One Step Further: Hologram Technology for Live Events

Image source: Canva Pro

In the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary events, organizers consistently strive to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies that can provide unique experiences for their audiences. One such revolutionary innovation from is holographic technology, which has the power to redefine events by creating immersive and breathtaking displays.

In the past two decades, holograms took the show business by storm – the groundbreaking and now iconic holographic appearance of the late Tupac Shakur at Coachella in 2012 (delivered by our Arizona-based member company AV Concepts) or the latest ABBA Voyage phenomenon (featuring one of the largest LED installations by our Gold Partner ROE Visual) are prime examples of how a holographic concert could revolutionize even the famously creative and continuously evolving entertainment industry. Countless brands have also chosen holograms  to make an impact, for example BOSS’ recent Spring/Summer ’24 campaign featuring, among others, a 33-foot display of supermodel Gisele Bündchen posing in front of London’s Tower Bridge (beamed onto transparent ROE Visual LED, powered by our Platinum Partner  Disguise‘s media servers*). In recent years, holography has carved out its rightful space in the world of business as well, partly spurred on by the post-pandemic interest in digital solutions, and most importantly driven by the event industry’s ever-growing appetite for crafting immersive experiences.

While they have been around for a very long time (more than 70 years!), holograms still may seem like science fiction – but the technology behind them is not.  Let’s take a look behind the digital curtain and explore the reasons to get excited about holography, and delve into the technical aspects that enable the creation of these mesmerizing spatial interactions.

2Pac’s holographic performance with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at Coachella 2012

But first… what is a hologram?

In its most basic form, a hologram is the replication of a three dimensional object on a two dimensional surface. In holographic technology these digitally generated 3D images seemingly float in mid-air thanks to advanced optics, light projection, and content creation techniques*. This  innovation has already transformed the way we experience live performances, seamlessly blending familiar images with cutting-edge technology to create a new and awe-inspiring immersive spectacle.

The line between physical and virtual reality is getting thinner than ever before, as holograms are one way to revolutionize the way we interact in an immersive world. Instead of watching someone on a screen through much-lamented video conferencing tools (Zoom, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams, anyone?), this technology can project a 3D version of the person into any space, someone we can interact with as we would in real life.

How has hologram technology evolved?

Although holography may seem futuristic, it has a relatively long history dating back to, surprisingly, 1858, and the discovery made by English engineer Henry Dircks. Dircks observed that by positioning a glass sheet at a 45-degree angle, he was able to project a peculiar image onto a surface, a phenomenon he named “Dircksian Phantasmagoria”. This illusion rose to fame only a few years later as a popular projection technique  at the time, “Pepper’s ghost” – named after John Henry Pepper, the creator of the actual projection device. From the late 1940s onwards, popularized in culture through science fiction films and television, holography has slowly evolved into the forms we see emerging in recent years. While interest in the technology expanded in the 1960s and 1970s, its practical use in the business world remained a distant vision.

The technology you see today began to mature in the 2010s. Initially found only in ultra-high budget film studios, top corporate offices and leading research universities, holography has slowly begun to make itself felt in the wider private sector. Long before 2020, event organizers were excited by the possibility of hosting speakers at live events who were located elsewhere. By 2017, our Toronto-based technology partner AHRT, a leading hologram technology provider, patented their first capture and display technology, paving the way for holography’s expansion into the events industry. However, what precipitated the technology’s true coming of age was without a doubt… the pandemic.

With the desperate need to connect somewhat vaning by early 2021 due to increasing virtual fatigue and, frankly, poor engagement, event organizers were forced to find new ways of immersing audiences when in-person attendance was challenging. It was at this time that holography, then somewhat of a rarity in corporate events, began to reshape expectations of what live, hybrid events could be. When holographic capture and display technology became available to the mass market as pandemic restrictions eased, perceptions began to shift. It was no longer a luxury expense but a feasible option for event organizers wanting to reduce costs, simplify logistics and lower carbon emissions – without sacrificing interactivity

Where is it going?

Holographic technology has introduced a brand new level of engagement to the events industry, and the opportunities in it are limitless, having the power to transport audiences to realms once confined to the world of sci-fi movies. Whether it is used to resurrect legendary artists on stage or showcase products in creative ways, holographic technology consistently challenges the limits of audience interaction and experience. As it evolves, it carries the potential for more stunning and imaginative applications, striving to revolutionize the events landscape even further.

With the rise of Augmented Reality (AR) and the introduction of the Metaverse (branded the future of the event industry by tech giants), holograms could be used as a preview of what the Metaverse has in store before fully immersing ourselves in it. Eventually, holographic technology could be the tool to enable users to seamlessly transition between physical and virtual world – but this is, of course, a subject of a different discussion.

Holograms as part of live events

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how companies may benefit from introducing elements of hologram technology into their events. We have seen spectacular examples of this in the past, whether it is live holographic performances by late artists, such as Tupac, Michael Jackson, or Whitney Houston, holographic storytelling experiences, or creative product showcases.

And, as we already know, holograms are a great way to include speakers in your line-up without them personally attending the event, however it does require them to be physically present in a remote capture studio in order to deliver their speech in real-time and have the chance to interact with their live audience through cameras. Alternatively, of course, holographic technology allows you to pre-record sessions, however that takes away the ability to carry out real interactions with the audience.

