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An eye-popping hologram of murdered rapper Tupac Shakur has stolen the show at US music festival Coachella and amplified questions about the future of “live” performance.
The high-definition projection of the gangsta rap icon appeared with superstars Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre in a stunning end to the first weekend of the annual music festival in California, setting off a wave of social media debate.
Thousands in the crowd gasped as the shirtless Tupac – killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996 – rose up on the stage.
“What up, Coachella?” the digitally revived Tupac shouted before launching into his classic single Hail Mary.
Amazingly life-like, down to his signature tattoos, Timberland boots and jewellery, the hologram stalked the stage, swapping phrases with Snoop Dogg and performing 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, Come With Me, and Gangsta Party.
Then, Tupac’s image dissipates.
The stunt was the vision of long-time friend Dr Dre, who sought permission from Tupac’s mother before commissioning the San Diego company AV Concepts, with the help of James Cameron’s Oscar-winning digital production company Digital Domain, to recreate him.
“We worked with Dr Dre on this and it was Dre’s vision to bring this back to life,” Nick Smith, president of AV Concepts, told MTV.
‘‘It was his idea from the very beginning and we worked with him and his camp to utilise the technology to make it come to life.”
Digital Domain is behind the digitally altered images of Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy, and Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Even Australian cricket legend Shane Warne has been the subject of holographic technology, coming face-to-face with a life-size, three-dimensional image of himself at the National Sports Museum in Melbourne in 2008.
The cricketer listened to the virtual Warne talk about his career, including the “ball of the century” that bowled England’s Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes.
A spokeswoman for Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, told entertainment website TMZ that she was ‘‘thrilled’’ with the latest recreation, although the experience was bittersweet. She did not attend Coachella but watched the performance live online.
The stunt set social media ablaze, with Tupac trending worldwide on Twitter and his name mentioned at least 40 times a minute. It was still trending in Australia this morning.
Singer Rihanna, who was at the show, tweeted: ‘‘#TupacBACK #unbelievable #IWASTHERE #STORY4myGrandKidz.’’
But others said the hologram was too realistic for comfort.
‘‘Tupac at Coachella. so legit it hurts,’’ tweeted @nadia_is.
‘‘That Pac Hologram haunted me in my sleep. Rest In Peace 2pac,’’ tweeted @questlove.
A twitter account, @HologramTupac, was quickly set up and had attracted more than 12,200 followers by this morning,
‘‘I could have sworn I died with a shirt on,’’ one of the first tweets read.
Mr Smith, from AV Concepts, would not divulge the cost of the stunt to MTV but said it was ‘‘affordable’’ compared to the cost of attracting entertainers from around the world.
He said the hologram took almost four months to create in a studio, and the price range for a comparable live event would be between $100,000 to more than $400,000.
The visual magic could spell a new era for live entertainment, with many on Twitter saying they would be prepared to pay for the experience of seeing Tupac in concert again.
Mr Smith said his company had the ability to visually recreate long-dead figures in the studio.
“You can take their likenesses and voice and … take people that haven’t done concerts before or perform music they haven’t sung and digitally recreate it,” he told MTV.
AV Concepts was also behind the 2005 Grammys performance featuring Madonna and the holographic members of the Gorillaz, as well as holograms used in concert by Celine Dion and the Black Eyed Peas.
Why would anyone want to buy Yahoo? Such was the question posed by one of the Twitter followers as Thursday’s bid (from private equity groups Blackstone and Bain) crossed the wires.
“It’s a zombie company,” he said.
Indeed, Yahoo has been stumbling about for quite a few years, with nobody quite clear what its purpose is. I asked the recently departed chief executive Carol Bartz precisely that question a year or so ago, and she burbled around the answer.
Really, all Yahoo is there to do is vacuum up spare display advertising while it provides a bit of news, and photography (hello Flickr!) and also be an intermediary for lots of email. Revenues are on a downward slide; Facebook and Twitter are sucking up the display that it used to thrive on.
And, er, that’s it. Nobody can quite think of anything that Yahoo has done in the past 10 years that has set the internet alight. All of which should have newspaper and magazine editors pausing and shivering. Display adverts? News? Photography? Isn’t that what … newspapers and magazines do?
Yes, and if you aren’t looking to the future and doing it with an eye on the money, then your fate is going to be the same as Yahoo’s, where nobody can see a good end to the story; it’s MySpace or Bebo, just bigger and with its own email server.
Indeed, the tale of Yahoo is really just the tale of so many news organisations, except this is played out entirely on the internet.
Yahoo’s top layer has always been really bad at reading the weather. One of the recurring themes that kept coming up when I was researching my forthcoming book Digital Wars (about Apple, Microsoft and Google’s business battles since 1998) was how down the years Yahoo has kept screwing things up. It’s like a Shakespearean supporting character, a cross between Falstaff and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: fated to make bad choices.
For example: in 1996, two Stanford PhD students approached Jerry Yang, the co-founder and chief executive, to explain that they had developed a search engine that was even better than Yahoo’s own at finding stuff on the web: the most relevant results appeared on the front page.
Yang explained patiently that Yahoo didn’t really want a better search engine – it made its money from display ads, so the more pages people went through, the more ads it could sell.
Yes, the PhD students were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and their search engine would become Google.
