How the Tupac ‘hologram’ works

INDIO, CA - APRIL 15: A hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur performs onstage during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella) (Christopher Polk/GETTY IMAGES FOR COACHELLA)

Tupac Shakur appeared in concert at the Coachella music festival Sunday night, wowing audiences who watched his image rap with Snoop Dogg.

And now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting (with the puntastic headline “Rapper’s De-Light”) that the late rapper, despite having died in a shooting 15 years ago, may be going on tour.

The image of the rapper is not, in fact, a hologram. The 2D-image is an updated version of a stage trick that dates to the 1800s. In the old version, an actor would hide in a recess below the stage as stagehands used mirrors to project the image of a ghost.

According to a 1999 patent uncovered by the International Business Times, the trick used by the company AV Concepts employs an angled piece of glass placed on the the stage to reflect a projector image onto a screen that looks invisible to the audience.

The team pulled together Tupac’s performance by looking at old footage and creating an animation that incorporated characteristics of the late singer’s movements.

AV Concepts president Nick Smith told the Journal that the company had used the technology to digitally resurrect some deceased executives — though he gave no details on that. The patent on the technology shows an example of a presentation where the presenter is on stage with the projected image of a car.

Over at MTV, writer Gil Kaufmann questioned whether the success of the virtual Tupac would set a trend, particularly for performances including multiple artists. The potential for a surprise appearance from a beloved celebrity performer could be a draw for audiences.

But the trick could be overused, Kaufmann wrote: “For example, if Paul McCartney announced a tour with a virtual John Lennon, Beatles fans would likely see that as being in bad taste and not show up.”

Speaking to Kaufmann, Dave Brooks of the magazine Venues Today said that the trick could have gotten tired quickly even in the Coachella performance, but that the effect was impressive when used sparingly.

Related stories:

From a virtual Tupac to a healing force: Innovation and hip-hop

Tupac resurrected via hologram for Coachella performance with Snoop Dogg (Video)

Tupac Shakur hologram to tour?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read Business



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.