How a collective of artists turned an idea into a wildly successful Kickstarter, and then a real product

September 16, 2015

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Turning an idea into an actual product is an alluring prospect. For most of us it’s also a daunting one. Who among us hasn’t had a great idea, only to let it pass because it seemed too difficult to pursue? I know I have.

The people at Lumenati, a Denver-based collective of filmmakers, designers and animators went the other direction. They had an idea, and not having the slightest clue how to turn it into a product, decided to try anyway.

They have since created two prototypes of the Lumenati CS1, a handheld video camera that uses an iPhone for its brains. They've also launched an incredibly successful Kickstarter, are finishing work on a CS1 iPhone app, and are planning on shipping their first product in early 2016.

We sat down with Scott McDonald, the CEO of Lumenati, and spoke with him about the process they went through.

How did you come up with the idea for the CS1? We are a group of creatives that make lots of films. At some point in our journey we realized that the camera in our pocket was quickly becoming as powerful as the professional cameras we use everyday. In fact, the ability to instantly share from the iPhone is one of the most powerful advantages to its camera. The problem is that the ergonomics are made for texting, not filming. So we thought, what if we could load our phone like film into an ergonomically correct and stylish camera? Thus, the CS1 was born.

Once you came up with the idea, did you have any doubts? We definitely had some doubts about whether we were the only film nerds that thought this idea was brilliant. We overcame these obstacles because we desperately just wanted at least a couple for us! We ran the Kickstarter and it proved to be pretty interesting to lots of people even outside the film industry. That's when we knew we had something. Apple just released the new iPhone that will shoot 4k quality video and it has confirmed our thoughts that the iPhone will be the new filmmakers tool. Combined with the live streaming boom of Periscope and others, we believe the CS1 will be a force in the filmmaking world.

Ok, so you had this idea that you were excited about, what were your next steps? It’s funny, we just kind of started moving forward in any direction we possibly could. We taught ourselves some super basic 3D skills. Enough to create a 3D print from Shapeways. From there we were able to at least visually explain to our friends what we were working on. We ended up getting in touch with an engineering company in Boulder that helped hold our hands through the prototyping process. We explored so many avenues before finally picking a solid direction to move forward on.

Were there any major holdups in R&D? Absolutely. We explored many different concepts in the lensing and body style. The most important thing for us was to create a quality product so we tried not to stress about setbacks and the time that it consumed. Of course we were holding our breath the entire time hoping that no one else had a similar idea.  

How did it feel to have the first prototype in your hands? It felt amazing. Months of hard work in a physical form! The celebrations were short lived as we jumped right into our crowdfunding campaign.  

Was it everything you had hoped it would be? It was pretty impressive. We did lots of pre-production to make sure even our first prototype was fully functioning. We quickly learned the things we did wrong and started listing out the additions we would be adding to the next prototype. We let our friends and influencers use it and give us feedback on the product which helped us gain a broader sense of what people wanted to see.

How did you decide to do a Kickstarter to raise money? It was sort of a no brainer. Kickstarter is a fantastic platform to prove a concept and gauge interest.  

It ended up being wildly successful, do you have any advice to others planning on launching one? We treated Kickstarter like a month long gauntlet where we did something every day to promote our brand. It is fun but stressful. My advice to anyone is to start putting out the word before actually launching. Reach out to press outlets and try to time your launch with coverage by them. Be active on social… like really active. Post 2 times a day and make sure each post is thoughtful and engaging. We gained 3,500 followers during our Kickstarter. Your fans and supporters are the most important people in your outreach during Kickstarter.

So, I see you now have the second prototype, how does it compare with the first one? It is beautiful. If our first prototype was a Mercedes Benz, our second is a Ferrari. Next step…Formula 1. Then maybe a spaceship.

Is there anything about it you would like to change? We will constantly be innovating. We have ideas to make many versions. Waterproof, extra battery, etc.

A waterproof spaceship camera? Awesome. What’s next? Next we are looking for investment. Any parties out there in the world who would love to work with a young excited company, give us a shout!

We plan to ship in early 2016, you can pre-order one now at shop.lumenati.co.

Sounds like quite the journey. What’s in the future for you guys? We have some other cool products in the pipeline that we cannot wait to unleash on the world!  

 

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