Dave Helfrey, mastermind of one of the biggest and scariest haunted attractions in the U.S., uses a QNAP TS-239 Pro II+ network-attached storage device to secure digital assets and free up more "monster" time
"The QNAP remote access using the Web File Manager saves me days of time during this period by not having to run files around. I have more time to do my job, which is making monsters, instead of worrying about logistical headaches like backing up and moving files around." - FrightTown
FrightTown, one of the biggest and best haunted attractions in North America. 40,000 square feet of terror at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Portland each October.
Dave Helfrey loves to scare people. From December to June each year, he's a mild-mannered freelance art director and illustrator in Portland, Oregon. But from July through November, he turns into Baron von Goolo, the creative mind behind FrightTown, one of the biggest and best haunted attractions in North America.
What started out as a garage event has turned into 40,000 square feet of terror at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Portland each October. As Helfrey has grown the attraction, the size and complexity of his digital assets has also grown. Tricks that used to be accomplished by an actor pulling a rope behind a screen are now fully automated. His team uses hundreds of programmable controllers, MP3 players, DVD players, speakers, lights, and other equipment to deliver FrightTown special effects—but the behind-the-scenes complexity was getting downright scary.
"We had a giant octopus of electrical cords connecting all this gear and a small army of people running around to make sure all this equipment scattered across 40,000 square feet was working on cue," Helfrey says.
With things so crazy during the run-up to Halloween each year, Helfrey ignored boring stuff like computer backup, which left Helfrey and FrightTown vulnerable to a catastrophic failure. Helfrey and his team work feverishly around the clock creating special effects, promoting the event, and running files to myriad vendors. He wished he had more time and fewer technology worries.
More Time for Creativity
In fall 2011, Helfrey was granted his wish when he acquired a QNAP TS-239 Pro II+ network-attached storage device with an Intel® Atom™ processor inside. The compact storage unit features redundant, hot-swappable RAID drives, up to 6 terabytes of storage room, and easy remote access. Helfrey set up his TS-239 Pro II+ with two 3-terabyte drives and automatically backs up his computer to both drives.
Now, Helfrey can store his files on the QNAP device and access them from anywhere—and give vendors direct access to the device. "FrightTown takes place over ten weeks, and it's like a year of work jammed into those ten weeks," Helfrey says. "It's constant and exhausting. The QNAP remote access using the Web File Manager saves me days of time during this period by not having to run files around. I have more time to do my job, which is making monsters, instead of worrying about logistical headaches like backing up and moving files around. Given the choice between backing up files and building a cyborg vampire, I'll build the vampire. We’re so pressed for time during FrightTown, every minute counts."
Plus, remote file access makes the FrightTown team much better business partners. "The marketing people at the Coliseum loved us this year," Helfrey says. "Instead of nagging us for promotional files, they could get what they needed from the marketing folder in the QNAP device.
Room for surveillance Footage
Another use for his new storage device: storing footage from the dozens of surveillance cameras used to secure FrightTown. Previously, Helfrey's security team had no storage for these files and could only monitor the footage in real time.
Today, Helfrey backs up all security camera videos on the TS-239 Pro II+, which has plenty of performance from the Intel Atom processor for manipulating large video files. Next year, Helfrey wants to install "reaction" cams that film guests' reactions to frights. "The QNAP device has given us lots of ideas of new things we can do," he says.
Greater Peace of Mind
Being able to back up video surveillance files gives Helfrey peace of mind that he's covered if something is stolen or someone is hurt. "The safety of our actors and guests is of utmost importance," he says. "Knowing that we have that surveillance footage backed up and on hand delivers huge peace of mind." The QNAP TS-239 Pro II+ uses the Intel Atom processor to encrypt data for added data protection.
Simplified Master Controller
Next year, when FrightTown has the budget for additional laptops, Helfrey plans to take advantage of the built-in media server in the TS-239 Pro II+ to consolidate his many programmable controllers. "The media server feature is extremely sexy," Helfrey says. "The QNAP has a crazy amount of storage space, so we can use it as a giant show controller where we store all our special-effects video and music files. Being able to centralize all these controllers in one place and have everything on a network with one person controlling everything would be amazing. It would mean a less complicated setup for us, lower staffing requirements, and a more entertaining experience for our guests."