the trend, with cars actually being able to read out texts and return texts with speech, hands free. In the present, the concern with texting and driving is still real, however, with smart cars, verbal calls with 100% hands-free technology should not be subjected to the irrational stigma and one-size-fits-all rules applicable to the old hands-on tech.

    Now, a somewhat similar state exists personal cameras in regards to recreational, personal videos on thrill rides. There’s two sets of reasons for their being banned, some respectable and clear, others less so. As advances in recording technology advances and becomes more available to regular Joes, the respectable reasons are losing their legitimacy and the “other reasons” for their being banned is increasingly clear.

    For example, now recording devices are completely and utterly integrated within a pair of comfortable shades (like the Night Owl Video Sunglasses). The lens and mic are nearly invisible pinholes between the eyes. Nobody thinks twice about allowing people to wear their prescription glasses, so these are utterly equal. There’s cameras that are integrated into other “adequately affixed” items which are not realistically going to be lost during a ride, so this is clearly an issue that has a changing center of gravity of the argument as higher technology becomes more available to typical people.

    I have a Looxcie HD camera, minute, and can be firmly affixed to other articles commonly dismissed as normal, headband, glasses, shirt. Properly attached, the chances of it flying lose was about the same as my prescription glasses flying off… about zero squared. And it’s the same size as a Bic lighter, something I’m sure has seen it’s share of falling from people’s pockets on coasters and hasn’t made the news. Anyway, I took it to Six Flags, along with my conventional still/video camera. Ride operators on various rides actually spoke admirably of it, well, the ones that even noticed it, many didn’t. They thought it was great and wanted to know where to get it, and I told them to get ready to see them increasing in popularity. But, when we got on the New Texas Giant, the ride operator asked if it was a camera, I said yes, and he said recording wasn’t allowed. Now, I wasn’t going to raise a stink with him because it wouldn’t be fair to the people waiting and I wasn’t mistaking him for someone important enough to make determinations about the rules. But, I found it interesting when I mentioned there is no chance it would come lose, he appeared to actually agree, but that wasn’t the issue.

    The issue is no recording, even it was clearly safe.

    This I personally find offensive. I find it offensive to adult sensibility and obstructive to what I believe a theme park exists for and why I dropped more than a quarter of a grand that day. I know I take home video more seriously than the average parent, and I respect the need for rules in general, but I detest how respectable rules on the whole are compromised under the weight of flippant ones and one-sided interests being falsely presented as being in the interests of both parties. The reason they don’t want recording is because they’re afraid of far-flung litigation and to suppress the chances of “bad publicity” in the form of something caught on video to share with the world, etc.

    I bring my family to a theme park for memory-making, I make videos to document these precious times for their enjoyment for years after I’m long gone. As for the list of “counter suggestions” such as buying their ready-made DVDs of the coasters, etc., that has no correlation with our wish to capture OUR ride with OUR experiences, with OUR faces, which is what WE want to watch 40 years from now. Our video will have meaning some watered-down prodution DVD won’t, and I think that’s pretty obvious to anyone who appreciates home movies at all.

    Anyway, while the idea of getting struck in the head by some clumsy ox’s hi-8 camcorder while sitting on a bench under a coaster bothers me as much as the next guy, I’m also bothered with the make-no-distinctions “better safe than sorry” nanny outlook on life, which frankly only served to see us go home with less memory-keeping, the best there was to capture in fact.

    One last thing; on the matter of “oh, great Dad, teaching your kid to break the rules” perspective. If it interests you what I did in my case with my 11 year-old was put the camera away but tell her, “rules are our friend, good and important, but only when they’re relevant. It’s still against the law in Texas to carry wire cutters in your pocket around town, even though cattle rustling isn’t exactly a problem anymore. Rules should never be used instead of thinking. Rules should make sense.” So, in the end, I obeyed it, but was glad to teach her in moderation to question the signs and all those “guys with the walkie talkies” in life.

    But, thank you for the good article and a place to nest my opinion on the matter.


    • Joel

      Thanks for your comment TJC. Some parks may actually be loosening their restrictions a bit on this matter. Last summer I heard from more than one person that riders were permitted to ride Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s new Verbolten ride after their equipment was checked and approved by a ride op. I think the riders were wearing a camera vest of some sort. From what I know, this is definitely the exception though and I was really surprised that they’d add that extra layer of responsibility to the ride ops’ day.

      In response to your comment, I can see your point about capturing memories, but the whole issue adds complexity and something that these rides weren’t intended for. Short of the aforementioned vest option, I can see why parks don’t want to have to make judgement calls of how secure someone’s personal recording device is.

      I believe that your device probably wouldn’t hit me, my wife, or my daughters if we were riding behind you or walking below, but as soon as parks ease up on these rules there’ll be more incidents of projectiles hitting guests. Rules should make sense and this one does. It makes perfect sense why they’d discourage people from bringing something on a ride that could injure someone else.

      I get the interest in wanting to capture memories, but rider safety should be number one. Plain and simple. And “the make-no-distinctions “better safe than sorry” nanny outlook” is EXACTLY how I want my 70+ mph thrill rides to be operated.

      And also I get the point about “questioning the signs and guys with the walkie talkies in life”, but a problem may arise when someone, to be frank, just isn’t qualified to decide whether a rule is worth following or not. Sure there’s common sense (like the wire cutter law), but there are also rules that might seem silly to someone because they’re NOT a ride engineer or doctor or policeman or an adult.

      Again, thanks for the comment. You bring up some good points. Hopefully you still had a fun and worthwhile visit to the park.

