Hip-hop fans are dropping their collective jaw as word of the Tupac “hologram” is ricocheting around the Internet. As seen in the five-minute video, a three-dimensional Shakur is seen, shirtless, moving across the stage, and even greeting the crowd at the beginning with a stunning voice that sounds an awful lot like Tupac himself: “What the [f] is up, Coachella?”
The virtual rendition of the late rapper then proceeds to do renditions of two classic ‘Pac tracks, “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” while gesturing and walking back and forth across the stage in an extremely lifelike manner, replete with Thug Life tattoos and his characteristic necklace. Twitter, unsurprisingly, has been abuzz with chatter—spawning an admittedly hilarious new account: @HologramTupac: “Anybody got a spare 54 AA sized batteries? I think Snoop done smoked my charger. #PlugLife”
British MuseumOnly problem? This wasn’t a hologram at all. Rather, it was a clever optical illusion technique known as “Pepper’s Ghost,” which dates back to a technique first described by an Italian scientist in the 16th century.
This combination of high-quality computer rendering and old-school optical trickery has impressed many experts.
“It is amazing, no question about it,” David Brady, the head of the Duke Imaging and Spectroscopy Program at Duke University, told Ars on Monday. “The impressive thing here is how life-like and detailed and natural it seems, and that’s just an outcome of advances in computer rendering [rather] than display.”
But of course, while Tupac may be the best (and possibly first posthumous) performance of a Pepper’s Ghost illusion, there have been plenty of others in recent years. Al Gore did it in 2007. Madonna and the Gorillaz did it in 2006. Richard Branson did it in 2005. Heck, even a Canadian backyard engineer built one in a few days for Halloween.
John Pepper, a British chemist, adapted a technique conceived by fellow Briton Henry Dircks, for use in the theater by the middle of the 19th century. As a result, the technique was named after him.
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