No End to Things That Are Not Holograms

The company responsible for the Tupac hologram that performed at Coachella last year, Digital Domain Media Group, recently went bankrupt, somehow, despite the millions pouring in from investors, the $400,000 Dr. Dre himself reportedly paid for the puppet Tupac, and funded plans they had to resurrect Elvis as a hologram and possibly pitch holograms to political candidates to deliver virtual speeches this upcoming election.


Ok, so Tupac is double dead now, him and his hologram. Sort of. I mean some still insist he is not physically dead, but one thing for certain I feel moved to clarify is that he was never a hologram. Not even remotely close.

The Tupac hologram was simply a high-quality isolated video projection (niced up with 3-D graphics to provide depth cues) on a transparent screen (a sheet of mylar stretched across stage). Not very different, technologically speaking, than what you see when you go to the movies. It was sold as a hologram because it seemed like a free-moving 3-D object “beamed” from some magic device, like what we saw in the first Star Wars movie when Princess Leia sent an image of her bodily form to convey a message to Obi-wan instead of just simply sending a recording of her voice or some writing. (The significance of her using her whole, three-dimensional (but shrouded) body to plead her message, virtually, is a topic for a different article, but of course this fictional technology is already inspiring a robust pursuit at MIT.)

The real name for what you saw in the Tupac trick, or in Gorillaz “live” stage performances of its cartoon members, or in Hatsune Miku, a blue-haired Vocaloid anime girl/voice synthesizer whose songs can be created by users, is the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion, which you have seen if you’ve ever been through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It’s a stage trick involving secret rooms, angled glass and lights that create ghostly images that seem to float and disappear midair. Although mentioned by some news sources, “Pepper’s Ghost Illusion” obviously doesn’t sound as technologically-advanced as “hologram”; in fact, it sounds a little quaint and old-fashioned, which is why marketers haven’t seemed to want to bring it up.

The only reason this misnomer bothers me is that it masks the true facts of real holograms, and the facts are wonderful, more wonderful than the facts of Pepper’s Ghost Illusion. I recently finished writing a whole book inspired by the facts of holograms borne out of an accidental obsession that started when, for no reason I can remember, I looked up holography on Wikipedia. READ MORE >

Behind the Scenes / 4 Comments
September 3rd, 2013 / 11:42 am