Why Hologram Elvis Is More Than Just a Hunka Hunka Burning Joke
The news that Elvis Presley looks set to follow Tupac into hologrammatic rebirth, two things become apparent: Firstly, that we can only hope that Elvis is reborn in his “young, handsome” phase, not Elvis-as-was when he died. Secondly, with this technology, the entire world of entertainment is open to us in ways in which we had never considered before. No, really.
For years now, there has been concern that CGI would result in a world in which actors would be entirely unnecessary to make movies and TV shows, as well as a world in which dead actors could live once again in computer-generated form. Reality, as we’ve seen, has proven to disagree with both options, with CGI being used mostly in service of (a) special effects or adding costumes/make-up onto real-world actors who don’t fancy wearing Iron Man armor all day and/or motion-captured actors. Score one for the reality-based acting contingent, I suppose, but for those of us who wanted to believe that CGI would make us all gods, it seemed, nonetheless, a little disappointing.
What truly fascinates about this technology, joking aside, is where it’ll be in a couple of decades time; it’s easy to be snarky about live hologram CGI now – See above – but by the time technology has done what it does and miniaturized and cheapened the idea, is it that ridiculous to see this as both the future of home theater and the first step towards the kind of Star Trek holodeck that it feels as if we’ve been waiting for since virtual reality was the buzzword of three decades ago? At the very least, it’s not impossible to imagine the technology used to populate physical sets with virtual actors within our lifetimes.
That kind of technological leap really does open up questions about the future of entertainment. If a “live” performance isn’t actually live, but does take place in your physical space, then what is it exactly? It’s a play and a movie at once, but also neither of those things; there’s no space for interactivity because the actors aren’t actually able to take note of your actions or anything that happens in the space around you, but at the same time, you can move around that space and interact with it in a way that you can’t with a movie or television show. Would this be a new mash-up medium altogether?
And if it is, what is the potential for this new medium? Could CGI be used to create three dimensional hologrammatic recreations of actors’ performances from existing film footage (This may sound far too out-there, but if you think about current 3D transfer technology, it’s not amazingly different, just the next step: Take the 2D image and map it onto a wire model, filling in the blanks with newly created, photo-realistic material) – and if so, what’s to stop us having remastered, immersible versions of classic movies, alongside dramatically explosive blockbusters that will literally make you feel like the action is unfolding all around you?
Sure, we can all be sarcastic about the idea of hologram Elvis performing all his old hits in front of a screaming crowd that doesn’t know or care about what went into his creation, but there remains something not only interesting but thrilling about the fact that such a thing can actually exist. If Hologram Elvis is a hit, then more projects will follow, each one taking the technology is another direction, in a further step forward. This is how the future happens, and it’s oddly thrilling to be watching its first steps.