image, produced by Pulse Entertainment, was seen dancing and singing
a new song called "Slave to the Rhythm" at the Billboard
Jackson was "alive" and moonwalking his way across the
stage during a 3D holographic performance at the Billboard Music
Awards on May 18, live from the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The
Jackson likeness was brought to the stage with technology that led to
a copyright infringement lawsuit that nearly stopped the performance
altogether. This type of projection effect has been catching on with
event producers since it was popularized with a digital performance
by deceased rapper Tupac Shakur at the 2012 Coachella music festival.
the Billboard Music Awards performance, Orlando, Fla.-based Pulse
Entertainment brought Michael Jackson to the stage, where he was seen
dancing and singing a new song called "Slave to the Rhythm,"
presumably in an effort to promote Jackson's second posthumous album,
the resulting image was similar in appearance to patented 3D
holographic projection technology that is marketed and controlled by
Hologram USA and Musion Das Hologram, the patent-holders filed a
lawsuit against the producers of the 2014 Billboard Music Awards,
claiming copyright infringement.
federal judge ruled the Friday before the event (the case was heard
the preceding Thursday afternoon) that the Billboard Music Awards
producers could use the holographic version of Jackson, rejecting
claims made by Hologram USA and Musion Das Hologram. Judge Kent
Dawson said he didn't find enough evidence to show the 3D image would
projection technology is able to deliver a lifelike re-creation of an
individual that is capable of addressing the audience, moving around
stage and even interacting with others with pre-scripted effects. To
create the effect of a three-dimensional hologram, an overhead
projector throws an image onto a carefully tilted mirror embedded in
the stage floor. The moving image is then reflected onto a special
screen on stage that makes it appear as if the hologram is physically
USA and Musion Das Hologram obtained the rights to patents relating
to holographic performances from visual effects company Digital
Domain (responsible for the effects in X-Men: First Class,
Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Curious Case of
Benjamin Button, as well as the Tupac Shakur performance at
Coachella, with AV Concepts), after the veteran post house filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware in 2012.
public was not aware of the 3D projected performance at the Billboard
Music Awards beforehand, as the show hyped only a "history-making
performance." Plans to use the hologram emerged with details of
Howard Weitzman, who represents Jackson's estate and Billboard Music
Awards producer Dick Clark Productions, wrote in an e-mail to
USAToday.com, "The court's decision [was] not surprising."
He added, "The request to stop this extraordinary Michael
Jackson event was ludicrous."
lawsuit also named John C. Textor, chairman of Pulse Entertainment
and former CEO of Digital Domain. Pulse Entertainment staged the
Jackson revival at the Billboard Music Awards and was accused of
using the hologram techniques without a proper license. Textor would
not comment publicly on the case.
plaintiff's attorney, Ryan G. Baker, said his clients were
disappointed with the ruling, but the performance went on as planned.
to CNN.com, the dance moves used in the Billboard Music Awards event
were not those of Jackson himself but of a stand-in performer who
re-created Jackson's steps for a computer. The computer recorded the
motion and integrated it with an image intended to replicate Jackson.
Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, tweeted "He's
baaaccck!" and included an Instagram video.
no doubt the effect was captivating, if a bit synthetic to Jackson
fans. A public relations executive tweeted, "Uncomfortable, odd
and eerily interesting. Not quite sure what to feel. #MissingMJ"
March, USAToday.com reported that Hologram USA sued Cirque du Soleil
and MGM Resorts International over its show, Michael Jackson ONE
at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. The show makes liberal use of 3D
holographic images of Jackson. Hologram USA says the show represents
an unlicensed use of its technology.
performance at the 2104 Billboard Awards isn't the first digital
reawakening of an artist since Tupac's virtual comeback. This year,
rapper M.I.A. and singer Janelle Monáe
both performed private solo concerts in different cities before
teaming up at the end of their shows as life-sized 3D projections.
Last year, hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan used a hologram of rapper Ol'