What Does Tupac Coachella Hologram Mean for the Movies?

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What Does Tupac Coachella Hologram Mean for the Movies?
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Tupac Shakur in Paramount's Tupac: Resurrection - 2003

If you haven't seen the video of the Tupac Shakur hologram from this year's Coachella music festival, then you're about to see the future of bringing back the dead. Outside of the possibility of being utilized as zombies, Digital Domain Media is the center of the tech universe now in harnessing the potential of holograms not only to concerts but also bringing back classic stars in movies. And yet, the company utilizes a special effect process that's been around for over 150 years.

That particular special effect is Pepper's ghost, which used the basic process of projecting an image using nothing but reflective surfaces. With digital enhancements, however, the process of Pepper's ghost has finally gone to a level it couldn't just 10 years ago. Since it involves reflecting the image onto a surface (in the case of Tupac Shakur, on Mylar), it wouldn't necessarily be all that complicated to do the same in a movie.

It's not that we haven't seen something like this coming in the fast-moving tech world. In fact, it's surprising we haven't seen more of an attempt to bring back departed notables using some form of CGI, as we saw in 1994's "Forrest Gump." Although creating such facsimiles so they can interact in a new universe and new script is much more complicated than we think in a time when we think anything can be done easily.

Big budgets are all the more incentive for a producer to attempt bringing back departed stars in all new movie vehicles. But how would that work, and would it potentially make the Academy Awards even more confused than it already is over making motion capture an award category?

The most likely scenario first due to time and money involved is the way it happened with Tupac Shakur: make it a compelling cameo.

You have to wonder how an audience would react to seeing Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, or Ingrid Bergman making a return to movies with a lifelike appearance. Reportedly, the audience at Coachella fell eerily silent at the realness of the Tupac performance before going wild.

Silence may or may not be an indicator of how blasphemous it truly is to bring departed celebrities back through technology. Past attempts in TV commercials to revive dead celebrities in the 1990s brought derision back when digital technology enhancements were in their nascent stages.

Those attempts, though, didn't look convincing, even at the time. Conversely, hologram technology opens the potential to make late stars look a little too real today.

A cameo by departed actors and actresses may be as far we'd ever see this technology go without a cease and desist from the celebrity's estate. Far off in the future, if an entire movie can be created around a legendary celebrity from long ago, we might be able to get used to the idea, feeling the star was around us once again. We'd see a first for technology enabling us psychologically to bring back the actors so many people miss from the true golden age of moviemaking.

We'd also have to keep the films they appear in within the realms of what they might have really accepted in life. You can't have Audrey Hepburn appearing in an Adam Sandler comedy or John Wayne appearing in the latest CGI superhero franchise. If dead musicians coming back can sing their own hits, revived actors have to rely on the tepid idea that brilliant scripts and movies will still be created in coming decades.

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