From Hollywood to the Factory

By Nick Leiber
     March 31 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) -- In 2002, Eric Golden
got a call from Panavision. His old boss, billionaire financier
Ronald Perelman, had just become majority shareholder of the
ailing movie camera maker. Would Golden, then corporate counsel
at the Washington Redskins, help push the nearly 50-year-old
business into the Digital Age? Golden said yes and spent the next
three years pursuing dozens of possible tech acquisitions. Along
the way, he saw another opportunity: Some of the technology
Hollywood spent millions developing had commercial potential
outside showbiz. In 2005, armed with his Harvard law degree and
zero engineering credentials, Golden quit Panavision and launched
Imagility, a privately held holding company that specializes in
repurposing movie tech for other industries.
     The first company Imagility has invested in is Luminys
Systems, which makes lighting systems used to simulate flash
effects on film sets. That equipment is now used by Saab, Tata
Motors (TTM), and others needing powerful lights to capture crash
tests on video. The second: Actua Systems, which makes a compact,
portable telescoping lift used by filmmakers to put cameras in
hard-to-reach places. The U.S. Army is using them to mount
surveillance equipment on Humvees.
     Golden's latest bet is Equipois, which created zeroG, a
mechanical arm for factory workers who operate heavy tools. It
uses gyroscope-like technology developed for the Steadicam, the
rig cameramen use to get dolly-steady shots while walking. The
system looks like a piece of exercise equipment crossed with a
Terminator prop and is anchored to a wall, ceiling, or chair. The
business end holds any tool that weighs up to 36 lb. In an
aircraft factory—Boeing (BA) and Airbus are customers—the arm
might hold a rivet gun. Normally, productivity would be limited
by the worker's stamina; the Equipois arm makes the tool seem
weightless, while allowing complete freedom of movement. "The
technology doesn't replace people," says the 42-year-old Golden.
"It makes them stronger."
     The Washington (D.C.) native expects revenue at his
22-employee company to triple this year, to around $4 million,
and says it will be profitable by 2013. The arm comes in $5,000
and $10,000 versions; in June Golden plans to ship a smaller
$2,500 model meant for dentists, surgeons, and others who work
long periods with arms outstretched.
     James Mallon, an Ann Arbor (Mich.) industrial ergonomics
consultant, says Equipois may make factories safer. U.S.
businesses spend more than $15 billion a year in workers'
compensation related to overexertion and repetitive-motion
injuries, according to Liberty Mutual. "We don't want to endorse
any one product," says Mallon. "But it's certainly the one where
we say, 'You've got to take a look at this.'"


     Law degree from Harvard; undergrad at Brown


     Lawyer at MacAndrews & Forbes, and Washington Redskins


     A mechanical arm based on Steadicam technology