The Case Against Holograms, Which in Honor of Freddie Mercury Needs to be Made Right Now


No, this is not super exclusive footage of Hologram Freddie Mercury. But sometimes archive footage does more to preserve a memory of deceased musician than a special effects trick.
  • No, this is not super exclusive footage of Hologram Freddie Mercury. But sometimes archive footage does more to preserve a memory of deceased musician than a special effects trick.

A few days after Tupac Shakur came back from New Mexico appeared as a "hologram" during last month's Coachella festival, cynics wondered aloud about the optical illusion becoming a trend. Somebody even put together a humorous "poster" advertising next year's show, which consisted exclusively of either bands with deceased members or performers who have long since passed away.

Anybody who dismissed such a prophecy as far-fatched was probably a little taken aback when Queen announced it would use an optical illusion of Freddie Mercury to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the musical We Will Rock You. According to BBC interview with Queen guitarist Brian May, members of the band had been planning the special effect:

"It's a little unfortunate they did that thing with Tupac as we've been trying to make Freddie appear on the stage for quite a while," he said.

May went on to tell the BBC that the technique "is something we've looked at ourselves but I think probably for a show that runs eight shows a week it's not really quite practical."

That falls in line with what Dr. Dre said after the Coachella performance. Despite intense speculation that he would bring "Hologram Tupac" on tour, the producer/rapper extraordinaire definitely state that the effect was a one-time-only deal. And maybe it would be best if this was stored away for the time being.

To be sure the effect itself can be amazing when done correctly, as seen at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The Springfield, Illinois-based mega-museum features a show where a "curator" is revealed to be a deceased Civil War soldier. At the end, the soldier fades away to the astonishment of the crowd. For a person seeing the effect for the first time, it's a mind-blowing experience -- so much so that it might lead someone to talk about the show for days.

And it's almost a certainty that people who saw Hologram Tupac live were equally astounded, especially since the former example looked so real. Since Shakur's mother gave Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg her blessing and the effect placed Tupac's life and legacy in the public again, the positives in this case seem to outweigh the negatives. (The effect would be entirely appropriate for "virtual" bands such as Dethklok, an animated group that will be playing the Family Arena later this summer.) But there's a reason why the faux Coachella poster struck a nerve: The music industry has a propensity to mercilessly crush creative with overexposure. Whether its hair metal, auto-tuning, boy bands or screaming, record companies tend to take a really cool thing and make it uncool very quickly. With such a track record, it's not out of the question that performance holograms will become like Avatar. And that's not to demean Hologram Tupac or Hologram Freddie Mercury as a rip-off of Dances with Wolves. Rather the film jumpstarted a disturbing trend making every movie imaginable in 3-D, which arguably diluted the quality of films and made it much more expensive to go to the theater.

The technology behind the effect is not exactly cheap, so it's not out of the question that needless proliferation would raise ticket prices at concerts. And while Shakur's legacy isn't relegated to his live performances, consider this: No matter how awesome digital Mercury looks, it's not going to supersede his classic performances. Smartly presenting footage of Mercury at Live Aid would produce just as much positive nostalgia than a potentially divisive visual effect. So why not just do that?

Without judicious decision-making, Coachella's 2018 festival may look strikingly like the fake poster. And then elder concertgoers will realize they should have done more to beat back a case of musical overkill.


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