Being still as awe-inspiring as they have ever been, holograms can add a dash of color and life-sized humanity to any event. You can incorporate holograms into keynote sessions, panel discussions, sponsorship meetings, workshops and other live experiences. We’ve not seen any rulebooks, so let your imagination wander!

Key benefits:

  • Present anywhere, anytime and with any speaker, no matter where they’re based. Holograms let the audience see and interact with a the life-like hologram of the actual speaker based in a remote location. While the technology certainly doesn’t come cheap, on the long run investment in holography can help reduce travel costs and time associated with events.
  • Reduce your impact on the environment by eliminating the need for speakers to travel nearly as much and as far as before.
  • Deliver state-of-the-art immersive live experiences with a technology that’s both novel and fascinating.
  • Sit at the forefront of a new technological age where distances are reduced to life-like pixels.
  • Make your event attractive to speakers who may not be otherwise available to travel, or be available at all due to their packed schedules. This may also help save on speaking fees, as some speakers may be able to justify lowering their fees for the reduced time they’ll have to spend at your event and on traveling.

Hologram technology from ARHT

Together with their network of weWork and partner studios across the globe, our technology partner ARHT keeps their customers’ convenience at the forefront, supporting both full virtual, hybrid and live events with their technology. Since 2014, ARHT is pioneering in holograms and as a global market leader, continues to consistently innovate and enhance its proprietary hardware and software solutions.

Find out more

How does it work?

As our Dubai-based member company BeWunder explains it in their blog post, holographic technology is comprised of two key components:

Holographic Display System: Central to the holographic experience is the display system, which incorporates a transparent screen or surface for the projection of images. There are various holographic displays available in the market, such as large-scale projection systems, pyramid-shaped holographic displays, and even projections onto water-based screens. These displays are carefully engineered to ensure the optimal visibility and clarity of the holographic content.

Content Creation and Synchronization: Creating holographic content requires much precision and expertise: a specialized 3D modeling software is used to design and animate realistic holographic images. It is critical to synchronize this content with the display system, as that makes sure that the holographic objects you creare match up seamlessly with the physical environment you project them into. This synchronization is at the heart of creating convincing and immersive experiences.

Factors to consider before implementing hologram technology

According to Bewunder, there are a couple of factors that need to be taken into account when implementing holographic hechnology* at any event or venue:

  • Venue and lighting: Creating an optimal environment for holographic displays is a must, and that means technology providers must pay attention to lighting conditions and the venue layout, as those are crucial to maximizing visual impact. As it is with many visual elements of AV production, ambient lighting needs to be controlled in order to prevent interference with holographic projections.
  • Content calibration and alignment: Precise calibration and alignment of holographic content with the display system is crucial for a seamless and realistic experience, therefore AV experts use specialized software and hardware tools to achieve perfect synchronization.
  • Interactivity: Enhancing the holographic experience involves introducing interactive elements into the performance. Gesture recognition, motion sensors, or touch interfaces help audiences interact with the holographic content, ultimately creating a more immersive and personal encounter.

What type of equipment will you need?

Let’s take a look at some of the key components and options of today’s hologram technology that you’ll need to become familiar with before renting or buying.

  • A studio for capturing the presence of speakers for both live or pre-recorded hybrid events. Studios will need a display monitor, audience monitors, LED softbox lighting, a high quality camera (4K), audiovisual equipment, lighting, and a backdrop. Holographic capture studios can be permanently installed or temporary – making them an affordable rental option.
  • Holographic projectors at the live event venue to recreate the captured transmitted presence of each speaker. These projectors arrange photons to create virtual images on a custom 3D projection screen.
  • Projection screens and stages to allow the 3D holographic image to be projected onto them. Stages typically come in a variety of sizes, from small, single person units to larger units for multiple speakers.
  • Specialized LED panels and walls to beam holographic content onto via media servers.
  • Transmission hardware or computer control units that generate holographic images based on the images captured in the capture studio.
  • Transmission software and media server to enable the transmission and delivery of captured holograms to the live stage.

The future of holograms in event technology

With the increasing accessibility and affordability to rent or buy hologram technology, it’s not difficult to see a future for holograms beyond high-ticket events and exclusive corporate gatherings, and its broader adoption across various event types and sizes is now becoming a reality – especially with the prominent rise of AR and the Metaverse in virtual experiences.

It is not a question of whether or not holograms will ever truly replace in-person speakers and performers, we already know the answer to that. Live experiences are, have always been, and will always be the ultimate desire for humans. However, with holograms audiences now have a new way of immersing themselves in hybrid environments, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that this technology will remain with us for the foreseeable future and even beyond.

What about the cost?

The implementation cost of holographic technology depends on factors such as the setup’s complexity, the size of holographic displays, and content creation needs. While high-end holographic solutions can mean significant expenses (think hologram concerts, for instance), there are more budget-friendly yet high quality alternatives available for businesses thanks to the increase in new manufacturers and solutions populating the market. Is the ROI worth it? It wholly depends on what you would like to achieve, but one thing is for sure: when done right, holograms elevate any live experience to a new level of immersion that is likely to impress audiences.

So, where does that leave us? While holography may take some time to become a widely accessible technology, there’s little doubt it’s a revolutionary way to upgrade hybrid events of all shapes and sizes. After all, what was once considered science fiction, is now facilitating closing keynotes all around the world. And for one, we will surely be keeping a curious eye on the direction it takes the event industry in.

To learn more about the technical aspects of holographic technology, as well as the related costs, we invite you to get in touch with us and find out what our AV Alliance members can do for you and your event!