HOLOGRAPHIC PROJECTION : HISTORY AND TECHNIQUES
In the late 19th century a theatrical technique called Pepper’s Ghost created the illusion of a person who could appear and disappear.
With a large piece of glass situated at an angle, this early effect intrigued audiences.
Now, almost a 100 years later, a new technology has replaced glass and is designed to directly collaborate with high de?nition video and CGI imagery. This new foil composite is sawless and invisible, allowing audiences to view our holographic imagery in a life-like visual experience. Now people (living or deceased), 3D graphics, and other custom CGI elements can appear and disappear without audiences knowing how it was displayed.
To create this illusion, a projector and/or LED screen must bounce an image from the base of your selected environment to the foil screen creating the 3D image. The foil sits at a 45 degree angle to the audience on a platform. This platform is customizable and may be used as a permanent or temporary installation. This can be done from a single sided projection to display the most realistic illusion, but a 4 sided 360 degree 3D installation is also available.
What started as a simple theatrical trick over 100 years ago, is now generating tremendous reactions with audiences in a variety of presentations.
Pepper’s ghost is an illusion technique used in theatre, haunted houses, dark rides and in some magic tricks. Using plate glass, Plexiglas or plastic film and special lighting techniques, it can make objects seem to appear or disappear, to become transparent, or to make one object morph into another. It is named after John Henry Pepper, who popularized the effect.
In order for the illusion to work, the viewer must be able to see into the main room, but not into the hidden or “Blue Room.” The edge of the glass is sometimes hidden by a cleverly designed pattern in the floor.
The hidden room may be an identical mirror-image of the main room, so that its reflected image matches the main rooms; this approach is useful in making objects seem to appear or disappear. This illusion can also be used to make one object or person reflected in the mirror appear to morph into another behind the glass (or vice versa). This is the principle behind the Girl-to-Gorilla trick found in old carnival sideshows and in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever.
The hidden room may instead be painted black, with only light-colored objects in it. In this case when light is cast on the room, only the light objects reflect the light and appear as ghostly translucent images superimposed in the visible room.
In the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland/Walt Disney World and Disneyland Tokyo, the glass is vertical to the viewer as opposed to the normal angled position, reflecting animated props below and above the viewer that create the appearance of three-dimensional, translucent “ghosts” which appear to be dancing through the ballroom and interacting with props in the physical ballroom. The apparitions appear and disappear when the lights on the animations are turned on and then off.
Giambattista della Porta
Giambattista della Porta was a 16th-century Neapolitan scientist and scholar who is credited with a number of scientific innovations, including the camera obscura. His 1584 work Magia Naturalis (Natural Magic) includes a description of an illusion, titled “How we may see in a Chamber things that are not” that is believed to be the first known description of the Pepper’s Ghost effect.
Porta’s description, from the 1658 English language translation, is as follows.
Let there be a chamber wherein no other light comes, unless by the door or window where the spectator looks in. Let the whole window or part of it be of glass, as we used to do to keep out the cold. But let one part be polished, that there may be a Looking-glass on bothe sides, whence the spectator must look in. For the rest do nothing. Let pictures be set over against this window, marble statues and suchlike. For what is without will seem to be within, and what is behind the spectator’s back, he will think to be in the middle of the house, as far from the glass inward, as they stand from it outwardly, and clearly and certainly, that he will think he sees nothing but truth. But lest the skill should be known, let the part be made so where the ornament is, that the spectator may not see it, as above his head, that a pavement may come between above his head. And if an ingenious man do this, it is impossible that he should suppose that he is deceived.
John Pepper and Henry Dircks
The Royal Polytechnic Institute London was a permanent science-related institution, first opened in 1838. With a degree in chemistry, John Henry Pepper joined the institution as a lecturer in 1848. The Polytechnic awarded him the title of Professor. In 1854, he became the director and sole lessee of the Royal Polytechnic.
In 1862, inventor Henry Dircks developed the Dircksian Phantasmagoria, his version of the long-established phantasmagoria performances. This technique was used to make a ghost appear on-stage. He tried unsuccessfully to sell his idea to theatres; it required them to be completely rebuilt just to support the effect, which proved too costly for them to consider. Later in the year, Dircks set up a booth at the Royal Polytechnic, where it was seen by John Pepper.
Pepper realized that the method could be modified to make it easy to incorporate into existing theatres. Pepper first showed the effect during a scene of Charles Dickens’s The Haunted Man, to great success. Pepper’s implementation of the effect tied his name to it permanently. Though he tried many times to give credit to Dircks, the title “Pepper’s ghost” endured.
The relationship between Dircks and Pepper was summarised in an 1863 article from Spectator:
“This admirable ghost is the offspring of two fathers, of a learned member of the Society of Civil Engineers, Henry Dircks, Esq., and of Professor Pepper, of the Polytechnic. To Mr. Dircks belongs the honour of having invented him, or as the disciplines of Hegel would express it, evolved him from out of the depths of his own consciousness; and Professor Pepper has the merit of having improved him considerably, fitting him for the intercourse of mundane society, and even educating him for the stage.”