John Textor is more than the computer nerd someone might think of when imagining a person who creates digital likenesses of human beings, he’s an entertainer.
Textor is the executive chairman for Pulse, the Port St. Lucie, Florida-based company responsible for for digital applications of human images in films like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Ender’s Game, and Flags of our Fathers. They’ve won academy awards for their ability to make believable digital characters in film. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may stand as their greatest example, as the film’s protagonist is almost completely digital for most of the movie.
Before working for Pulse, Textor was chairman and CEO of digital Domain, and he oversaw the creation of the live performances of both Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. Both artists have been deceased for years, and it was a joy for fans to see these men come back to life, even if it was for just one night.
Tupac appeared in 2012 at Coachella, along with Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, and Eminem. This was the first showing of what appeared to be a hologram. He rapped, moved around on stage, even appearing to interact somewhat with the other performers. Tupac’s appearance immediately generated a lot of buzz, as news stations around the world started covering the story, and internet users and 90’s rap fans began talking about seeing Tupac again, and how great the show was.
Two years later at the Billboard Music Awards, Michael Jackson also appeared posthumously to sing and dance “Slave to the Rhythm.” Jackson was a considerably more difficult person to animate, as he has a full head of hair, and dances to choreography, whereas the bald Tupac didn’t move around a lot.
The technology behind these performances is similar to that of the digitally created face of the Hulk on screen. It’s where the real magic lies, as the supposedly 3D images on stage were created by reflecting the light from projectors off a Mylar board, and is similar to a parlor trick known as “Pepper’s Ghost.”
Nonetheless, the images produced are impressive, and could lead to many more applications than just film and live music. Where John Textor and his team at Pulse take the entertainment world remains to be seen.