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Darya Krakaviak

Communications & Events


Holographic Visuals: Should Deceased Celebrities Rest in Peace, or Go on Tour?

09 August 2022 • 10 min read

Holograms aren’t new, but they’re now becoming an increasing reality in our everyday lives. From performances by Tupac at Coachella and Billie Holiday at the New York Apollo, holograms have been a part of the entertainment industry for some time, and as the quality of the technology improves, so does the demand for more dead celebrities to come back ‘from the grave’ to entertain and amaze audiences once more. 

ABBA’s Voyage show is the latest holographic project to hit the scene, using incredible tech to project the group’s avatars circa the 1970’s to relive their golden era with younger fans. The media hype for it has been huge, with reviews claiming it to be revolutionary and iconic. The conversation shifts however, when we bring the ethics of it into play; the members of ABBA gave their individual consent to have their likenesses manipulated and contorted on stage for money that they will benefit from, but when the artist is dead, unpaid and unable to do so, is this ethical?

Virtual Slavery or a Grey Area

Of course, studios can’t simply take an artist’s likeness, living or dead, and turn them into a 3D hologram to take on tour. There are rules, and in the case of dead celebs, it’s down to the Family or their Estate Manager to give their consent to the studios. 

This is what happened with Amy Winehouses’s family, specifically her father – in 2019, a huge tour was announced which would see Amy Winehouse brought back to the stage in holographic form, to perform her hits for audiences across the world. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, gave the studio, Base Hologram, permission to use her likeness (the record label approved the use of her audio), and once news of this got out into the public, there was significant backlash from her fans, and the tour was shelved for another day

Amy Winehouse famously hated touring, and fans were quick to call out Base Hologram and her father for agreeing to the tour; it didn’t sit right with a lot of people that Amy’s likeness and body would be used without her consent, to make her compliant and ‘easy to manage’ on a world tour that would make the company millions, and her fans know she would have hated.

As much as it’s a criticism of media companies and possible family members looking to cash in on their relatives’ fame, it’s also a look at how obsessed we are as a society with celebrity culture – we can’t simply allow our favourite artist’s to rest in peace once they’ve died, we have to resurrect them in 3D time and time again to enjoy their greatest hits whenever we please, like a ghostly jukebox. There’s a degree of ownership fans have over their favourite artists, but the lines of respect and morality are blurred in the 21st century where we have the ability to recreate artists without their knowledge.

Back in 1998, Prince gave an interview to Guitar World magazine where he was asked about using technology to play with dead artists like Duke Ellington or The Beatles, and he famously called the idea ‘the most demonic thing imaginable’. He went on to say

“If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.”

Unfortunately he didn’t put a will in place before his death, and if his family has their way about it, there could be a Prince hologram tour coming to a stage near you soon. 

Beastie Boys legend Adam Yauch, who passed away in 2012, put into his will that it would be forbidden for his music or his likeness to be used after his death, giving a categorical NOPE to media execs looking to cash in on his fandom.  

Having autonomy over your actions is what makes us ‘free’ as humans – taking that right to freedom away from someone, even after their death, effectively ‘enslaving’ them to the media company/estate that buys their likeness without their consent, that is where the grey areas creep into the conversation.

Keeping their Memory Alive

On the flip side of the coin however, there are people that see the idea of hologram tours as something that comes with fame – Wendy Dio, the wife and manager of the late rock legend Ronnie James Dio, was a keen supporter and advocate of the ‘Dio Returns’ hologram tour that took place in the US in 2017. After seeing the hologram perform for the first time, she was quoted as saying:

“It was so real. But it was really a happy emotion because it’s like Ronnie’s back again.”

The tour continued, and went on to cover the US, becoming a relative success amongst the fans that attended. Her standpoint, and the record company’s, was that it was ‘a gift’ to the fans, for the ones that revered and loved him, and for the younger fans that never got to see him perform while he was alive. 

This point of view brings up perspectives like, well, if you’re a celebrity then you should understand that part of your success is predicated on the fact that you will always need to please your fans – live holographic shows are simply another way to do this.

It’s certainly being touted as the future of live entertainment, with Michael Bierylo comparing hologram tours to the emergence of colour television in the 40’s; “It’s hard to imagine 50 years from now”, but given the time to hone the technology he believes it will be as commonplace for live shows as the colour TV is to us today.

There are points of view such as ‘if I can put on a DVD of a live performance of a dead artist, what’s the difference in seeing a hologram perform the music in front of me instead’, and ‘You can put a dead celebrity’s face on a t-shirt, so why can’t you turn them into a hologram’, so the idea of celebrities ‘selling their souls for fame’ is as real as ever. 

Media companies who are in the hologram industry counter the negatives by saying they’re not trying to reinvent the celebrity, they’re creating a real live music experience showcasing the artist’s work – Peter Lehman, a director of Media at Arizona State University said about the Roy Orbison holo-tour that took place in 2019;

“Remember, everything Orbison ever recorded is left untouched by the hologram. Nothing is destroyed, but something new is added.” 

And he’s not wrong. The audio for hologram tours isn’t altered or manipulated, it’s just the visuals that are the issue for some.

The Future is Here

Just like colour TV, the hologram tour is a divisive step into the future of media entertainment, but one that is certainly innovating and pushing at the boundaries of what’s possible. Whether you love it or find it ‘demonic’ like Prince, it’s definitely here to stay which is sure to make for some interesting tour lineups. 

Holographic technology is truly a remarkable feat, coming to us straight out of the movies and right into our everyday lives. The key deciding factor for a lot of us will be how high quality the image resolution is – does it look like a cartoon Sim, or does it look like you’re watching a 4K figure. 

HYPERVSN is the company making waves with this 3D visual technology, with their SmartV Holographic Human solution having an incredible image quality that many companies simply can’t yet achieve. With an amazing ultra high pixel pitch and a brightness of up to 3000 nits, the holograms look tangible even in daylight, making it hugely appealing for all industries, from Retail to Healthcare, and even Education (see some of their amazing use cases here).

The live music industry is pushing the boundary of what it means to experience live music, and with innovative tech companies like HYPERVSN, whether you agree with the ethics behind the artist’s likeness or not, it is sure to amaze everyone who witnesses it first hand. 
Experience the magic of HYPERVSN SmartV Holographic Human yourself by getting in touch with the HYPERVSN Team, and see how you really feel about holograms.


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