ThemePark_ferriswheel

Not Your Parents’ Theme Park

There has been a worldwide resurgence in themed attractions around the world over the past few years. The term has evolved into “themed attractions” vs. the traditional “theme park,” as these settings go beyond a collection of rides and shows. There are food courts and shopping areas that are open longer than the park to provide a complete day. Rides are available at non-traditional locations as well, such as a roller coaster inside a shopping mall or bumper cars at a zoo. As the industry has evolved, so have guest experiences.

Changes and updates made to themed attractions involve technologies that expand the experience. The experience may be interactive and can even change each time a guest rides or participates. The HARMAN Professional Solutions team has been involved in this evolution, partnering with a variety of venues to develop technology and products that enhance and expand attraction experiences. The technology could be creating a new loudspeaker for a parade route, such as the JBL CWT-128, or customizing software to meet the attraction’s needs.

Tower Drop attractions are a good example of audio changing the experience. These rides lift people high up in the air and then drop the ride vehicle down. When these attractions first arrived, one knew when the vehicle was going to drop after a few rides. Today, not only is the timing of the drop itself randomized, the technology controlling the vehicle allows for the fall itself to be random. The drops are now actually motion controlled and can have bounces and speed changes.

To further enhance the experience, the environment is modified by adding sounds. Imagine being on the ride, waiting to drop. The anticipation is building. You hear the sound of the ride releasing, but you don’t fall. To heighten the feeling of a long fall, adding the sound or wind rushing past can increase the sensation of speed. Subtle things, such as adding mechanical noises to accentuate to the ride experience, could elicit feelings of expectation or relief, depending on the sound. Moving lights create the feeling of movement. One could be perfectly still, but the illusion of movement is created by synchronizing the lighting and audio effects together. This tool allows for the random drop to be more impactful. Using technology from JBL Pro, the ride designers are able to hide or creatively theme the loudspeakers into the ride itself, never breaking the guest’s suspension of disbelief.

Roller coasters have evolved as well. These rides have become smoother and more consistent through new launch systems. This change allows the experience to be better scripted. It is possible to place audio on the ride vehicle itself to enhance the experience. It is not just onboard audio that adds to the experience, it is the coupling of the onboard audio with off-board effects, which makes the experience more enveloping. It is possible to now have effects synchronized, and even triggered, between the ride vehicle and the ride set pieces.

As you can see, a visit to a themed attraction is no longer just rides. It is now a collection of unique experiences.

Bradford Benn is a Solutions Manager for HARMAN Professional Solutions, specializing in Themed Attractions. Being involved in the AV industry for more than 25 years, he has a wide range of experiences to draw from. Before joining HARMAN, he was an integrator, designing and installing projects ranging from conference rooms and classrooms to houses of worship and theme parks around the world. He has been involved in network-intensive projects, such as City Center in Las Vegas, Lucas Oil Stadium and MetLife Stadium, to name a few. In addition to his responsibilities at HARMAN, Bradford serves as a co-instructor for the Syn-Aud-Con Digital training seminars as well as being an InfoComm University Adjunct Faculty Member. When he isn’t working, he can often be found behind a camera, taking photographs.