Tupac’s Coachella Hologram: How It Works

By Rob Markman

Tupac Shakur’s holographic Coachella performance wasn’t as futuristic as it may seem—not that it was any less spectacular. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that the technology used to bring Tupac back is actually based on 19th century visual effect known as Pepper’s Ghost. Illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer told the WSJ that the effect was first used in 1862 for a London dramatization of Charles Dickens’ “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain,” but we’d bet a king’s ransom that it didn’t look nearly as cool as Makaveli’s resurrection this past weekend. 

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The back-in-the day optical illusion is pulled off with an angled piece of glass on which an image is reflected. “A piece of glass can be both transparent and reflective at the same time, depending on how it’s situated relative to the audience,” Steinmeyer said.

“We worked with Dr. Dre on this and it was Dre’s vision to bring this back to life,” Nick Smith, president of AV Concepts, the San Diego company that projected and staged the hologram, told MTV News. “It was his idea from the very beginning and we worked with him and his camp to utilize the technology to make it come to life.”

Originally the Pepper’s Ghost effect was used to reflect actual actors, but modern-day technological advances made it possible for the fallen rap star to make his posthumous concert appearance. In the case of the Dr. Dre-orchestrated ‘Pac performance a Mylar screen was used instead of glass. An HD overhead projector shot a moving computer-generated image of the rapper onto a reflective surface on the stage floor. The moving image was then bounced up onto the Mylar screen, which was angled so the crowd wouldn’t notice.

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Though the image looked three-dimensional, it was still technically a 2-D display. Regardless the effect was enough to thrill audience members and Coachella performers alike. “It was just a crazy feeling, made me think of that one moment when I seen dude in real life,” said Kendrick Lamar who also rocked the stage alongside Dr. Dre. “When I finally got to see it along with the other hundred thousand people, it was just something that I didn’t think nobody could ever do.”

Warren G got his first taste of Holo ‘Pac during the show rehearsals. “I was like, ‘Whoa, wow,’ because it looked like him, it talked like him, it just moved like him, it’s just like, ‘Damn.’ It was a trip.”

Warren believes that the holographic technology used to bring ‘Pac to the stage can be a powerful tool in uniting different rap factions. Ultimately he hopes the excitement surrounding Dre and Snoop’s Coachella performance can spawn a bigger tour and possibly lead to a similar stunt starring the Notorious B.I.G.
Would you buy tickets to see a Tupac Hologram concert? Tell us in the comments!