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Although news of the stunt leaked days before the performance, audience members at the Coachella music festival were astonished by a posthumous performance by late hip hop entertainer Tupac ‘2Pac’ Shakur, made possible by holographic technology.
The show, which featured the still-living Calvin ‘Snoop Dogg’ Broadus singing verses of “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” was accomplished by dropping a 13 by 30 foot screen onto the stage, onto which a three layer, 1920×1080 pixel video image of Shakur was projected. That technology was invented by Dimensional Studios, the 3-D model of Shakur was created by Hollywood special effects outfit Digital Domain, and the performance was realized by AV Concepts.
“This show was by far one of the most exciting yet challenging projects we have ever worked on,” said AV Concepts president Nick Smith, in a press release. “A highly choreographed, live, outdoor holographic production of this magnitude with hundreds of thousands of people watching gave us the added incentive, and pressure, to deliver.”
The stage effect behind the illusion, which is known as Pepper’s Ghost, predates modern projection technology by more than a century.
The holographic Shakur character moved fluidly, but suffered from the “uncanny valley” effect in which non-human figures that closely resemble human beings seem otherworldly. The Shakur hologram’s too-smooth, blue-tinted and videogame-like motions were cast into harsher contrast when Broadus took the stage.
That effect was mitigated, though, by what appeared to be banter between the two.
“That’s what the fuck I’m talkin’ about,” said the Shakur apparition, after performing “Hail Mary,” his final single.
“Hey yo ‘Pac, let these motherfuckers know what kind of party they at right now,” Broadus responded, as the performance segued into their duet.
The concept for the holographic performance originated with prolific hip hop producer and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment Andre ‘Dr. Dre’ Young, according to Smith. He won’t disclose the cost of Sunday’s spectacle, but told MTV that a comparable technological resurrection would cost between $100,000 and $400,000.
After the performance, the Shakur hologram disintegrated into particles of light.
AV Concepts has produced similar effects for performances by Celine Dione and Madonna. Another high-profile celebrity brought back to life as a hologram was Frank Sinatra, who was digitally recreated by Square Zero as stunt at Simon Cowell’s birthday party.
Shakur died in 1996 from gunshot wounds sustained in Las Vegas. Adding to the mystique of Sunday’s performance, longstanding conspiracy theories posit either that Shakur was killed for unpublicized reasons or that he is still alive and in hiding.