Until Tupac Shakur appeared last weekend at Coachella, it would have been hard to think of a hologram as anything but crazy nerdy. Remember “X-Men” villain Genesis, whose mutant power was the ability to project other people’s memories in the form of holograms? I didn’t think so. One need not go for such a deep cut: we’ve got Princess “You’re My Only Hope” Leia, shimmering “Harry Potter” characters inside Universal Studios’ Wizarding World, and too many holodeck-focused “Star Trek” episodes to count.
But now, for better or for worse (and until Biggie Smalls or “Star Trek 2” deliver a more kickass rendering of a 3-D image), Tupac’s computer-generated doppelganger reigns as the coolest hologram in pop culture. That’s why Hologram Tupac is Splash Page’s Hero of the Week.
Though news of Holo-pac’s Coachella resurrection leaked days before he appeared at the music festival, no one actually thought it was going to be so damn awesome. And without a doubt, there were legions of stoned concertgoers who thought they’d taken some bad acid when the MC materialized on stage saying, “What up, Coachella?” a full 15 years after he was gunned down in Las Vegas. Whether you knew it was coming or not, the stunt was nothing short of miraculous. It looked just real enough to be, well, real. The swagger was there. The voice was there. Tupac was there.
It was a visual effect even James Cameron could respect. While the company behind holo-Pac isn’t saying exactly how it pulled the whole thing off — telling MTV News only that it worked with Dr. Dre “to utilize the technology to make it come to life” — it was likely the result of motion-capture technology that has become standard on the big screen.
What’s different in the case of Coachella, of course, is that the visual effect was not confined to a movie theater’s screen but unleashed into the world. Holograms have certainly been here before — from the centuries’ old magician’s trick known as Pepper’s ghost to the craptastic appearance of Will.I.Am during CNN’s presidential-election coverage. But until now, it’d never looked this good. It’s a sci-fi nerd’s dream come true, in a sense — a game-changing technology no longer part of a fictional realm but in our own. Holo-pac is the beginning of something very new.
As with much technological innovation, there is legitimate cause for concern. There’s the possibility that the heroic Hologram Tupac might give rise to a whole new class of villains — businessmen and family members that control a celebrity’s life-rights but don’t always have his or her’s beyond-the-grave interests in mind. As my colleague, James Montgomery, wrote earlier this week, “Part séance, part neo-necromancy, Holo-pac also almost certainly heralds the coming of a brave new era of revenue-grabbing, legacy-tarnishing spectacle.”
Would we be troubled, for instance, if holo-Heath Ledger walked the red carpet at the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises”? Might we pause if Christopher Reeve appeared at the Oscars to accept a lifetime achievement award? Such things are now, technologically, within the realm of possibility. Where do we draw the line?
For now, instead of delving into morally ambiguous territory, let’s just enjoy holo-Pac for what he is: the chance to see a hip-hop icon once again rocking the stage. And while we’re at it, let’s celebrate Genesis, otherwise known as Tyler Dayspring, the mutant whose tortured backstory had him time traveling back two thousand years into our present to become a hologram-projecting super villain because he was mad at his daddy.
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