Carbonless Copy

by Ian A. Stewart


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When Alex Orbison, son of the late rock crooner Roy Orbison, first gazed upon the holographic avatar of his father that’s launching its inaugural North American tour, In Dreams, this month at the Fox Theater, he had to fight back tears. “This looks just like a guy standing onstage,” he told Bang Showbiz. Such are the lifelike qualities imparted by Base Hologram’s creation – a far cry , says CEO Brian Becker, from the uncanny valley holograms of Tupac and Michael Jackson that have made headlines in recent years. Here, Becker offers a sneak peek behind the digital curtain. Oct, 1 ORBISONINCONCERT.COM – Ian A. Stewart

Base uses an incredibly powerful Epson projector unit capable of emitting 25,000 lumens to beam Orbison’s magic onstage (a typical office projector will emit 1,000 to 2,000). “That’s a military-grade laser,” Becker says. “If you cranked it all the way up, you could literally burn a hole through the wall. It’s that high-powered.”

Earlier holographic efforts, including Tupac at Coachella in 2012, used what’s called the Pepper’s Ghost phenomenon (named for a 19th-century British inventor), in which offstage lights are reflected against a hidden plexiglass plane or mirror. No such trickery is at play here, Becker says. The proprietary Base technique involves a single onstage projection. As to how exactly the holographic effect is achieved, he’s more coy. “A good magician never gives up his tricks,” he says.

Rather than project old stock footage of an Orbison performance, Base uses a 4K all-digital rendering built from hundreds of images of the singer. Marrying that image with human movements recorded via motion-capture technology (as is done fro video games). Base was able to develop an entirely new performance. It took nine months to create an animate the digital Orbison

During the performance, a live orchestra will accompany the holographic Orbison, which required Base to isolate the singer’s vocals from original master tapes – a challenging task, because on every song Orbison recorded, the band and vocals were flattened into a single mono track. Base remastered the vocals for the tour.