The virtual Tupac was put together by video technology firm AV Concepts with the help of James Cameron’s visual effects company, Digital Domain, using a mix of previously recorded live footage and CGI. The hologram effect was created using a system developed by London-based Musion, which uses an advanced version of a 19th century magic trick called Pepper’s ghost to make virtual images appear live on stage.
While the traditional Pepper’s ghost illusion uses light partially reflected off a pane of glass, Musion’s version involves a custom-developed foil to create more realistic images. Tupac appeared on stage alongside rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg – who are very much alive – and greeted the crowd by naming the Coachella festival, despite the fact it had not been held prior to his death.
As we reported last year, the creation of digital humans is becoming increasingly sophisticated and actors will soon be able to record their likeness, potentially allowing them to star in films long after their death. It won’t be long before the first all-digital lead actor hits our screen, Stephen Rosenbaum, a visual effects supervisor at Digital Domain, told New Scientist. “You look at the imagery and the performances and it’s absolutely believable. It just takes a director that’s going to be brave enough to cross that line.”