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.