Watch: Tupac hologram at Coachella -- you've seen the footage. Here's how it was done
By now you've seen Tupac's performance with Snoop Dogg last night at Coachella. The legendary rapper was brought back to life by Dr. Dre's production company, in collaboration with Digital Domain, James Cameron's digital production company, and AV Concepts, a company based in Tempe, Arizona, using a Musion Eyeyliner projection systems. The late rapper was brought back to life employing a theatrical illusion known as Pepper's Ghost.
Tupac in 3-D last night at Coachella.
Update (4/16/12): The Wall Street Journal has shed a little bit more light on the process. In a piece posted this afternoon, Digital Domain's Chief Creative Officer, Ed Ulbrich, revealed: "This is not found footage. This is not archival footage. This is an illusion." Among other insights to be gleaned from Ulbrich's chat with WSJ: There's reportedly potential for a tour, and Dr. Dre evidently first approached Digital Domain about year ago about working together.
In essence, the process involves taking high-def images and projecting them onto Mylar film that is positioned at a 45 degree angle to create images that appear to be three-dimensional: "You're driving down the freeway, and you have a pack of cigarettes laying on the dash of your car," explains Nick Smith, AV Concept's co-founder, "reflects up and it looks like the cigarettes are floating above your hood in front of you. It's a light technology with a reflective technology. The light reflects the image back into something that makes it look like it's standing up. Your windshield raised at an angle like that creates that same effect."
In 2005, Gorillaz teamed up with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, who created the band's graphic alter-egos, and Passion Pictures, to become one of the first (if not the first) musical acts to use the technology at that year's MTV Europe Awards, before making another appearance the following year at the Grammys, which also featured a virtual Madonna.
While last night's resurrection of Tupac is the first posthumous performance many folks have seen, in 2006, the U.K.-based company SquareZero Ltd., who itself first started working with the technology in 2006, similarly brought Frank Sinatra back to life to perform as a gift for Simon Cowell on his 50th birthday, in addition to breathing life back into the late Paul Arden at Cannes in 2010, and animating Christina Aguilera in February of last year for a fragrance line.
This morning, we caught up with Smith, who co-founded AV Concepts in 1987 with Fred Mandrick, to find out more about the process of bringing Tupac back to life last night, how the whole thing came together and what AV Concept's involvement was in the project. While there were some specifics he simply couldn't divulge, he did give us some great insights. Page down to see what he had to say.