Revamp upgrades Eureka story

SOVEREIGN Hill's sound and light show Blood on the Southern Cross will be officially re-opened by Premier Steve Bracks tonight following a $2 million upgrade.

The production, which brings the story of the 1854 Eureka rebellion to life, has been completely re-vamped for the first time since it opened in 1992.

Since then nearly a million visitors have seen the show, which also accounts for 80,000 bed nights in the city each year.

The upgrade, part funded by a $1.2 million grant from the State Government's Regional Infrastructure and Development Fund, incorporates technical wizardry that sees the audience involved in Ballarat's most defining historical event like never before.

Special effects combine with state of the art music, lighting and an up-dated script in a production that is fully automated for the first time.

It is controlled by eight computers.

During the show, which is set outside on Sovereign Hill's 25 ha site, audiences see a runaway wagon bursting into flame, experience a rainstorm and get caught in the cross-fire between the soldiers and the rebels.

Life-size images of rebel leader Peter Lalor also come to life, projected onto a wall of water in the air _ a concept known as an aqua screen.

Seven video projectors deliver images throughout the show, which also incorporates more than 110 km of electrical and fibre optic cable buried across the set and a 4.5 tonne transformer to light the show's 3000 lights.

Sovereign Hill director Jeremy Johnson said the new show, which had been open to the public for the past few weeks, had generated a lot of positive feedback.

He said the on-site work to upgrade the show had been carried out over the past 18 months, while the show continued to run.

"The show has had a complete rebuild and re-script. It has a totally new presentation. The Eureka story is a wonderful basis for a sound and light show. It's just magic," he said.

"It was a challenge to keep the show running (throughout the upgrade). But it underpins a lot of overnight destination tourism in Ballarat and we didn't want to jeopardise that."

Mr Johnson said the extensive upgrade was a great achievement for a regional tourist attraction, particularly a museum.

"Blood on the Southern Cross already has an international reputation," he said.

"The new show is now comparable to anything in Europe, France or the US."