The Pepper’s Ghost hologram once used to intrigue 19th century theatre patrons has been reimagined to fascinate fan-filled arenas with artists seemingly awakened from the dead.

We expect holograms to be free-floating, three- dimensional projections, like Princess Leia in Star Wars, but Pepper’s Ghost is neither of those things. Tupac can’t leave the stage, and we can’t watch him on the floor at our Uncle Ben’s house. In its low-tech 1850s incarnation the same illusion was achieved by placing a sheet of glass on stage, angled so that it would reflect a well-lit actor hidden in the wings or even in a trapdoor below the stage. Those insubstantial reflections were used to impress crowds with flickering incarnations of the ghosts in plays like Macbeth and Hamlet.

Thanks to modern technology, Tupac looked more solid than the ghost of Hamlet’s dad that wowed 19th-century London. Rather than an actor surrounded by lamps there was a digital projection of a CG character, and rather than glass there was a sheet of thin foil, of a proprietary design called the Musion Eyeliner.

 Words: Jody Macgregor

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This story appears in the May 2014
print edition of Simpublica Magazine.
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