Waking Dead Celebs: Holographs See a New Future in Storage, Ads

Music and art lovers who attended the Coachella Festival last Sunday were given the show of their lives when Tupac Shakur, the rap artist murdered in 1996, performed right in front of their eyes alongside Snoop Dogg.  The performance was orchestrated by Dr. Dre and a bunch of holographic technology pundits.

Tupac Live

The Digital Domain Media Group Inc. was responsible for the image of Tupac that appeared on last week’s Coachella stage.  They were also responsible for the various versions of Brad Pitt in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which won the best visual effects award at the 2008 Oscars.

To create the 2012 Tupac, Digital Domain went over past videos of the artist in order to get the baseline for Tupac’s image and moves, created the image on a computer, which resulted in a reanimated Tupac.  So you could say that this was a new Tupac.

“To create a completely synthetic human being is the most complicated thing that can be done,” Digital Domain’s chief creative officer, Ed Ulbrich, said in a phone interview.

“This is not found footage. This is not archival footage. This is an illusion,” Ulbrich added.

Creating the image is just one part of the whole equation.  The second part of the illusion is the projection.  AV Concepts was the one responsible for the 2-D image of Tupac.  Though some refer to this as a hologram, the projected image is just two-dimensional, whereas a hologram projects a three-dimensional image.  To create projections, one needs mirrors or reflective panels.

Tupac’s image was projected on Mylar – a highly reflective, lightweight plastic – stretched on a clear frame.  Musion Systems Ltd. owns the patent for using Mylar screens in illusions and they license the patent to 30 companies, including AV Concepts.

AV Concepts President Nick Smith admitted that they mostly use the technology to bring dead CEOs back to life in corporate functions.

Well, it looks like they’ll be busy bringing more dead artists back to life.  Dr. Dre is reportedly planning on a concert tour featuring the haunting life-like projection of Tupac performing with more artists.

Rise of the dead celebrities

Seeing dead celebrities on ads or videos isn’t anything new, but bringing them to fans like they were alive is definitely hitting the refresh button.  And Tupac’s appearance is just the start.

Mark Roesler, who manages dead celebrities via his agency CMG Worldwide, believes that we will be seeing more performances like this and someone could organize an entire concert featuring dead artists.

“The technology has evolved so much that these celebrities have a lot of new opportunities and the audience can experience them in different ways,” Roesler said. “The technology is not only more lifelike now but it is also more cost-efficient. As it keeps becoming more of both we will definitely see more of it.”

Holographic appearances

Holographic technology has been around for decades.  Well not really the 3-D type, but the illusion has been around for years, as far back as the 19th century.  But the hologram of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars might be the turning point for this technology.  At that time, the Princess Leia’s projection seemed light years away from actually happening, but we all know how fast technology evolves.  In a matter of years, holographic projections were being used in various ways.

In 2007, Celine Dion performed with rock and roll legend Elvis Presley on an episode of American Idol.  They used an old video of Presley for the projection.  In 2011, Mariah Carey used the technology to have simultaneous concerts across Europe, while Beyoncé Knowles’ Billboard performance used the technology to create Beyoncé clones – those were just epic.

But Will.I.Am’s hologram in an interview for CNN and Al Gore’s holographic appearance in Earth Tokyo made you think, “What were they thinking?”  Those weren’t awesome, they were actually a bit weird.

Holographic technology’s future

Holographic technology is not just for bringing dead artists back to life.  It can be used to solve the problem of storing big data and it can also be used in avionics and military displays.

hVault, a startup company, announced that they will begin shipping holographic disc drives and other products that are able to store data that lasts at least 50 years.  Holographic storage records information on magnetic and optical data storage devices, but because it uses light at different angles, more data can be stored.

SBG Labs,  a producer of electro-holographic materials and devices, signed a 10-year agreement with Rockwell Collins to bring to market next-generation avionics and military displays based on its breakthrough DigiLens, Switchable Waveguide Technology.

And of course, one of the best ways to use any technology is to advertise, hence the Holographic Greeter.  The Holographic Greeter is an information, branding and promotional messaging medium which displays a holographic image projected onto a life-sized cut-out that appears so life-like that people would have a hard time ignoring it.  The Holographic Greeter captivates people with their ability to interact with life-like realism, to the incorporation of its frameless screen in screen video capabilities, AromaFusion Scent Technology, or interactivity through Advanced QR Codes and the new Dual TouchScreen Interactive Kiosk.