At the mention of holograms, most people think of Tupac’s brief resurrection at Coachella 2012.
Their minds certainly wouldn’t go to a darkened office in Paintworks where a hologram, floating in mid-air, changes from a skull to a plane to a dancer to a skeleton.
Sat at his desk is Stuart Warren Hill. He’s toured the world as Hexstatic, an AV duo known for the hit 1998 single Timber, released in collaboration with Coldcut and Greenpeace. The same year, he VJed for Talking Head’s David Byrne at Lisbon Expo.
He created the world’s first AV album, Rewind, in 2000, and four years later he created the world’s first 3D AV album, Holotronica.
But he’s since had his AV career sidelined by a remarkable invention for which he is constantly fielding international demand.
The product? A highly transparent, highly reflective, super lightweight gauze that’s practically invisible to the naked eye that, when visuals are projected onto it, tricks the mind into thinking it’s seeing a floating hologram.
It’s not 3D, but uses 2D video projection to create the illusion of being so, and to go 3D all that’s required is two projectors with polarising filters and polarised glasses for the audience.
It’s not the tech that used an illusion called Pepper’s Ghost to bring Tupac back to life. “The company which made that is Musion,” Stuart says. “It’s very expensive and clunky in comparison.”
A promoter would have to pay £50,000 for one night’s event with Musion’s solution, so Stuart came up with something else out of necessity.
The result is far more simple, affordable, and portable than anything else on the market. A 20-metre screen fits into a duffle bag and uses a normal projector. It’s easy to integrate into live events and bewildering that no-one thought of it before.
Shortly after the screen, christened the Holo-Gauze, launched in September 2014, it was used in Lord of the Dance at London Palladium, the Eric Prydz Epic 3 DJing event at NYC’s Madison Square Gardens, and Samsung’s corporate events.
If that makes you think its rise is stratospheric, last year Stuart was approached by the producers of the Grammy Awards. The Holo-Gauze joined Lady Gaga in her headline performance that became a Bowie tribute following the news of the musician’s passing.
Using the Holo-Gauze and tracking LED rings on her fingers, smoke trails were seen to arise from Lady Gaga’s hands throughout the show as she moved around the stage, and for the finale the smoke reformed into Bowie’s face to uproarious applause.
The same year, it was used at Beyoncé’s performance at Tidal X 1015, which amazed crowds by creating a line up of holographic Beyoncé avatars that closely copied the choreography of the real Bey. As the avatars danced in union, she looked like a many-armed Hindu deity.
How is it possible that the screen was used in Lady Gaga and Beyoncé shows just two years after its invention?
“I’ve had a long history of being an audio visual artist, so I know a lot of people in the industry who I’ve been demoing to,” Stuart replies modestly.
But Hugo, the other half of the Holo-Gauze team, has a different theory: “Stuart’s a creative AV pioneer at heart. He just dazzles people.”
Stuart’s accolades are endless: he won Best Editing MCM Video Music award in Cannes for Hexstatic’s Timber video, among various other AV awards. But his legacy extends further than that: one Hexstatic track called Deadly Media features a mash-up of international newsreaders that is clearly a precursor and inspiration to the likes of Casetteboy today.
Enquiries about the Holo-Gauze come from everywhere from Dubai to Japan, demanding distributors as far as Malaysia or Australia. The latest news is that it will be used during the this year’s Super Bowl and forthcoming Netflix film Bright starring Will Smith.
Little does Hollywood know, the Holo-Gauze is a team of two in a boxy office on Bath Road. But they have world domination in their sights.