3D Holograms of Will.I.Am and DJ Irie: Hello, Future

Categories: Silicon Beach
djiriesquare.jpg
Photo by Victor Gonzalez
3D hologram of DJ Irie.
Imagine Celia Cruz or Bob Marley's ghost appearing on stage, right in front of you, and performing in all their holographic glory, real as if they were still alive.

Sound far-fetched? Media Stage, a South Florida audio, visual, and lighting production service, teamed up with UK-based Musion to bring the first full-size 3D hologram projection to South Florida Wednesday. Using an optical illusion devised more than a century ago, they summoned images of the two dead singers as well as of DJ Irie and Will.i.am .

Perfected in the late 1800s by a curious scientist named John Henry Pepper, the optical illusion known as "Pepper's Ghost" is created by simply placing a glass screen at a 45-degree angle in front of a stage and working a few lighting tricks.

Theater producers have used it to con audiences into believing objects are morphing into one another, or disappearing and reappearing on stage.

It was cool then, and continues to play optical mind tricks on us today, but the technology has been long overdue for a face-lift.

"We met the guys from Musion last year at InfoComm in Orlando," says Felix Pike, Media Stage's Production Manager. "They put on a showcase there with a live streaming event from London--young girl singing, guy playing guitar--and someone locally in Orlando playing with them live."

Inspired by the technology, Media Stage partnered with Musion and became South Florida's first production company to offer telepresence, a hi-tech, futuristic service that allows three-dimensional objects to appear in live stage settings.

At yesterday's media unveiling, for example, Pike and Musion's Director, Ian O'Connell, interacted with one another on stage. Pike was physically there, and O'Connell realistically appeared as a 3D hologram from a production studio next door.

How'd it work? Imagine an invisible right triangle. At the top point is an HD projector pointed to a projection screen at the base of the triangle. The image is then reflected onto an 18x12 screen positioned at a 45-degree angle in front of the stage to create the 3D hologram.

O'Connell's image was so lifelike, it bordered on creepy. From the chair he sat on, to the way he gazed out into an audience of techies, everything seemed to be happening live on stage. But technology this cool wasn't developed just for corporate use.

"Ideally, we're here to stage a nice mix of corporate staging and live entertainment," says Pike. "It's going to diversify what we do. I think it's really going to enhance live performances."

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Photo by Victor Gonzalez
Will.I.AM is really Will.I.Avatar
Eight months ago, the Media Stage team met Luis Dreams, a VJ at Fontainebleau's LIV nightclub, with a knack for 3D. "I started looking to new ways of enhancing the club experience--and that was through means of moving head projectors, different lighting, different displays and stuff like that," says Dreams.

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Photo by Victor Gonzalez
3D hologram text seems to hover over stage
Together with Media Stage, Dreams teamed up with Miami Heat's DJ Irie and started working on a holographic 3D feature. Incorporating Irie's energetic stage presence and mind-blowing animation, Dreams created a visually stimulating nightclub experience--a damn good one--and previewed it at yesterday's event.

Dreams believes the science fiction-meets-reality technology will bring people together. "You could have a trillion dollars in effects, and nobody cares," he says, "but then you see this image and hear people saying, 'What the fuck, what's happening right now?' (That) is why the illusion works."

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