When a holographic image of the late rapper Tupac appeared to “perform” during a set by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the 2012 Coachella Festival, millions of people worldwide took notice.
Marty Tudor was one of those millions. He also thought he could be witnessing the start of a new type of live show that could tour worldwide.
“I, like most people, saw Tupac. I didn’t see him in person, but I saw it on YouTube and so on and so forth, like everybody else did,” Tudor said during a phone interview. “If you add up all the different views of that, it’s almost 2 million views. So clearly, there’s real interest in this as an art form, potentially. My thing is, coming from my background, which is both artist management and producing shows, I looked at it and I said ‘You guys, he only did two songs. Where’s the rest of it?’ And I thought this could potentially be something.”
Seven years later, audiences are getting introduced to what “the rest of it” is right now. Tudor, CEO of BASE Holograms Productions, is bringing live shows featuring holographic images of late artists performing on stage alongside a live band.
BASE started touring hologram shows featuring the late opera singer Maria Callas and Roy Orbison last year. This fall, the company has created a double bill using holograms of Orbison and Buddy Holly performing separate sets that make up a single night of entertainment. The tour runs through Nov. 20 and is coming to the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday (10/22).
Next year, BASE will debut an elaborate Whitney Houston holographic show, complete with live band, dancers and backing vocalists. Several other companies are working to develop productions featuring holograms of other artists who have died.
While the predecessor to holograms dates back to the late 1800s, Tudor and his company are working with Epson, which has developed new cutting-edge projectors that not only create the high-definition images needed, but can be set up and taken down quickly enough to be used in touring productions.
Having a way to project the final hologram image was only part of the equation for BASE. In creating the holograms of Holly and Orbison, as well as Callas, the company sought to create a truly lifelike image of the artists, one that would share the mannerisms and movements of the artists and interact on stage.
BASE shows also involve a human component.
“We go through a casting process where we look for a body double,” Tudor said. “Then once we find the body double, we put them into rehearsal, and that is typically about 12 weeks of rehearsals — intense rehearsals (with the live band) — and we use archive footage for reference. It’s a pretty intense process. Then we capture the body double doing the performances, and we marry that up to the original vocals of the artist.”
Computer technology is then used on the photos and footage of the body double to create highly accurate facial features of the artist, and the final footage is projected to the stage to create the hologram that looks very lifelike as it sings and performs to the music played by the live band.
“I’ve seen it, as you can imagine, hundreds of times,” Tudor said of the Orbison and Callas shows. “And even though I know consciously this isn’t really there, my brain somehow falls into reacting as if the artist is there. And then I watch audiences, and they cheer and they sing along and they applaud for it. It’s really quite a special new type of experience.”
Creating concerts like the one featuring Orbison and Holly is only one of myriad applications that may be possible as hologram technology evolves. Brian C. Becker, CEO and founder of BASE Entertainment and chairman and CEO of BASE Hologram, said holographic versions can be created of animals (such as dinosaurs), historic figures — almost anything that lived or still lives. He said productions can be staged at a wide variety of locations, not just theaters, but venues like museums, retail malls and cruise ships. He believes holograms eventually will have home uses.
“I foresee potential in us developing new content and innovative content, whether it’s new music artists or not, although there are (also) some really interesting commercial applications to what we are doing,” Becker said in a separate interview. “For example, say we wanted to create a new artist series at ... malls across the country. We could work with record companies to create holographic presentations of their artists that are issuing their first album or their second album. Because it is fascinating, it is really, really entertaining, and there is a marketing differentiation to this versus, say, seeing a video or something, I think there will be a lot of applications.”
WHAT: Roy Orbison & Buddy Holly: The Rock ’n’ Roll Dream Tour
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (10/22)
TICKETS: $35 to $55; Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com