Posted : 2013-07-16 16:04
Updated : 2013-07-16 16:04

Can holograms replace real K-pop stars?

Girls' Generation's holographic concerts will be shown at V-Theater which will open as a tourist destination for K-pop fans from overseas in Seoul.
/ Korea Times file

SM, YG vying to use
holographic images to attract more fans

By Chung Ah-young

When legendary rapper Tupac, who died in 1996, was resurrected on stage through his hologram in 2012, his "image" presence created a frenzy. Celine Dion sang a duet with a virtual Elvis Presley during an American Idol episode in 2007.

Holographic technology brings dead musicians back to life through three-dimensional (3D) images by back projection but sometimes a new artist is created or it enables live singers to virtually perform in different locations.

In Japan, Hatsune Miku, a hologram singer, created by Japanese technology firm Crypton Future Media has gained the same popularity as real pop stars do. She performs and wows fans as if she were a real-life pop star. She has a fan club, a Facebook page and her own record label and even appears in a slew of Japanese popular animations.

Psy's holographic images were revealed at World IT Show in COEX on May 23 before opening the exclusive theater for K-Pop Hologram-YG at Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province this month.

Hologram tech is a magic bullet in the Korean music scene where K-pop stars are busy with hectic schedules, making it hard for them to appear in locations where their fans want to see them.

To bring their virtual stars to the stage in different countries, the nation's top entertainment companies are vying to use holographic images.

SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment, the nation's leading music companies, are now attempting to push the stereoscopic era in music.

The company that has Girls' Generation, SHINee, TVXQ, BoA and Super Junior, will open a concert hall called "V-Theater" dedicated to virtual performances in August with a set of advanced projectors creating moving 3D holographic images of its stars as if they are really there.

K-pop band Big Bang's holographic performances will be shown at K-Pop Hologram-YG at Everland in September. / Korea Times file

SM has been experimenting with the holographic performances for more than a decade, although its first attempt to make H.O.T., a now-defunct boy band, a holographic debut failed in 1998. Some 10 years and more, the company said that its technology and experience have reached a level of high quality enough to launch its holographic concert of Girls' Generation at Gangnam Station in January.

SM has an ambitious goal of making V-Theater a tourist destination for K-pop fans coming from overseas in Seoul and establishing more branches of V-Theater in other Asian countries where K-pop is hugely popular.

The theaters are expected to lower the company's traveling costs for its artists who are frequently required to visit other countries for their fans' demands as the company expects that the holographic theaters will allow the bands to perform live in different places simultaneously. Also, overseas fans can satisfy their eager for seeing their favorite hallyu stars in their nations if the theaters are set up there.

V-Theater in Seoul will offer the concerts for Girls' Generation on the first hall and Super Junior on the second hall. "The project is aiming at providing an ‘urban' theme park. Many K-pop fans don't have many things to do here except for shopping. It will offer them K-pop entertainment,'' said an official of SM said in a statement.

At Girls' Generation's concerts titled "2013 Girls' Generation World Tour ­ Girls & Peace," which were held on June 8 and 9 at the Olympic Gymnastics Stadium in southern Seoul, the hologram technology was tested during the performance and looked successful. Nine members appeared on stage through holographic images projected onto a stage backdrop along with its opening song "Hoot."

The virtual performance took place briefly but its possibility as the new business model for hallyu content has been thought highly likely to sustain the K-pop fever around the world.
YG Entertainment whose artists are Psy, Big Bang and 2NE1 has also established Next Interactive K Limited (NIK), a joint venture to develop a new platform project based on hologram-based content. NIK will produce the holographic performances of both local and international artists and distribute the content to various venues such as the theme parks in the world including Korea.

"We will be able to surpass physical, spatial limitations to sustain K-pop popularity overseas, with its expansion into hologram content," YG said.

NIK released its holographic images of Psy in World IT Show in COEX on May 23 before opening the exclusive theater for K-Pop Hologram-YG at Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province this month. The Everland showcase will include the holographic performances of Psy's "Gangnam Style" and "Gentleman" in July and add more holographic content from Big Bang and 2NE1 in September.

After launching the Everland theater, it will establish some 20 venues for virtual performances of its K-pop singers in major theme parks or others in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and North American and Europe by 2015.

However, some critics point out that the prospect for stereoscopic performances of K-pop singers is not all rosy. A theater dedicated to K-pop cinema opened last year in Broadway Cinema in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul with some 230 seats, targeting foreign audience. But now its operation is being suspended. Also, the stereoscopic concert of singer/actor Rain "Rain in the Best Show 3D" was held in Olympic Gymnastics Stadium before he joined the military service in 2011 ago scored an isolated success but failed to obtain its following content.

"The concerts using 3D technique have not been so successful but given that there are millions of overseas fans along with advanced technology and a quality pool of talented K-pop stars, the market for the holographic content will grow bigger," a music industry's official, said.

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