Published on September 10th, 2017 | by admin
Karl Grimsey Interview (AC Worldwide Ltd)
We catch-up with the man behind some of the world’s most amazing audio collectibles (speakers), CEO Karl Grimsey that include exact replicas of Darth Vader and Master Chief’s helmet to name a few of the products created by AC Worldwide LTD.
Welcome to Impulse Gamer Karl! So tell us how you became involved in pop culture?
I have for a long time been involved in designing speakers – I just did not want to make another boring “black box” type speaker, I wanted to make something that is fun, and something everyone would recognise – who doesn’t recognise our SW or Halo characters? I wanted to make something fans and collectors would appreciate.
What was the first collectible that you ever owned?
I was never really a collector but more of a user. Action Man was the big thing in my youth as well as Corgi cars.
Can’t say I ever kept an Action Man or the accessories in a box, I was too busy throwing him off my parents roof with his parachute or later it was his hand glider.
As a kid, chemistry sets were a Christmas present every kid got – No heath and safety in those days !!! My brother and I would figure out what mixtures we had that could either burn or go bang – what else were kids supposed to do with a chemistry set that had chemicals and a Bunsen burner included?
Needless to say my collection of AMs either blew up or got badly burnt – saving was not an option :)
Can you tell us your top three films and what draws you to them?
Kelly’s Heroes – Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland – two of the coolest actors on the planet, great movie and I love the soundtrack to the movie. Every one of your readers this weekend must find time to download this movie and watch it – it is well made and very funny.
Catch 22 – because it is funny, nuts and sad and at the same time, you can feel the frustration and bizarre situation they found themselves in!
Star Wars 1977- Because I was a kid and it filled every child’s heads with space, adventure, good and evil, out of this world special effects and cool characters on both sides. As a 12yr old it just blew me away. I think half the planet was thinking the same the first time they saw it.
Okay… AC WorldWide… how did you come to create your amazing company?
I had a crazy idea that if we made a really good highly detailed speaker with an amazing sound quality of a character everyone would recognise we might be able to sell a few :)
So I made some drawings of 5 Stat Wars characters as speakers and knocked on Disney’s door in London and asked if I could have a license, they sent my drawings to Lucasfilms in USA who came back very quickly and said “when can I get the ready?” Then I went to some grown ups and asked if they would invest and they were kind enough to agree :)
What have been some of the challenges that you have faced?
Making the speakers we needed to have the actual designs of all the characters so we could ensure we made them 100% accurate. Nobody had a CAD of Stormtrooper so I borrowed one from a collector and 3d scanned it, took 100s of pictures from all angels and made a 3dCAD from that! Similar with Darth Vader! Most cads available did not contain 100% details such as the computer chips on his neck under the helmet so I photographed an original and then drew them into my CAD – so now, if you look under the skirt of Darth Vader you can see his chips!
Is it a Speaker or is it a collectable?
When showing buyers at major retailers they expect it to not sound good and think it will be a seasonable product – most are very surprised at the size and how good the sound quality is. You have to remind them that the Star Wars market is huge and not just at Christmas. Also Halo is a game is played by over 60+mil worldwide. It is the grand daddy of the first shooter games and appeals to both male and female players.
The challenge for the Halo piece is to find where the Halo fans hang out – where would they buy our speaker? We have to plan our strategy differently with Master Chief, we have to get in front of customers via the net and not just in online shops such as Amazon but in with influencers – these guys/gals are vital in our success in reaching out to the fanbase. They trust these guys/gals and will buy if recommended by them more so than they would from a retail salesman – not that we have real salesmen in stores nowadays!
The likes of you Andrew are vital to our business because you can give an honest and impartial view of what we make – we can’t buy that.
Tell us your top three biggest rewards?
1. ACW winning The License Award for innovation – it was awesome and a huge surprise to have buyers and retailers who meet to secretly look at all products within all the categories and vote on what they believe is the best – ACW were the first company ever to make this style of character speaker, seeing others copy what we have done with other licenses shows us we are on the right track :)
2. Having investors support and believe in me
3. Winning the Art Cup at school when I was 15!
Can you walk us through the creation process of your amazing Bluetooth Collectibles?
I look for Characters I know have a strong fan base.
From first drawing to pre-production takes up to 9 months – all the tooling is made from Steel molds that take many days to make and every mold has to be 100% smooth and accurate, any error will end up in every shell!
Firstly I draw the character and the base. The base is important as the scales of the model is driven by this.
If I have the 3D CAD from the License company then I use this to create the surface CAD from there we have to build in every detail from the thickness of the plastic, where speakers sit and how the air will move inside to ensure the high quality of sound and how do we get the air. This process takes many weeks to draw in to CAD.
Built into this we also have to calculate how we can make each part so that it can be assembled down the production line – once we have figured this out we 3D print each part and then try to Assembly it as a whole. Believe me, when it looks like it will fit back together in the CADS the printed parts show us that assembly might not we as easy, we may have too many or too few molds.
Once have settled on the final molds we make several prototypes with speakers assembled. Only when we are 100% happy with our prototypes and license approval will be the start the actual steel molds. Each model has to have its own internal packaging to ensure safe and secure travel from factory to end user.
Each giftbox design must be approved by the license. All of this has to happen before we sell a single unit!
This a snap shot of what goes into making any of our speakers. To make a simple “black box” speaker is fairly straight forward, when you make a character everyone will know, you have to make sure that every detail externally is right.
What’s been your biggest challenge in making these helmet?
Accuracy. It is so important that we make these exactly as the real character looks – collectors expect this. To stand out from any other merchandise of these characters we go the extra mile to ensure they are exactly same detail as original.
Halo Master Chief: The visor was the biggest challenge – something so simple to look at, took many many trials. We need to find a material that could represent the character’s visors from the game but also enables us to get the sound through it and still light up.
What’s been some of the feedback from companies like Disney and Microsoft?
They are very supportive. The team at 343 were a massive help in getting everything accurate as we are taking a computer game character and turning it into a 3D model. Every person at 343 is a Halo person, their support has been invaluable and we were not treated as just another licensee.
As with all licensed products, you have their support as it is important for them that we are successful in selling the final model.
Do you have a favourite helmet and what makes it a favourite of yours?
That’s like asking who is my favorite child :) They are all favorites as each has their own personalities.
Who do you hope to create in the near future?
The Terminator T-800. Now this is another challenge but if it were easy everyone would do it :):)
Check the amazing Bluetooth collectible speakers at https://acworldwide.cool