For more than 40 years, Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, CA) has provided guests with a haunted theme park experience via the annual Scary Farm event, and this year, the theme park is utilizing dual-redundant QSC Audio Q-Sys Core 500i processors to manage sound effect prompts and audio distribution needs in five themed walk-through mazes.
The use of technology and audio has always played an important role in creating and enhancing the entertainment experience, helping guests get closer to the action, with Scary Farm serving as a prime example.
“One of our goals with our Knott’s Scary Farm haunted attractions is to transform our guests from simply being observers to becoming interactive participants in the experience,” says Lawrence McCoy, audio specialist, Entertainment Design, Knott’s Berry Farm. “With Q-Sys we have the precision and detail with our audio programming to trigger, process and route sound effects, music and dialog enhancing and maximizing that user experience.”
In the past, Knott’s audio designers and technicians used a variety of audio gear including a variety of stand-alone loop tape decks, hard disc recorders and mixing consoles to route audio to the various zones in an attraction. With Q-Sys and its ability to process, route and playback within its core, attraction designers are able to create more detailed audio designs resulting in some walk-through mazes today employing nearly as many amplifier channels as did all the walk-through mazes combined did a few years ago.
“We have 89 audio file players on the main Q-Sys Core 500i sending signal to 88 network outputs. Some of the outputs are playing distributed audio over multiple loudspeakers while other outputs are playing one off sound effects triggered by a foot switch or sensor,” McCoy explains. “Just a few years ago, this kind of detail would have been very cost prohibitive.”
Currently, five of the eight mazes are networked giving the Knotts’ crew the ability to interface with other show systems. Custom Lua scripts enable the Q-Sys cores to serve in both network, distributed audio and show control functions with UDP commands sent and received from lighting, video and animatronic controllers. Additionally, GPIO on Q-Sys and other the systems provide further interface capabilities for nearly unlimited control options.
The Black Magic Maze is a prime example of how Q-Sys can simultaneously provide both distributed audio and show control. Inside the maze, talent unknowingly triggers a switch which in turn activates a network solid state video player that sends a UDP command out to the network.
Custom script decodes the packets sent by the player, and generate control within Q-Sys prompting audio cues that play directly off of the Core 500i. The core also sends UDP commands to the lighting, video, and animatronics controllers to start running their pre-programed cues. What guests experience are the magic of dimming lights, the swelling of audio and a crystal ball, key to the attraction’s story line, which comes to life and begins changing color.
In addition to the Core 500i processors, Knott’s is using QSC CXD-Q, PowerLight and CX amplifiers to drive a variety of loudspeakers, including QSC AcousticDesign AD-S52T and AD-S32T surface-mount models.
“QSC solutions from the Q-Sys cores down to the loudspeakers gives us the performance and flexibility to do just about anything we want from a sound design and show control perspective,” relates McCoy. “Our previous gear was and still is fantastic for what it does and we still use some of it in a few attractions, but there were limitations. With Q-Sys we don’t worry about limitations because it can do it all; imagination and desire is really now our only limitation.”
Knott’s Scary Farm’s 2014 incarnation features 11 haunted attractions including four “scare zones,” two live shows and hundreds of monsters lurking across the park’s 160 acres. The event runs select nights September 25 through November 1.