Then, as Google was rising in 2000 to 2003, Yahoo kept failing to develop a better ad system, which cost it years and millions of dollars of lost opportunity. Then there was Microsoft’s colossal US$44.6 billion cash-and-shares bid in January 2008: at US$31 per share, it was a 62 per cent premium to the company’s stock price. But Yahoo had devised some internal forecasts that suggested it would quickly be worth far more. It was wrong, the credit crunch came, and Microsoft walked away.
How many news organisations have been told about the internet repeatedly, but liked the revenues from display ads too much to go more deeply into this new medium? How many haven’t been brave enough to test new ways of doing things, to integrate (or even devise) new technologies and ways to connect?
It took the music industry long enough. Finally, some have twigged that apps are (or can be) the new albums. Or that survival is about changing the balance in what they do, away from reissuing CDs of stuff you’ve sold once on vinyl, to more live tours and interactive paid-for products.
Will the news industry figure it out in time, though, as the hull of Yahoo slowly tips out of the water and the bow starts sliding under the waves? We can all complain – as Yahoo’s executives might – that the formula worked really well for a while, and it’s just unfortunate that it isn’t doing quite so well now. Display ads aren’t dead online. They’re just a bit poorly. And can’t get out of bed. Any more.
Except there’s no reason for Yahoo not to have done what Facebook did. Lord knows how many companies have been offered up to Yahoo, only to disappear into its maw and never emerge usefully again. Its only semi-success at getting paid has been through subscriptions to its photo site Flickr (which remains a best in class).
For the rest? Yahoo offers a case study in why you must never get comfortable. It has failed to focus on the money, buoyed by its success in one narrow area.
In contrast, Google has tried and tried to find new avenues for making money: it bought Android, the company, in 2005 (Page and Brin didn’t tell their then-chief executive Eric Schmidt). It’s tried multiple times with social networks. It’s never satisfied.
Yahoo, and Yang, got comfortable. That’s what will kill your business.
Fergie laughs off Mancini mind games
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has rubbished claims by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini that the Premier League title race is over.
Ferguson’s side, who entertain struggling Aston Villa on Sunday, saw their lead at the top of the table cut to five points with five games remaining after a shock midweek defeat at Wigan.
Second placed City can move within two points of their title rivals if they beat Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Yet Mancini, speaking after his side’s win over West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, conceded that the title race was over and that United had ‘fantastic spirit’.
Ferguson clearly believes Mancini’s comments are meant to take the pressure off his players and heap it on United.
The Scot laughed off Mancini’s claims and insisted the race for the Premier League is still very much alive.
“I think he maybe picked the wrong time to say it. There’s five games still to go,” Ferguson said on Friday.
“The twists and turns of the Premier League are fascinating and we had to experience that last season when we played Chelsea in the third or fourth final game, a vital game for us, and we won.
“The experience helped us that day and hopefully it does again.
“The Sunday game is the one to focus on. The rest takes care of itself really. After Sunday’s game, which we’ll hopefully win, there’s four games left.
“You eventually whittle all the games away and you’re left with none and hopefully we’ll achieve what we want to achieve.”
United’s defeat at relegation-threatened Wigan ended a run of eight straight top-flight victories, and Ferguson is demanding his side bounce back in style when Villa visit Old Trafford.
Villa, managed by Alex McLeish, are 15th in the table – six points above the relegation zone with six games remaining – after a run of one win in 10 league games.
“Obviously the disappointment of losing that (Wigan) game makes it important we get back on track on Sunday,” added Ferguson, who could recall Paul Scholes and Nani to his starting line-up.
“I think they’re probably safe (Villa) but you never know.
“They’ve six games left and they’re six points clear, they can’t be dead sure.
“As they were against Liverpool and Stoke recently, I expect them to be really determined.
“I think Alex has had a rough first year at the club, not being able to buy players and sold a few players.
“He’s had a couple of bad injuries in losing Richard Dunne and Darren Bent. Of course Bent’s goals are a big loss.
“But Alex is a very capable manager and I think he’s coped with it well.”
Balotelli and Mancini make peace
Manchester City’s troubled striker Mario Balotelli has settled his differences with manager Roberto Mancini and could stay at the Premier League club for two more years, his agent said on Thursday.
Controversy has followed the Italian from his rebellious teenage years at Inter Milan to City where his latest indiscretion was another red card in the weekend defeat by Arsenal.
Media reports have speculated Balotelli could be sold to boyhood club AC Milan in the close season given his catalogue of bad behaviour but Mino Raiola has denied the rumours.
“I am in Manchester but not for any transfer business. I have talked with Mario and Mancini, there was a moment of tension but now the situation is calmer,” the agent told Sky Italia TV.
“Mario has understood his errors, he is special in every way, sometimes he makes mistakes without meaning to. There is enormous pressure from the fans on Mario but Manchester City do not intend to sell him.
“He must grow here then in one or two years, we’ll see,” added Raiola.
Mancini knew about his compatriot’s wild streak having managed him at Inter but still brought him to Manchester in August 2010 for €22 million ($28.9 million).
Some fans are blaming the 21-year-old, whose escapades away from the pitch include setting fire to his bathroom with fireworks, for mega-rich City slipping five points behind leaders Manchester United in the race for the league title.
However, Raiola said that although Balotelli will finish his career in Italy, trophies with City are his immediate priority.
“He must stay here, it is not true he is unhappy. When he leaves England he will do it as a winner,” the agent said.
Balotelli’s antics have led Italy coach Cesare Prandelli to question his presence in his Euro 2012 squad.