Digital rebirth puts MaBrr back on stage

When Brenda Fassie came to life again last night in Newtown, it was with the help of the same technique the Victorians used to create apparitions.

Peter Blond, the creative director at Omage, who worked on the project to bring Brenda to life, said the technology was not especially new, just a bit more clever these days.

The technology was developed in the mid-19th century, using a method called Pepper’s Ghost, he said. It is the same technology Disney uses in their haunted house rides, and was developed by Professor John Pepper, using reflected light to trick stage audiences.

It was also used to bring murdered rapper Tupac Shakur to life to perform with Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Fassie, who died in 2004, was brought to life at the Hansa Pilsner Festival of Legends in Newtown this weekend – the first such concert in Africa.

The team of audiovisual experts reportedly needed six weeks and more than R1?million to create a 10-minute video for the show.

Fassie’s projection sang alongside her son, Bongani, who said it was great to have another chance to perform with his mum.

“I can’t even remember when my last performance with her was. It was so long ago,” he said.

The footage for the projection was shot using an actress to perform two of MaBrr’s most popular songs.

The actress was made up and dressed in a replica of Fassie’s famous sequined blue jumpsuit.

Fassie’s real voice and performance was imprinted on the visuals, which were then projected to create the image.

Blond said: “But it isn’t a real hologram. It is an illusion of a compilation of 2D images projected at angles to form a 3D image.”

Creating the “hologram” requires two rooms: a main room or a stage, and an adjacent, hidden room.

The 2D footage of Fassie was projected in the hidden room from a series of high-powered projectors.

The video is then bounced off the surface on to a reflective surface at a 45-degree angle.

On stage, the surface reflects the projections from the hidden room so that it appears Fassie is actually there.

But clever engineers do not use glass as the surface any more.

They have switched to a patented cling film-like substance, called Mylar foil, which makes the image clearer.

The foil, which had to be imported from the UK, is incredibly thin, so no drop shadow is produced when objects are projected on to it.

It also allows more light in to create more lifelike images.

“Brenda’s music was the soundtrack for the lives of many in the 80s and 90s,” said Hansa general manager Khensani Nobanda.

“It looks like Brenda herself is (again) taking control of the stage in her trademark, disco queen way.”

Brenda’s hi-tech resurrection

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