6 October 2015

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The Glamour Of Holography On The Silver And Small Screens

As the editor of Holography News, it's always fascinating to see the latest trends in holography streets behind the fantastical science fiction world's vision of what the technology should achieve. The interesting thing is that holographic images in films have changed from simple visions in cinema's earlier days to being clones of humanity in more recent productions, while in real life the humble hologram is, for the moment, still used for security and authentication. Although the real life technology has made huge strides, the development it has seen in cinema and television has become a whole different world which now resembles holography in name alone. 

Here's an abridged history of the key film and television programs that have seen holography develop from a moving image, to developing independent thought and life… 


Logan's Run (1976) 
One of the earliest usages of holography in Science Fiction film was in the closing scenes of Logan's Run (1976). In this part of the film, Logan 5 is being interrogated by a computer probing his mind, while a holographic image of him is projected into a pillar. The iconic holographic image of Michael York mouthing "There is no Sanctuary" is perfectly possible with current technology, and similar attempts to bring life to holograms have been achieved in installations where a tape-loop provides a hologram with a `voice.'

Star Wars (1977) 

The film that really changed the public perception of what holograms should achieve is one of the iconic science fiction films of the 20th century: Star Wars. In the memorable scene, a moving, full colour, talking hologram of Princess Leia is projected from the droid R2D2. Both here, and in Logan's Run, the holograms are computer generated, setting the standard for Hollywood's permanent vision of holography – a far cry from reality, where holograms are really images diffracted on a physical surface. We're only two films in, and holograms are already losing touch with their real-life counterparts!

Total Recall (1990) 

Total Recall took the whole concept much further. Not only can Arnie activate a holographic decoy of him from a small device on his wrist, but the fake hologram version of him can take
bullets, have flesh torn, bleed and then stand up laughing. All this despite being entirely composed of light – it's no wonder the leader of the baddies authorising the shooting can only shout "Look out! He's got a hologram!"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) 
If Arnie's amazing bleeding decoy hologram wasn't amazing enough, Star Trek took the fantastical idea that bit further, by allowing a whole room devoted to holographic fantasy. On the holo-deck, members of the crew could have a holographic environment fashioned for them instantly, with holographic environments realistically created along with characters (figures from history, friends, celebrities) who could be interacted with like real people. Unlike Arnie's representation of himself in Total Recall, these are much more realistic humans – they can be talked to, danced with, touched and even made love to! Not bad for a diffraction of light.

Red Dwarf (1988 - 1999) 
Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf is an extension of the fantasy displayed in Star Trek – he's a real personification of a deadperson whose personality has been saved for the occasion.Interestingly, while Rimmer is a permanent character (unlike the Holo-Deck's creations that are temporary), he takes a small step back to reality by being entirely made of light: he cannot eat or hold objects, and he takes offence when people walk through him!

Obviously film-holography and real life holographic development have gone in two very different directions. The silver screen's development is fantastical and offers an amazingly imaginative view of the future, but the only thing it shares in common with real holography is the name. If the developments shown in these films ever do happen, it will be through an entirely different type of technology far removed from the diffraction of light – but is still exciting to watch (and hope for!)


Submitted by: Astrid Mitchell




About Today's Contributor: 

Astrid Mitchell is the executive editor at Reconnaissance International  - the leading global source of business intelligence on brand protection, authentication for document security and personal identification.