The Sensorium “Stink-o-Vision” Theater

Application of scent in a theater can be tricky, but can be done well, with careful programming, a high technology scent system, and appropriate essences.

Below is a true story of a failed but typical theater where scent was diffused.

Sensorium (Stink-o-vision) Theater, Baltimore Maryland, 1984
I was once involved in theme park project where others built a permanent theater. Inexpensive scent ejectors were placed onto the backs of all seats, intended to blow scent at the person in the seat behind. The ejectors were loaded with different flavors of cheap wax-like pellets, that seemed to work similarly to solid Glade or other bathroom air fresheners.

During a Three-D movie, the scents were dispersed on queue. For instance, pine in a forest, exhaust from a passing car, apple pie and then hot dogs at a country fair.

Seems fun, but some problems:

1) After about two weeks the theater took on the combined smell of all of those odors. The fabric upholstery, curtains, carpet and acoustic wall panels sucked up the scent, I don’t know if it could ever be removed.

People now entered the theater with scrunched noses and negative comments. “What is that awful smell?”

2) The system was also noisy, too, with clicking actuators and compressed air whooshing out, which you would hear over the movie. Not too natural, but maybe fun. 😉 Some people would bend over and place their nose up near the scent exit port a few inches from the person’s head in front of them.

3) Quality of the scent materials and unexpected combination of residual scents hurt the experience greatly.

I designed the aromaComposer to avoid the shortfalls of what I had experienced in Baltimore… and of similar environmental fragrancing systems in use or developed previously. When creating this technology, I explored other systems, patents and approaches to scent diffusion, and improved upon them in many ways.



R. Douglas Nelson - Conceptual Designer / Inventor / Consultant Ojai, California BIO: International conceptual designer Doug Nelson was trained in the Disney tradition, working on the Epcot and Disneyland projects early in his career. He has designed highly published projects such as “The World of Caesar” in Las Vegas, and the “Sanrio Gallery” flagship retail store in Tokyo Japan. Doug has also designed themed resorts, rides, exhibits & dispalys, dinner theatres, world’s fair Pavilions, produced and directed promotional videos, commercials and documentaries. Recently Doug has been concentrating his efforts on the development of multisensory systems, including his patented aroma composer, and a suspended relaxation device. A man of many dreams whose passion lies in the development of new technologies and environments to move audiences into interactive fantasy worlds and adventures. A "rare" specialist in multisensory systems development and software, as well as the design of next-generation Spa & sound healing environments. See Portfolio at:

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1 Response

  1. August 16, 2009

    […] In 1984, while working on the Baltimore Power Plant project for Six Flags, I experienced the Sensorium Theater, which I was not the designer of, but did see the processes used intimately, and the failures too, which taught me much about the benefits and deficits of such multisensory systems, especially the scent system with its chemical wax like pellets. […]

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