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Holograms – the real deal? Musicians face issues of ethics, quality

The return of the late guitarist Jeff Healey as a hologram to many of his fans may seem like a blasphemy, but the possibility has intrigued one of his former bandmates.

Tom Stephen, a former drummer and band manager for Jeff Healey, says he had two opinions when, several years ago, an Australian entertainment company approached him with a proposal to include Healy's likeness in a blues revue.

The show was depicted as a celebration of the symbols of the genre, with other names like B. B. King, floating like holograms that might appear.

The company offered to reunite the two surviving members of the Canadian blues-rock band, along with a hologram of their star player, who died of cancer at the age of 41. This would allow viewers to witness Healy’s unconventional live performances, in which he laid an apartment on an electric guitar. through your knees to play it.

But Stephen did not want to jump on the steps of the hologram.

Jeff Healey from the Jeff Healey Band performs in Central Park in New York on July 1, 2000. A few years ago, an Australian entertainment company suggested that the two surviving members of the group rejoin the hologram of their frontman on stage. Healy died of cancer in Toronto in 2008 at the age of 41. (Stephen Czernin / File / Associated Press)

“It was a bit exploitative,” he says of the field.

"Do you really see that musical experience that you missed?"

He imagined the heartlessness of doing many favorites as angel eyes with a digital version of Healy. The partnership will be absent, he decided.

Do you really see that musical experience that you missed?Tom Stephen, former drummer and group manager Jeff Healey.

"What would it be like to interact at night with night with a hologram of a fellow in a group with whom you spent 18 years?" he remembers thinking.

"Personally, I would be very difficult."

Stephen declined the company's offer, but acknowledged that the possibility of creating a Healy hologram could be revived again when technology penetrates the mainstream.

In the coming year, both musicians and concertgoers will face the growing presence of “hologram” shows at local concert venues.

The experiment has already passed in some places in North America, where several months ago a virtual similarity with the late singer Roy Orbison received mixed reviews. Opera singer Maria Callas was also resurrected in the play, which, according to some critics, looked more like a floating ghost than an individual.

3D moving images

Glenn Gould will be added to the list of holograms in 2019, and the late Canadian pianist will be accompanied by live orchestras as part of a tour organized in collaboration with his estate.

At about the same time, Amy Winehouse's hologram is set to start a multi-year race with a support group, while Swedish superstar ABBA will start a digital reunion.

These shows are not real holograms in the technical sense, but are three-dimensional images projected through mirrors on a transparent screen, something like a movie.

Levels of artificiality

And most of the performances are not just an illusion on the stage, they are also part of an elaborate studio production, where the faces of the deceased performers are transferred onto the bodies of live actors. In the case of Orbison, another musician imitated his performance before the famous face of the singer was digitally printed on the body of the stand.

So many levels of artificiality can be hard to convincingly accomplish, suggests Kiran Bhumber, one of the creators of Telepresence, a recent virtual reality experience at the art center of the Western Front in Vancouver, who combined a live trumpeter with images displayed on a VR headset.

"[The challenge is] how to create a meaningful experience that remains with the audience, "she says.

"Because it can be a trick."

Last summer, all the possibilities of a virtual presentation were presented on Jonge and Dundas Square in Toronto. Random viewers gathered to demonstrate celebrities turned into holograms, including the young Michael Jackson, about 5 years old, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and members of the Black Eyed Peas group.

Most people watched holograms as a television screen and from time to time kept their smartphones to record footage for their social networks. But weak applause suggested that the excitement was muffled, even though the real owners encouraged more energy.

The intrigue of developing technology

While the audience is considering how to respond to holograms, some performers are fascinated by the potential of evolving technology.

Sarah Blackwood, the singer of the Walk Off the Earth, was intrigued after she witnessed the Feist projection, which was simultaneously transmitted to the crowd in three Canadian cities as part of the launch of the smartphone in 2012. She says that this moment inspired her to reflect on the advantages of a holographic future. ,

“As an artist, we always talk about how we are going to leave our heritage,” she says.

“I do not want to disappear in a pile of musicians who are not remembered. Therefore, to be able to come back and share music with people, and to live like this, I think this is a really interesting concept. ”

Serena Ryder says that she thinks holograms could have a more practical use for living artists, such as her, who are not fans of long tours.

Serena Ryder performs White Christmas on stage live in the Great Hall in Toronto on December 12, 2018. (CBC)

According to the singer, the pop-rock singer considers herself a “reclusive” performer, so replacing some of her live performances with a virtual reproduction of her own sounds is attractive.

But Ryder is not sure that her hologram recreates the thrill of a live performance in the flesh.

“I don’t think that there is something that can replace real human skin — a feeling of real human emotions,” she says.

Even Stephen admits that he is still fascinated by the technological possibilities, even if he was not enthusiastic about the idea of ​​the hologram show of Jeff Healey Band.

I do not think that in fact there is something that can replace real human skin – a feeling of real human emotions.– Serena Ryder

There are several shows that he would fork out to see if the circumstances are right, he believes. One of them would see the Beatles playing in their hometown of Liverpool, if this hologram ever took shape.

“I think it would amaze me and make it a really interesting experience,” he says.

Stephen reflects on his experiences with Jeff Healy's group in his recent book The best place in the house, but he admits that one day he will not necessarily have control over the narrative of the group, or whether they will be recreated as holograms.

“I suspect that as we move into the future, this will become commonplace, whether right or wrong,” he says.

“I don’t know if you can stop it.”

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