Makers of the infamous rapping (and possibly touring?) Tupac hologram that has captured the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere have been seriously tight-lipped about their creation. At this point, their approach is essentially that of magicians who are loathe to reveal their secrets after a big show. In fact, AV Concepts, one of the principle companies involved in creating the resurrected Tupac, recently pulled a page from their website that had talked up their involvement. Nevertheless, after a couple of days of reporting (by us and others), we've pretty much gathered all the pixels to this puzzle. Here's how it happened.
1. No actual footage of Tupac was used— instead, an incredibly lifelike CG animation was created by the same guys who made Benjamin Button.
2. Similar movie magic was used to get 'Pac to address the audience at Coachella, a festival that didn't exist while he was alive. A voice actor recorded the performance's opening greetings, which were then synced with Tupac's actual vocals.
3. The Tupac hologram wasn't actually a "hologram" per se, but a two dimensional image that was bounced off a mirror and angled glass in such a way that it appeared 3D to the naked eye (see illustration above, c/o The International Business Times). This is a very old optical illusion technique known as "Pepper's Ghost."
4 (a). Musion, a UK-based company, made the projector and display technology (what it calls "Eyeliner") used to create the hologram.
4 (b). AV Concepts, a VFX and "technology solutions" provider, oversaw the project and provided a proprietary "Liquid Scenic" server for uninterrupted streaming of the massive amounts of image data necessary to bring Tupac to life. The server "delivered uncompressed media for 3 stacked 1920 x 1080 images, delivering 54,000 lumens of incredibly clear projected imagery" according to AV Concepts' now-deleted press release.
4 (c). Digital Domain, a Hollywood effects company co-founded by James Cameron, created the actual moving image of Tupac.
5. Dr. Dre, who's been known to indulge mad scientist fantasies in the past, is the one who came up with this crazy idea. He may have been inspired by similar holographic performances used to create five, simultaneous Mariah Carey concerts in Europe last Christmas.
6. According to the president of AV Concepts, the whole thing took about four months to create and probably cost at least ~$400,000.
7. Tupac's mom, Afeni Shakur, signed off on the project from the very beginning. She was more than pleased with the results.