The following is taken from http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/les-dawson-an-audience-with-that-never-was-itv/5056863.article?blocktitle=LATEST-FEATURES&contentID=38754 an article about the creation of a hologram of a dead UK comedian for a new live show. It gives details about how a live person was used in addition to original footage.
Seeing a hologram at close quarters is a strange experience. The image looks three-dimensional, if slightly ethereal, appearing to hang in mid-air. The effect calls to mind sci-fi precedents like Princess Leia’s SOS call in Star Wars, but the technology is much more down-to-earth.
“It’s a 200-year-old illusion called Pepper’s Ghost,” explains Musion global channel development manager Andrew Brooks, showing me a demo at the fi rm’s Portland Place HQ. “In Victorian times, someone would be in the pit with a mirror and it would create the illusion of a ghost on stage.What we’ve done is modernise it.”
The contemporary illusion works by beaming video from a ceiling projector onto a reflector in the projection pit. The footage then bounces up to a screen stretched across the stage at a 45° angle and out to the audience. Since the screen is opaque, the image appears to blend with objects behind it. It’s made from Mylar, a mirrored, lightweight, tensioned foil developed especially for this process.
Using a screen therefore roots the subject in a physical space – in contrast to the technique CNN used to make holographic journalists for its 2008 election coverage, where 3D footage was created in a studio, using 35 cameras placed in a ring, before being pasted onto the live video.
Shooting holographic footage of a live subject is relatively simple, but Dawson’s routines were filmed exclusively in mid-shot, never at full-length. So the team had to cast a body double to reshoot each routine, frame by frame.
The actor wore a replica jacket and Dawson’s real trousers and shoes. The archive clips were then slowed to half-speed and replayed in mirror image on a plasma screen as he mimicked them – a process that co-executive producer Glen Middleham of Rain Media describes as “like being in a horror film”.
“They were such long takes,” he recalls. “And each one had to be faultless. You can imagine the pressure on this guy to get every movement right.”
In fact, only the centre of the face is original Dawson. The chin and hair were prosthetics created by Millennium FX, the firm behind Doctor Who’s aliens. The two images – real and fake – were then fused by Musion special effects artist Dominic Faraway, who oversaw both the shoot, using a Red Epic camera at 5K resolution, and the post.
“I sped the footage back to real time and tracked it, then tracked the archive of his eyes, nose and mouth,” Faraway explains. “I then stabilised that and attached it to the actor. There were lots of gaps where the camera cut away or it was too blurred, so I had to fill those too. The 16 minutes of footage took me six weeks to edit, and long hours. It was pretty much solid work.”
VISION OF THE FUTURE – WHERE NEXT FOR HOLOGRAPHIC FILM?
Musion’s ‘Eyeliner’ holograms have had some headline-grabbing applications, most famously the recreation of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur for US festival Coachella last year.
But the technique is also used in more conventional ways, such as transmitting personalities in real time at live events. “We did an energy summit in 2008 where Prince Charles appeared on stage as a hologram, instead of flying out to Abu Dhabi,” says Musion’s Andrew Brooks.
Non-illusory holograms may not be far away, either. In March, science journal Nature revealed that Californian researchers were prototyping a device that beams multiple rays of light from a central screen, effectively creating a ‘walk-around’ 3D image.
Before that comes to market, however, the existing technology is only going to improve, says special effects artist Dominic Faraway. “With higher-definition projectors and brighter projections, you’re going to get a sharper image,” he says. “Also, the post-production side gets better and better. A few years ago, it probably wouldn’t have been possible to do this project, because 5K footage didn’t exist. So things are going to move on for us on that basis.”
Indeed, should the Dawson special prove successful, Fresh One’s Claudia Rosencrantz says she has further plans for the technology. “There needs to be a strong editorial reason for it, but I’d love to use it again,” she admits. “We have various ideas up our sleeves.”