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Inventing Ambient Sound for Walt Disney World

Do you make a habit of chatting with strangers? How about someone you’re sitting next to on an airplane for a few hours? Perhaps you should. You never know who you might meet. In this case, Noah met a man he’s calling Mr. Q.

Mr. Q had a large role in designing the ambient sound for Walt Disney World and solving one of the big problems encountered when moving from land to land… where does one soundtrack end and the other begin?

In the mid 1990’s, the park started researching the problem. It would eventually find no existing solution, so the engineers had to design and construct, on their own, one of the most complex and advanced audio systems ever built. The work paid off: today, as you walk through Disney World, the volume of the ambient music does not change. Ever. More than 15,000 speakers have been positioned using complex algorithms to ensure that the sound plays within a range of just a couple decibels throughout the entire park. It is quite a technical feat acoustically, electrically, and mathematically.

As we land, I ask Mr Q what he considers the highlight of his career. He describes how he wrote some software for “manufacturing emotion” with the thousands of new speakers in the park. The system he built can slowly change the style of the music across a distance without the visitor noticing. As a person walks from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, for example, each of the hundreds of speakers slowly fades in different melodies at different frequencies so that at any point you can stop and enjoy a fully accurate piece of music, but by the time you walk 400 feet, the entire song has changed and no one has noticed.

More at How Mr. Q Manufactured Emotion.

(Via BoingBoing)

3 thoughts on “Inventing Ambient Sound for Walt Disney World”

  1. That’s an awesome story; thanks so much for sharing!

    I’m pretty good about chatting with strangers at Walt Disney World because I know I have something in common with people there. Apparently I have to start chatting with people elsewhere, too, as I may miss out on great conversations like this one with Mr Q.

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