A 360-Degree Pied Piper

Robert Kwasny wants to sell the world on a camera that captures everything in all directions all the time

After building Becky, Kwasny paid $30,000 for the motor home and hit the road in November. Since, he's logged 25,000 miles and traveled to California, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Savannah before arriving in South Florida. He's also set up a Website to promote his company (www.absolute360.com).

Once here, he hit the yacht industry. Kwasny brought Becky around to several boat brokers located on the Intracoastal Waterway near the 17th Street Causeway and says he has since been hired by several of them to produce Internet ads. Though he won't name most of his clients, he allowed New Times to come along for a meeting with Bob McKee, general manager of National Liquidators, the nation's largest boat repossession company. The firm, located at the Jackson Marine Center on the New River just west of Interstate 95, hired Kwasny to film two vessels.

"He was just out there running around in his chair and doing what he does," says McKee, who'd never seen 360 before. "I was amazed -- at first, I thought he was taking pictures of the sky with that thing."

Kwasny turns plenty of heads as he travels the country. But can he get the attention of Tinseltown?
Michael McElroy
Kwasny turns plenty of heads as he travels the country. But can he get the attention of Tinseltown?

Each month, National Liquidators sells 50 to 60 boats that range in price from $1500 to $10 million, McKee says. Before hiring Kwasny, he had used only still shots to display his boats on the Internet, where the company draws in 80 percent of its customers. "We were behind the times," he says. "With 360, you can see the whole damn boat instead of just a little part of it. What makes 360 amazing to me is, it's like you're actually looking at the vessel. It's not like a picture somebody made. It's like you make your own pictures."

While such reactions drive Kwasny forward, the question persists: Is Kwasny on a quixotic journey, or can he really be successful? "It sounds like an interesting idea," says producer Chuck Connors, of You Are There Productions, the only Broward company that currently offers 360-degree video services (sans Becky, of course). "As a one-man band, he may be able to make a living at it."

Robert Sclafani, head of one of South Florida's largest production companies, avers that Kwasny has a "novel idea" but adds a note of reality. "If he has the sales ability and the design know-how, he might very well be successful," says Sclafani, president of Multi Image Group, which doesn't offer 360. "But it all depends on how much revenue he brings in by the end of the year."

Kwasny says he's not consumed by the idea of making short-term bucks. He's focused on the long run -- which ends with California and the movie industry. He's planning to hit the road again this week and drive cross-country, with stops in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and eventually California, where he'll try to win over directors and actors with Becky and his sample footage. He's also designing Becky II, which he says will be better in every way than the original. Ultimately, he expects to make movie shorts to be sold to Internet providers. "It's going to be endless," he says of 360 degree's potential. "I want to be a person that helps to usher in the new age. And I've found that showing up is everything. I show up."

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