The Tupac hologram shocked and awed fans and non-fans alike. People were drawn into the nature of the hologram, and it offered an enticing and original take into a legendary bygone era of rap. It was only accentuated further when Snoop Dogg joined the stage. Basically, the Tupac hologram at Coachella was a perfect storm of many great perfect occurrences, and it was something really quite special.
With the outpouring of fan love from Tupac’s post-death hologram appearance at Coachella 2012, the web erupted with possibilities for the future in the hologram technology. Yet just like any good pseudo-fad, is there a point where the specialty of something is overshadowed by the sheer thrill and proactive thought of doing it on a bigger, wider, grander scale? In other words, when something is exciting, people attach to it and grow it until it becomes, well, anything BUT exciting.
Tupac hologram, and the blog bursting orgasms that followed on the internet, is an exquisite example of this. Breaking the phenomenon down, let’s grasp that Tupac was not the first time the hologram technology was used. Madonna used it to play across from a reanimated holographic ‘Gorillaz,’ the fictitious band put to life by, primarily, Damon Albarn. Let’s not forget CNN’s huge hologram budget- they employ it every other month.
The technology involved with bringing Tupac to life involves, in its simplest form, a projector on the ceiling/roof. It projects down an image of the display, and on the ground is essentially a powerful refracted mirror. This mirror then displays the image against a curved/arched wall. All this, in essence, gives the illusion of a full-body, 3-D from a distance, and the wall appears flat and not arched. The innovators behind the Tupac technology are AV Concepts, but there are others, notably inPhase Technologies who have been crafting hologram-type media for just as long.
With all that said, the Tupac hologram was really really cool. Tupac’s holographic resurrection was a special moment specific to the environment and the time, and the fresh technology and overall surprise of the appearance (as well as appearances by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre) made it far cooler than it ever was on a surface level. Aesthetically it just worked. In other words, it clicked.
Yet like anything that is deemed really cool, we tend to get ahead of ourselves. Though I won’t directly quote, Dr. Dre said he is willing to invest and potentially push the Tupac hologram for a full tour. Other celebrities and musicians have come out and said they would love to see Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Kurt Cobain join the holographic foray and even go on a tour. Perhaps the original members of Nirvana can perform alongside a holographic Cobain? Man that would be sooooo cool. Right. Even someone of public stature and influence said, and I won’t give them away because they’ll look like a total asshat clown, they would love to see Justin Beiber perform alongside a holographic Elvis Presley, for what most would consider resulting in something completely blasphemous and cringe-worthy
I don’t think what we need is to see a slew of dead musicians to go on tour. The Tupac hologram was effective for a multitude of reasons, and none of those involved a full-blown commercial tour. The uniqueness, the freshness, and the environment made for something truly fascinating and enthralling. So what happens when four years go by and Whitney Houston is touring alongside Michael Jackson for $85 a ticket? This isn’t even to speak about who is profiting from these endeavors, and who is willing to pay to see a hologram of someone they admire. Isn’t there perhaps a moral compass involved here?
The water-down effect comes into play. Something unique and cool is brutalized by mainstream, commonality, and excess. Let’s try to keep the hologram technology refined. It would be amazing to see Michael Jackson perform a one-off show at the Superbowl halftime show to millions of fans. It’s another thing to have Paul McCartney go on tour with a hologram John Lennon and George Harrison and charge $200 a ticket.
This isn’t even as much an ethical dilemma, but one of saturation. The hologram technology is fascinating, but when we are rebranding and enlivening dead musicians to the next highest bidder, we are saturating the technology and concept while also maintaining that it is okay for holograms to be mainstays.
I am not against the hologram technology, as much as I am against the abuse of something new in light of those who are dead. AV Concepts is sure to push the technology and expand their business, and others will advance the technology and offering competing advances. But with a cultural shift, it isn’t impossible to see Kurt Cobain holograms being sold for $399.99 and selling song packs for your purchased Cobain hologram. I may be jumping the gun but let’s understand how fast technology can take control of a culture satiating for something fresh on a daily basis.
Let’s advance and grow the hologram technology, but let’s do so with a humbling nature and some self-control. Let’s grow the technology responsibly and see what magical places holograms can take outside the means of employing the dead to life.