Modern holograms are a confusing concept. They’re not quite the same as what we’ve come to expect from movies.
Six years ago, the “hologram” that created Tupac Shakur at Coachella wasn’t even a hologram at all, but rather something known as “Pepper’s Ghost,” which used glass and tricks of the light to make a fabricated video seem 3D. That performance seemed new and innovative, since “Tupac” reacted to the crowd’s applause and the actions of the others on stage, but much of that was pre-determined and pre-programmed. “Pepper’s Ghost” itself is a technique that was invented 150 years ago.
There are three big companies in the field of holographic dead celebrities (Hologram USA, Pulse Evolution, and Base Hologram), and all of them seem to approach the creation of holograms in a slightly different way. They also have tremendous legal trouble even gaining the rights to use posthumous celebrities’ mannerisms and character.
None of the three companies is keen to give away its secrets, either. Facial tracking, high-frequency animation, and CGI are likely and in some cases confirmed. In the case of recreating Amy Winehouse, pictures of her from many different angles and longer videos of her talking are being stitched together in a meticulous process. 3D scans can be used on celebrities available (read: alive) to make the hologram happen. Chatbots and AI technology can also be used to generate how the “performers” ad lib and talk.
No matter how the celebrity is created, it seems very unlikely that it’s viewable from a variety of different angles, or able to even move around much. Videos of the holographic act are taken from one angle — straight forward. Despite the chatbots and AI that can be used, the talking ability of the hologram is limited. It can’t react to the crowd any more than the programmers can predict applause. “Thanks for coming,” is pretty much it.
There are other methods of creating holograms, like Light Fields Lab’s work with light fields, but of course their methods are under lock and key considering they plan on being ready to sell services/products in 2020. However, they’re going a different route than that of dead celebrities, looking towards integrating their work into movie theaters and casinos.
Holograms have been a point of interest in culture, given their depiction in movies. Currently the real thing isn’t exactly stacking up, and it begs the question of if we’ll ever see a version quite like Princess Leia’s.