Once they sign you, they owe you forever…

The murdered rapper Tupac, who seems to have an uncannily busy career for a dead person, was resurrected last week at the Coachella music festival, via some nifty light / CGI special effects. Looks like Zombie Tupac will be going on tour with Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, who also wants to re-animate murdered rapper Nate Dogg. Once they sign you, they own you forever it seems.

Journalists marveled at the technology, but phantasmagoria shows are nothing new, of course, as Marina Warner’s 2006 book explored. They became popular in the late 18th and early 19th century – Parisian audiences after the French Revolution would be thrillingly terrified by the ghost of the murdered Marie Antoinette looming towards them. Phantasmagoria shows repackaged old animist myths for the age of Enlightenment, turning superstition into light entertainment. The technology behind Tupac’s re-animation owes a lot to these earlier techniques, as the Wall Street Journal notes:

For the projection aspect, a San Diego company called AV Concepts used a variation of a visual effect that was discovered in the 19th century, known as Pepper’s Ghost. The effect was first used in an 1862 dramatization of Charles Dickens’ novella “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain,” staged at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London, according to Jim Steinmeyer, an illusion designer who has written extensively about the history of his craft, including Pepper’s Ghost. The effect relies on an angled piece of glass in which a “ghostly” image is reflected. “A piece of glass can be both transparent and reflective at the same time, depending on how it’s situated relative to the audience,” said Mr. Steinmeyer, pointing out the secret.

In the Victorian version of the trick, the glass reflected an actual actor, situated out of sight in near the orchestra. On Sunday night, the image was projected on a piece of Mylar—a highly reflective, lightweight plastic—stretched on a clear frame. AV Concepts President Nick Smith says that his company typically uses the technology for corporate events. Tupac Shakur is the first dead entertainer the company has presented “live.” But Mr. Smith said the company has used the same technology to resurrect several late executives. “We’ve brought past CEOs and things that like that back to life,” Mr. Smith said, without getting more specific, citing non-disclosure agreements.

What kind of weird company resurrects their CEO by hologram??? Anyway, such hologram music shows could become more and more common. Music journalist James Montgomery told NPR:

“Once this becomes a little less cost prohibitive, given the wild popularity of deceased stars like Elvis or Michael Jackson, I can see Las Vegas shelling out a lot of money to have these sort of ‘live reviews,’ ” he says. “It’s also interesting if you look at the current stars of today, someone like Madonna or a Paul McCartney. Are they looking at what happened with Tupac, and are they thinking, maybe I have to rewrite my will and sort of include something that says, ‘I don’t want my likeness projected in 3-D holographic form at any point in the future.’ “

Strange times.

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