Typically, including a question in the post title is an indication that I have no answer for it. This time, that is not the case.
By now, you’ve seen the Tupac hologram, so I’m only embedding it here because I intend to reference a specific moment in the video momentarily:
Don’t get me wrong: the video is amazing, and worth watching. But the amazing part isn’t the hologram. That technology is old. This video out of – where else? – Japan spent a solid week as my gchat status two years ago:
And in case that video somehow led you to believe the technology had until now been used only for anime, Ars Technica informs us it has also been used to project Madonna, the Gorillaz, Richard Branson – even Al Gore – in concert and, presumably, lecture.
No, the amazing part comes 48 seconds in, when ‘Tupac’ says (and I quote):
What the fuck is up Coachellllllllla
You see, Tupac died in 1996 – the first Coachella Festival didn’t take place until 1999. Dilemma. Or perhaps simply technical wizardry. As Ed Ulbrich, CEO of Digital Domain Media Group explained to the Wall Street Journal, Tupac is the first dead entertainer his company has presented “live”:
“To create a completely synthetic human being is the most complicated thing that can be done… This is not found footage. This is not archival footage. This is an illusion.”
And DDMG picked a hell of an entertainer to inaugurate the technology – I hope someone asked Tupac how he feels about it. The company’s achievement opens the door to the recreation of other artists and historical figures, particularly those who never actually died, like Elvis, Jesus, and the Rebbe. (I was tempted to include Kurt Cobaine, but I have a feeling he would not approve.)
Tempting as it may be to bring back every dearly departed entertainer, there’s something distinctly macabre about watching Snoop dance it up at Coachella on the same stage as someone who’s been dead for fifteen years.
Hip hop artist Nas understands those who were taken aback by the more tasteless aspects of the performance, but contends that reaction is due primarily to the novelty of it all:
It’s a historic thing that they did it, but I think that technology will get better and we’ll find new ways of doing it. I think someone had to do it first, and who better than Dre to make a hologram of Tupac? Hip-hop shows are becoming bigger and bigger by the day, and I think as times goes on, it can be done in a way where everyone’s happy — where it’s not just creepy, where you don’t know how you feel about it. The first time it’s done, it’s the first time, so that’s the experience we’re having. Some people don’t like it, some are gonna be creeped out by it, but all of those reactions are great.
Even if Nas is wrong, and general audiences never overcome their distaste for digitally disinterring the dead, I believe there will still be an appetite for the use of DDMG’s technology to project contrived performances by living artists that could simply never occur in real life. I, for one, look forward to watching a hologram of Matisyahu in concert – beard intact.
On that note, I wonder what he’s doing for sfira.