Look. Now look again. Are you sure you’re at a live music performance, or is that just a hologram?
One day you might have to ask yourself just that question—after all, such is the improving quality of the holograms used in media and entertainment over the past decade. From festival and event appearances to Election Day news features, holograms are popping up all over the place in various facets, and the potential for their use and technical ability is only growing with each passing year.
Many have tried to use holograms over the years—or at least what appear to be holograms. On this list of 10 of the craziest holograms in media and entertainment appear some mystical performances that are technically not true holograms, but are hologram-like 3D projections. They’re often referred to as holograms by the general public, though, so we’ll stick to that. Enjoy reliving some of the most memorable high-tech holographic appearances of the past few years.
10 Tupac (Coachella, 2012)
West Coast rap legend Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in 1996, was resurrected in the form of a hologram at the Coachella music festival in 2012. Alongside his old friends Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, he appeared onstage during an unforgettable performance of his track, “2 of Americaz Most Wanted.” All of the finest details, from his signature tattoos to his Timberland boots, jewelry, and even his movements, were all captured and expertly recreated under the direction of Dr. Dre and his team.
Now, while the image of Tupac appeared to be a true hologram (and is still thought as such by many), it was technically a reflection of a well-crafted CGI image. But the crowd loved it just the same.
9 M.I.A. & Janelle Monae Duet (2014)
Though M.I.A. and Janelle Monae were scheduled to perform at two different concerts on opposite ends of the country—M.I.A. in New York and Monae on the West Coast—the two ended up performing a duet, sponsored by Audi’s launch of its A3 model, earlier this year.
Monae performed onstage with an original addition to her song, “Q.U.E.E.N.,” accompanied by a hologram of M.I.A., while Monae’s hologram sang a verse of M.I.A.’s song, “Bad Girl,” in New York. The duet used advanced 3D projection and video mapping to bring the holograms to life.
8 Michael Jackson (Billboard Music Awards, 2014)
In mid-May, the Billboard Music Awards and its audience were in for a special treat when legendary pop star Michael Jackson—who died five years ago—took the stage for a powerful and energetic “live” performance.
The act was a showstopper, arguably the biggest of the night, and it allowed the audience to once again have the chance to experience the energy of Michael Jackson performing live, in a sense. By many accounts, the appearance was “convincing,” which demonstrates how far holograms have come since their early days.
7 Eazy-E & Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Rock The Bells, 2013)
Fallen rap legends Eazy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard were brought back to life via holograms at Rock the Bells 2013. Eazy-E joined his protégés Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on Saturday night, and ODB appeared with his former comrades, The Wu-Tang Clan, including his son Young Dirty Bastard, on Sunday to close out the show.
The stunt was at least in part inspired by the Tupac hologram at Coachella the year before, and fans of the two rappers were able to enjoy a similar experience of beloved, passed-on favorites, just as the Coachella crowd did.
6 Gorillaz & Madonna (Grammy Awards, 2006)
The animated band Gorillaz have long since been known to not show the real musicians behind the action, and they went on to use the 3D holographic format onstage with real-life guests in their early years. But one memorable performance of theirs was at the Grammy Awards in 2006, when Madonna appeared onstage along with them to sing a mash-up of her single, “Hung Up,” on the same 3D stage.
At first, both the live and TV audiences thought the performance was real, as, even in 2006, the technology was already quite advanced and produced very high-resolution images.
5 Justin Bieber On will.i.am’s Video “#thatPOWER” (2013)
Off will.i.am’s fourth album, #willpower, the “thatPOWER” single and its video offers a special guest appearance—Justin Bieber, via hologram, to sing lead vocals. In this futuristic video, the image of Bieber beams out of a box before beginning to sing. Fans of both artists got to enjoy a collaboration of the two pop superstars, and get to enjoy it again and again each time they watch the music video.
4 Hatsune Miku, Everywhere In Japan
So you might pay to see your favorite artists perform live, and you might even enjoy seeing them as holograms onstage. But how do you feel about a performer who is only a hologram? Hatsune Miku is an anime 3D pop star who took the Japan music scene by storm. Created by Japanese tech firm Crypton Future Media, Miku is supposed to be 16 years old and 5’2”, with little more known about her actual personality, except what you can glean from her popular Facebook page, which has more than 2 million likes.
She’s performed “live” at shows for thousands of attendees over several years now, most recently including a performance at the Miku Expo in Indonesia this year.
3 will.i.am & Reporter Jessica Yellin (CNN, Election Day 2008)
In honor of the 2008 Presidential Election of 2008, both will.i.am and reporter Jessica Yellin separately appeared as “holograms” on CNN coverage. Technically the two weren’t holograms projected right in front of Wolf Blitzer (Yellin) or Anderson Cooper (will.i.am), but instead they were images captured by 35 high-definition cameras set in a ring around a tent based in Chicago.
The footage was then processed and synchronized by 20 computers to the cameras in CNN’s studio in New York. The images weren’t perfect—not nearly as high quality as other example on this list—and were actually fuzzy with a white halo effect around them. But the two did both compare the experience to the famed early usage of holograms in Star Wars.
2 Al Gore (Live Earth Tokyo, 2007)
Al Gore first opened the Live Earth concert series in Sydney via live satellite feed. But his virtual appearance in Tokyo would be taken one step further—there, he was introduced as a hologram.
While “onstage,” Gore said, “What an amazing world we live in – I love it that I can stand here on this stage in Tokyo and speak to you in holographic form. It is astounding that in just these recent few decades we have invented technologies that enable us to connect and instantly communicate our ideas and intentions with people on the other side of the globe,”—segueing from his high-tech appearance straight into the purpose of his visit.
1 Richard Branson (Virgin Digital Launch, 2005)
While located on Necker Island, his private Caribbean retreat, Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson appeared as a hologram at Virgin’s flagship London Megastore to appear at the launch of the new Virgin Digital service.
On the appearance, Branson said, “Having a virtual self has been amazing and has certainly made diary arrangements easier to plan. Seeing as Virgin is going digital, I thought it highly appropriate to do the same.”