MICHAEL JACKSON: SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM
I was asked by the MJ Estate to recreate digital Michael performing a new song at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. The project was met with critical and audience acclaim, and served to validate my approach to rendering believable virtual celebrity likeness, and more critically, creating a convincing digital persona of one of the world's most well-known performers.
To present Virtual Michael live at the Billboard Music Awards, we used a "Pepper's Ghost" display technology to give him a pseudo-holographic appearance on stage. This is the same technique used for the Tupac Shakur presentation at Coachella in 2012, except we surrounded the transparent screen with live dancers, a band, interactive lights, and pyrotechnics. While the media often refers to this kind of presentation as a hologram, it is actually two dimensional trickery.
Watch the full ABC filming of the event in glorious 720p! To add insult to injury, just before the presentation, venue doors were opened on the second floor which sent a massive air current to waft across the 13 meter wide screen causing it wobble and distort throughout the entire piece. Awesome.
Creating a Virtual Michael Jackson set a new standard for digital human projects. Michael is one of the most recognized international performers ever, and his style of performance, facial expressions, and body movements are instantly identifiable to his millions of fans. Not having the benefit of MJ to capture the exact performance, we studied thousands of hours of video and images from other performances to guide us as we conjured the essence of his persona and animated his signature facial expressions and mannerisms.