A hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur stole the show at Coachella 2012, capturing the fascination of more than 100,000 fans at the annual music festival, and sparking a wave of reactions across Twitter and other social media.
Accolades for the high-definition projection, which performed as part of a live set by rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, lauded it for its impeccable details. The lifelike hologram captured 'Pac's athletic swagger and iconic swag as it romped around the stage, brandishing tattoos and Timberland boots.
Details like these are what allow audiences, even large ones like at Coachella, to suspend disbelief. Fortunately, such details happen to be the speciality of AV Concepts, the production company that so convincingly resurrected Tupac. As a small company in a competitive industry, it must to prioritize client relationships and adopt new technology to succeed -- and pave the way forward. Their latest win is just case-in-point.
In an interview with MTV, AV Concepts president Nick Smith said that his company worked meticulously with the project's mastermind, Dr. Dre. According to MTV, everything about the hologram, from its movements to its clothing, was "recreated under the direction of Dre and his team." The Tupac hologram "was [Dr. Dre's] idea from the very beginning and we worked with him and his camp to utilize the technology to make it come to life," Smith told MTV.
AV Concepts produced the hologram for Coachella, but its partner, Digital Domain Media Group, was responsible for the animation. According to the Wall Street Journal, a British company, Musion Systems owns the patent on the Mylar-screen process that was used to project the hologram onto the stage at Coachella, and AV Concepts is a licensee on that patent.
While Smith would not divulge an exact cost for the Coachella hologram to MTV, he offered a price range for a comparable event at between $100,000 to more than $400,000. He called the pricing "affordable" compared to the cost of pulling in entertainers from around the world to perform at concerts.
As live visual performance technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, it might pave the way for a new kind of entertainment experience. While AV Concepts has helped other groups, such as the band Gorillaz, utilize holographic technology, their Tupac seems to have broken new ground in realism. If companies can deliver a convincing live hologram performance for less what it costs to send a band on tour, this resurrection might signal a new dawn for live entertainment.
With the right technology, companies can "take people that haven't done concerts before or perform music they haven't sung and digitally recreate it," Smith told MTV.
This is to say nothing of the priceless opportunity given to hip-hop fans at Coachella. Hologram Tupac might be an elaborate surrogate, but to many, including real live perfomers like Rhianna and the Roots' Questlove, the vibe was real enough. Imagine what it might mean to fans of the Beatles to see a live, hologram-performed rendition of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
The Huffington Post attempted to contact AV Concepts for comment via phone and e-mail, but no reply was received by press time.
Clarification: While the Tupac illusion has been branded by the companies behind it and its technology as holographic and referred to in the media as a hologram, it is in fact a 2-D image projection. Holograms are 3-D. The illusions produced by AV Concepts are 2-D images that give the appearance of being 3-D.
A previous version of this article was unclear about the the respective roles of AV Concepts and Digital Domain in the creation of the Tupac image.
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