The media is a-buzz with headlines highlighting the revival of deceased King of Pop Michael Jackson at the recent Billboard Awards. Jackson’s estate released his new single “Slave to the Rhythm”, which debuted as a holographic performance of the star moon-walking across the stage. The problem is, the hologram, isn’t technically a hologram. It’s an illusion that has been around for centuries.
It’s an old technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. It’s frequently used in theater, magic tricks, and dark rides (like Disney’s Haunted Mansion). The technique utilizes glass, certain angles, and special lighting methods, creating the illusion of objects seeming to appear and disappear on command.
In her article “What’s Holography’s Future” for DigitalCinemaReport.com, Linda Law explains the phenomenon in regards to another recent “holographic” performance of deceased rapper Tupac Shikour at the 2012 Cochella Music Festival. “This [updated technique] alone did not make Tupac revive. It required shooting in very high resolution, some amazing CG work using a body double, and the mapping of Tupac’s head to the body as well as very powerful projectors that make the projected image look quite real. The fact that he moves around showing different parts of himself helps the illusion but it is still 2D… These may be quite effective and engaging and for all who have not seen an actual hologram, quite believable as holograms. I do think that with clever use of this medium many creative and engaging productions will be made.”
The Tupac “hologram” reportedly cost over $400k to create, and with other stars like Janelle Monae and M.I.A incorporating “holograms” into their performances, this new niche form of entertainment has lots of potential for future growth, especially in the digital art field, utilizing CGI and the updated “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion to bring back the some of our favorite artists from the dead.
Would you pay to see your favorite artist perform as a “hologram”? Do you think the Michael Jackson “hologram” was creepy or cool? Let us know in the comments.