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Computer Effects Virtually Resurrect Tupac

Avatar director James Cameron's effects company created a virtual Shakur using physical characteristics and movements captured from previously recorded performances. Larry Greenemeier reports

[Sound of Tupac Shakur: "Yeah! Yeah!"]

Tupac Shakur—or rather a virtual approximation of the dead rapper presented at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It wasn't smoke and mirrors but rather an intricate setup including a high-definition projector and some serious computing power to render a life-size image of Shakur, killed in 1996, onto a Mylar screen onstage.

Virtual Tupac appeared onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at Coachella. After an expletive-filled intro, the image launched into an impressively seamless performance of "Ride or Die" with Snoop Dogg. Digital Domain, a special effects company founded by Avatar director James Cameron, created Tupac's likeness on a computer, using physical characteristics and movements captured from previously recorded performances, according to The Wall Street Journal. When it was over, Virtual Tupac disappeared in a flash of light—although he's likely to be resurrected for future shows.

Such high-tech illusions are pretty standard in today's movies. But the success of a live, if you will, performance creates some really interesting possibilities. Want to see Kurt Cobain onstage with Jimi Hendrix? We might not have long to wait.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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