Hugh Welchman is a man on the go. As a co-director of the upcoming film Loving Vincent, he oversees a production crew of more than 100 in offices spread across in Europe. Train rides and plane flights are his norm.
For a while, his work while traveling was limited to writing emails, but these days, Welchman is going over his film and editing the surround sound all while bustling across the old continent. He does it using his Avegant , a portable and private theater-like display for video viewing. Glyph
"It's good for doing creative reviews when you're on the move, which a lot of people in the film industry have to do," said Welchman, whose movie will be the first fully-painted animated film. "Especially in animation, where you're often splitting your work between different studios."
The Glyph is a headset that uses a low-power LED and a combination of tiny mirrors to rapidly reflect lights of various colors into your retina, giving you an extremely high-resolution image with no pixelation. The Glyph can connect with devices, such as smartphones and laptops, via an HDMI cable. Wearing the Glyph is a little like wearing headphones but tilting the headband forward in front of your eyes, Geordi LaForge-style.
"Think of it as Bose headphones for your eyes," said Edward Tang, founder and chief strategy officer of Avegant.
Since it began shipping to consumers in January, the Glyph has caught on with a niche groups of customers, most notably among high-speed drone racers who use the device to pilot their flying gizmos. But the device is also popular among users who play mobile video games and like to watch movies while on the go. With its adoption by the Loving Vincent crew, the gadget is now also being used to create movies.
Welchman and his co-director and wife Dorota Kobiela began using the Glyph in May after seeing a demo of the gadget at a conference. The two were impressed by the quality of the gadget's visuals and its portability. Welchman typically travels at least once a week between his production crew's various offices, which include a painting studio in Athens.
The device comes particularly in handy when Welchman is on his way to a studio in Warsaw, Poland, to meet up with his sound designer. "He always tends to send me stuff at 3 o'clock in the morning before I'm getting on a train at 5 o'clock in the morning to come and see him," Welchman said with a chuckle.
The partnership with "Loving Vincent" is particularly important for Glyph, a young San Francisco startup trying to break into the crowded hardware market.
Since its founding in 2012, the company has raised $35 million dollars. The company began making waves in 2014 after conducting a successful Kickstarter campaign, but with the release of the Glyph this year, Avegant's focus is now squarely on driving sales.
While filmmakers are not the largest consumer group by any means, they are a prestigious group whose influence often helps others decide the technology they want to add to their own repertoire of tools. In this case, Welchman exhibits the benefit of the Glyph for travelers, a segment that Avegant does target.
People "who spend a lot of time traveling, they want to have their movie, but they don't want to carry a tablet and balance it on a back seat tray table," said Richard Kerris, Avegant's chief marketing officer. "They just have their Glyphs, they put it on, and they've got a beautiful screen."
Avegant does not disclose unit sales or revenue, but the company did recently slash the price of the Glyph from $699 to $549. With hardware, a price cut is often a sign of lagging sales, but Avegant says the cuts are due to its "manufacturing team ... working hard to decrease costs while maintaining our high quality."
The company will have an opportunity for ramping up sales as holiday shopping gets going (Avegant said it will offer consumers an additional 20 percent discount from Friday through Monday).
As for Welchman, the filmmaker said he is simply excited to finish production by the end of November and prepare for his movie's release sometime next year. Welchman says he fully plans to use the Glyph for the next movie he makes, but in the meantime, he's just excited to try it out as a recreational gadget.
"I would like to explore it, you know?" Welchman said. "It's got more functionality than I've used so far."