A live band plays from a small studio. A live audience watches the same performance on a stage. The fact that they’re miles apart doesn’t seem to matter. Such shows could be the future of “live” music.
“Let me introduce to you our guitarist,” says the lead singer from his studio. The live audience claps. The singer then nods to the pianist, who is in the room with the audience. She nods back and smiles at him. Again, the crowd responds.
Singer Dan Olsen is aware of the unusual situation. “I’m wondering if he’s a hologram or if he’s here, real blood and flesh,” he teases before touching his guitarist’s shoulder. “Yeah, he feels real enough.”
What’s happening? The singer and guitarist onstage in the music venue are holograms. They are really playing from the studio. Only the pianist is physically present with the audience. “So, when you see all of us on stage it looks like all three of us are on stage playing at the same time, but two of us are holograms,” Olsen explains. Imagine that.
Sometimes humans can’t trust their senses. The biblical injunction to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) doesn’t refer to holograms. But it’s an excellent reminder that what we perceive with our eyes isn’t always the full or accurate picture.
The hologram technology is called Fanshare. In a world worried about safety and social distancing, Fanshare allows musicians to perform and interact with fans from much more than six feet away. Performers can be across the country or the globe.
Ian O’Connell directs Olsen’s performance on Fanshare. He says, “You’re sitting here as if you’re watching a regular stage show.” He insists audiences forget they’re not watching a live person—“other than when the occasional glitch on the video remind[s] everybody.”
Fanshare is a modern twist on an 1800s technique called “Pepper’s ghost.” For the illusion, theaters used a film projection, back and side lighting, and a large sheet of glass. The combo can create a 3-D appearance.
Musion, the company that designed Fanshare, has big plans for the technology. Developers envision performers sending holographic shows straight to people’s cellphones. After all, today’s audience members are almost always connected to their devices.
“We now need to be practical,” says O’Connell. He questions whether an audience must have a physical presence in order to truly be an audience.
For singer Olsen, more and more the answer becomes no. He says, “You can [perform] anywhere in the world. You can be anywhere in the world.”