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article imageOp-Ed: Dead rock stars as holographic performers? New moves

By Paul Wallis     Dec 28, 2018 in Entertainment
Sydney - New holographic tech has enabled Michael Jackson, Roy Orbison, Tupac, Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse to perform again. The big issues are tech, image quality, performance, creative values and of course, the audience. How far can this go?
This tech has been around for years, but it's now taking off in a meaningful sense. Holograms were a big thing in the 1980s, with vastly inferior technologies and limited scope for images, let alone moving images. Now, there’s an almost limitless supply of artists, alive and dead, to work with, in any holographic combination.
The problems, however, are no trivial range of issues, either:
Legal issues: You need to have the rights to reproduce images of artists. Hologram USA is the big wheel in this field, owning rights to big names and the tech to go with it. The fact that many US states have different rights laws hardly helps.
Production issues: To “create” a performance, a lookalike and an image moves video reference dummy have to be used. Not too sparkling as an Image of the Wild Artist, but necessary. The problem is that production also has to deliver the artistry, and that is anything but easy. (Also, in strict fairness - This type of digital production is a monster, with a lot of hard work required, and plenty of picky stuff to deal with, so all due respect to the lucky souls who have to do the grunt work.)
Music rights: The big black hole of performing or broadcasting anything, if hologram performances take off, even for a short while, this will be THE cash cow of the moment, with the music industry scum snouts sniffing about all over the place. Just what they need; more money. It’s like giving tons of gold bullion to cattle.
How good can these performances be? Well, at least one audience started singing along to Tupac, so maybe it’s not quite as sliced bread as it looks. Apparently, you can even do pre-recorded audience banter, etc. I think the performance standards issues need to be taken with a few tons of salt, due to the extreme difficulties of achieving a really high standard like these artists.
Prototype flexible holographic smartphone developed by Queen s University
Prototype flexible holographic smartphone developed by Queen's University
Queen's University
Frankly, I’d suspend judgment until this tech has had a chance to exercise and develop some natural fluency through experience. Imagine trying to do a performance by John Lennon, or someone as unpredictable as Jimi Hendrix as a hologram. These guys were super-performers, truly intense, and very professional. The "culture" of holograms is more of an issue, with these images as the potential easy fix for people who can't be bothered hiring live performers, too.
Screwing up monumentally could be the default option for any scripted performance. I’d suggest getting some top of the line performers on board to help production with the real nuances of performance, to add the required level of depth. Performers are very much “of the second”, literally, adding a lot with a single move, gesture, or expression. Hologram is just starting kindergarten in this regard, so some attention to these issues would be well worth doing.
OK, now what about new creative ideas?
The idea of bringing someone back to life in theory is hardly new. They’ve been doing that in the theatre forever, and an old movie is basically the same thing in 2D. The trick with holograms is you can do a LOT of creative stuff, too, and that’s apparently well under the radar at the moment.
I don’t want to be too bitchy, let alone Puritanical, about a very basic idea which also has so many creative upsides. What I see, however, is a revival mode when so much more is possible:
Holograms can add a vast environment for performers. Why not create a dreamscape, to go with a live performance? You could literally create a space and put anything in to it for the performers.
Image tech is a lot more fluid, and reliable, these days. How about live people in a hologram movie set? Remove the limits for the performers, in fact, and let them work with the images as they want?
Mandelbrot equations can achieve a very high level of consistency. They're great for imagery algorithms, particularly image fields. Add these to your algorithms, and you could have a true endless supply of images to work with, fully consistent with any performance needs.
Why not do a Bjork-like Big Space hologram? Something like her recent stage stuff, which basically removes the barriers between image and audience? (No, it’s not easy, but it’s a very good visual asset.) This type of imagery is highly effective, and can deliver a 3D environment, even without using holograms. Could be a good workaround for some of the more demanding image issues, too.
It could be that the current hologram tech is the first step for a vast range of artistic possibilities which are too clunky or too expensive to do otherwise. With a bit of luck, holograms could unleash the next wave of creative art and open up whole new possibilities for performers. Let’s hope, eh?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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