      One last thing, do you turn your cell phone off when they tell you to on airplanes? Just curious. 🙂

      • TheJediCharles

        Just so we’re clear,

        1.) I said I didn’t confuse the operator with being the correct person to take gripe to.

        2.) I said “question” the rules, I didn’t say “defy” them (I didn’t rebelliously video regardless after we finished our respectful 3 sentence chat about it). Your closing statement, albeit for humor, has an atmosphere of interpreting my having meant that. Please react only to what I said, not to what someone who might generally disagree could be able to extend it to mean with enough imagination.

        3.) do not suggest, however slight, that I’m arguing even a little bit against safety. I want my 70+ ride safe as much as you, but when I say “make-no-distinctions “better safe than sorry” nanny outlook” I mean just that. I don’t want danger. I’m calling out false or unattainable achievements in safety.

        They don’t stop cameras at the gate. They don’t even try to apply the “no recording” rules in other parts of the park, obviously. Recording portability and integration with commonplace worn objects that aren’t associated with thrill ride safety concerns are growing in popularity, and once they reach a certain point it will become undeniable that abandoning such a blanket policy is the right choice. I disagree in whole with the unthinking philosophy that one must either choose fear of the extreme and unrealistic in order to qualify as being for safety. Anyway, I think you get what I’m saying.

        A funny side story about one reaction I got wearing it. At the gate security, after successfully passing through the metal detector, the guy was handing me back my items and looked at it and said, “what’s that?” I said it’s a miniature video camera. Instantly he gave a suspicious expression exactly like Arnold’s “what you talkin’ ’bout, Willis”, but a little more on the “I don’t buy that” end of the spectrum. I just as quickly responded with holding up my conventional camera and saying, “it’s exactly the same as this one… only it’s on my hat.” I then proceeded on, he didn’t say anything else, and he’s probably still wondering if I wasn’t a “double-oh” with a portable tranquilizer dart on my hat.

      • Joel

        I never said that you thought you should take your gripe to the ride op. I was just stating that checking the equipment would likely fall on them if the devices were allowed.

        To point #2, you’re right. You didn’t say “defy” the rules. And you did follow them by putting your camera away. Good point, I misinterpreted “question” the rules. Which is still a bit of gray concept to me, because “question” makes me think that you’re deciding whether to follow the rule or not. If you used the device on other rides (therefore breaking the rule), then you can see where my head was at. Now, I know you didn’t say that, so I’ll stop there. Anyway, that was my thought process.

        I’m not really following you on point #3. I agree that it is a blanket policy, but telling people that loose articles/recording devices aren’t allowed on rides is creating a safer riding experience. Are you arguing for no loose articles/recording devices UNLESS they’re something like your device? That makes more sense, but again I want the station crew focused on seat belts and lap bars, not AV equipment. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. It all adds another wrinkle that I don’t feel is necessary.

        Funny story. I looked that thing up and it does look like a spy device. As you said, all of these devices will only become more and more popular.

      • TheJediCharles

        “Are you arguing for no loose articles/recording devices UNLESS they’re something like your device?”

        Yes, naturally, or anything that isn’t loose.

        I want the crew focusing on restraints as well, but not so exclusively that they don’t screen for what is loose or hand-held objects, and I believe officially their responsibility.
        I agree that operators should not have be distracted by AV equipment, but AV equipment is no more dangerous to fly off the coaster than anything else of equal composition that doesn’t record… but might readily dismissed as harmless by the operator at the same time. What I mean by that is, the issue is if it’s loose, not what it’s used for. A heavy gold wristwatch might be dismissed by both the wearer and the operator as not being loose but still fly off by chance and peg a baby in the face. So, when you specifically single-out AV equipment as if it’s an undue load on the operator, you’re on the wrong track (pun intended). His task is to glance everything over and look for what is loose, and if in question, tug at it; if it’s on tight, forget it. I would be the first person to agree that a rider shouldn’t have my same camera merely holding it in his hand, so I’m not being inconsistent. The operator is free to be blind to what any given object is for but only screen for what is not adequately affixed to the rider, what can’t be fairly expected to come loose. The fact the object can record is not germane to any material concerns whatsoever.

        Anyway, coincidentally, I just got a consumer survey from Six Flags on our experience. You can bet I am bringing the issue up. THAT is what I mean by “question the rules”. I challenge the people responsible as closely as one can when dealing with a huge, impersonal corporation, and in the right way. Get the info back up the pipe by letting your respectful and fair-minded dissatisfaction be known by the employees who interface with the public (check), share the experience with social media to get it moving in the public awareness (check), and write and inform the higher management more directly and express the issue in a hard-to-dismiss manner (check).

  4. jordan

    I thinkkk that it’s ok to have a camera as long as it’s pinned and will not drop even if you want it to!!!

  5. RollerCoasterInformer

    I noticed recently that Six Flags is actually allowing cameras now, along with several other loose articles. I think they’ve just loosened up a bit. Personally, I think it’s OK as long as you’ve taken the proper precautions, such as making sure all straps are secure, etc. Actually, I think POVs are a good idea because then people become more interested in the ride and they go to the park. As long as you know what you’re doing, I think it’s fine.

  6. grizzlybear152

    My story is a whole different one….
    I have a go pro 3+ and a helmet to give it to.
    What if I ask permission to take the film????
    If i ask permission wouldn’t they allow me to go on????
    And, if the answer is no, how did YOU get the cameras on the ride!!!! Did everyone just sneak them on???
    Please respond as I have a close project for class.


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