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. But what he also saw was the possibility he was witnessing the start of a whole new type of live show that could tour worldwide. With a background in both artist management and producing shows, Tudor considered the possibilities of a show with more than two songs.
Seven years later, audiences are getting introduced to his vision as Tudor and his company, BASE Holograms Productions, bring 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 “The Rock ’N’ Roll Dream Tour,” 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 with a stop Saturday at the Fox Theater.
Next year, BASE will debut an elaborate Whitney Houston holographic show (complete with an orchestra, live dancers and backing vocalists), and several other companies are currently working to develop productions featuring holograms of other artists that have passed away.
While holograms have been around for more than 150 years, 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.
But 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 artist, one that would share the mannerisms and movements of the artist and interact on stage.
Motion suits are used with some holograms, but BASE decided to involve a human component.
“We go through a casting process where we look for a body double,” Tudor said in a late-August phone interview. “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, really. 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 BASE’s 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 — most 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, to name a few. Eventually he believes there will be home uses for holograms.
“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. “... Because it is fascinating, it is really, really entertaining, and there is a differentiation, a marketing differentiation to this versus, say, seeing a video or something. I think there will be a lot of applications.”