News Column

The Shuffle: Night of the Projected Dead

April 23, 2012

Shea Conner

Tupac

Short of resurrecting corpses or enlisting the aid of BillyWitchDoctor.com (where are my "Aqua Teen" fans at?), the music industry might have found the newest way to cash in on dead superstars. You can thank Tupac Shakur's hologram's "performance" at Coachella for that one.

In case you haven't seen the awe-inspiring yet really, really, really creepy footage, a projection of 2Pac rapped side by side with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the California-based music festival last Sunday. But it wasn't just some chintzy image on a screen spittin' rhymes on the Coachella stage. During the two-song performance, it actually looked as if the rapper was there in the flesh alongside his former Death Row label mates.

The projection strutted around the stage and could seemingly interact with the two rap legends. It even spouted out phrases like, "What the $?#! is up, Coachella?"

Um, pardon my French, but what the $?#! is up with that?

Unless 2Pac had some kind of Wayne Campbell-meets-Jim Morrison style vision to create a new music festival, he never uttered the word "Coachella" in his lifetime. The event didn't exist until three years after his murder in 1996.

Digital Domain is the company responsible for the hologram's appearance. The Venice visual effects firm was co-founded by acclaimed film director James Cameron and has produced effects for more than 60 films including "Titanic," "Star Trek," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," "Tron: Legacy" and all three of the "Transformers" films. Ed Ulbrich, Digital Domain's chief creative officer, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that the 2Pac projection was not assembled from found or archival footage. It was created entirely in the company's confines.

Digital Domain has yet to reveal how it made the projection say entirely new phrases, but the company has stated the whole thing was orchestrated by Dr. Dre, who reportedly paid between $100,000 and $400,000 for the hologram. Dre also donated a large sum of money to Shakur's charity as a thank-you for getting approval for the stunt from his mother, Afeni Shakur.

Just two days after the 2Pac spectacle at Coachella, rumors began to emerge that the projected rapper will go out on tour with Dre and Snoop in the near future. Because Dre earned the blessing of Afeni Shakur, I don't have an issue with 2Pac on the road -- other than the fact that seeing someone who has been dead for 16 years posing for fans and growling into a microphone will continually give me the heebie jeebies. What scares me more, however, is that record studio executives might try to jump on a moneymaking opportunity, and holograms of deceased artists could become the new concert norm.

Concerts featuring projected musicians could be really cool in some cases. Sublime fans would probably go nuts if the band "reunited" with its iconic frontman Bradley Nowell, who also passed away in 1996. How about an AC/DC show with Bon Scott, a Metallica concert with Cliff Burton or The Who welcoming back Keith Moon? Those, too, would certainly be enticing prospects.

But why stop there? Let's make a hologram of Kurt Cobain to put on Nirvana's unplugged show with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. I mean, Cobain's likeness was already used to sing Bush and Poison songs as a playable character in "Guitar Hero," so it's not like this would tarnish his image any more. Let's make visual projections of John Lennon and George Harrison to go on a Beatles reunion tour with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. I doubt Ringo and Paul would pass up the opportunity to be a part of what would potentially be a billion-dollar endeavor.

But why stop there? We don't even need musicians! A projection of Michael Jackson could sell out dozens of shows at the O2 Arena in London! Millions of old ladies around the globe could toss their britches at a hologram of Elvis Presley! We could re-create Woodstock with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and sell beer for $15 a bottle!

Yeah, we need to put a halt to this whole hologram thing right now. If not, cover bands will go by the wayside, the true artists will follow and the machines will take over. Haven't you seen "The Terminator"? Wait a minute -- is it possible that Digital Domain is a front for SkyNet?

That's another column for another day. Honestly, I just want to pre-emptively stop Nicki Minaj's performance with a hologram of Ludwig van Beethoven. I'm sure that thought has already crossed her mind, and that sounds a lot worse to me than machine-driven Armageddon.

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Source: (c)2012 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)


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