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Tragedy in Vegas: Tupac hologram shot to death in visual effects drive-by

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In the end, his digital likeness died as he lived.

Eyewitnesses describe a rumbling noise followed by flashes of light. In the end, Hologram Tupac Shakur was dead — gunned down in the Las Vegas night early Thursday, the 16th anniversary of the rapper’s actual death. He was only five months old.

What happened on the corner of Paradise Road and East Tropicana Ave., is still unfolding but sources inside the computerized graphics industries are pointing to an ongoing feud between James Cameron’s Digital Domain, and two hologram-imaging companies, AV Concepts and U.K.-based Musion Systems. The three companies had combined forces in creating Hologram Tupac to perform alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April.

Just days ago, Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy less than 10 months after going public, leading to bad blood between stockholders and fans of the late rapper, who was shot roughly half a mile from the scene in 1996 and died six days later. The New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday delisted the company.


Shares had tumbled in recent weeks after Digital Domain announced it had missed debt payments, was cutting 300 jobs and the CEO had resigned. “Thug Life” on Wall Street led Roth Capital to cut its rating to neutral from buy, after the stock had plummeted 88%. Members of Hologram Tupac’s entourage vowed retaliation.

“What the f— is up, Coachella!”

Bursting onto the scene at the annual three-day music and arts festival, the holographic Shakur performed “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” and “Hail Mary” before a wowed audience. The show drew massive attention and talk followed of a digital tour featuring Tupac.

Since April, the TeleHuman Tupac had been the single most in-demand speaker within the audio/visual holographic videoconferencing community. Beamed onto the A-list at Cisco retreats and recently tapped as an ambassador by Kinect for its motion sensing, 3D-projected games technology, ZDNet hailed the hologram as “the defining TelePresence of our generation.”

In Las Vegas to speak at a symposium on Digital Holography and Three-Dimensional Imaging, Hologram Tupac had been projected inside the passenger seat of an SUV driven by Suge Knight, after a scuffle inside the MGM Grand lobby with a digital designer from Lucasfilm, Ltd., forced an early exit from the conference. The fight was captured on the hotel’s video surveillance.

At roughly 12:15 am, while stopped at a red light heading east on Tropicana, a white, four-door, late-model Lexus pulled up to the SUV’s right side, rolled down a window, and rapidly fired a volley of laser-like pulses at Shakur. He was hit in the chest, pelvis, right hand and thigh. One of the rounds ricocheted into Shakur’s right lung, which onlookers say created an impressive light display.

Representatives for AV Concepts and Musion Systems deny involvement, although the technology described by witnesses is said to resemble Musion’s Eyeliner™ high definition holographic video projection technology, which allows spectacular three-dimensional moving images to appear within a live stage setting.

Arriving on the scene, police and paramedics found Shakur unresponsive. Eyewitnesses reported glowing embers littering street, near the cross-section of Paradise Road.

“First there was a rumble, like in Jurassic Park or Tremors,” said a witness. “Then, remember in Transformers, there’d be, like, this motion blur where the robots really seemed to be there — not just superimposed? Kind of like that. There was a millisecond distortion of the image, then a cutaway to where the hologram hit the pavement. It was quite effective.”

Another onlooker seemed to implicate James Cameron, citing the obvious transparency algorithms in 3D modeling which led to this morning’s climatic crime scene. “I’m not saying it was him in the car, let’s get that straight. It was dark and the windows were tinted, but the effects were impressive and clearly cutting edge,” she said. “Where Terminator 2: Judgment Day was an object-lesson in reflection-mapping, the hologram murder of Tupac formed a connection between the artificial element and the real world in ways I’ve never experienced.”

Not all were convinced, some saying the effects weren’t at all believable, like Anaconda 3 or The Mummy Returns. Investigators privately admit this might simply be an attempt to flush out suspects by preying on the artist’s pride or, more importantly, a desperate attempt to continue a narrative that Hologram Tupac is still alive.

Fans on the scene seemed otherwise persuaded. “The surfaces and lighting were flawless,” an onlooker said, “but crucially it was the accuracy of the physics behind the CGI that sold it — the shadows, the contrast of the real life images and the projection done so seamlessly. It’s the little things, but it makes a huge difference.”

Shakur’s family will hold a private funeral for the hologram on Sunday in Las Vegas, which will be videoconferenced in HD by Cisco in the hopes of bringing customers, suppliers, fans and partners face-to-face around a highly secure virtual meeting table.

Las Vegas Police report that the remaining filaments of Hologram Tupac Shakur’s image were swept from the crime scene, cremated and some of his ashes were later mixed with marijuana and smoked by members of the Outlawz.

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© 2012, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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