Nov 22, 2010

It's not a hologram!

Although I want to be careful about diminishing what I do to being an optical illusion of, well, an optical illusion, I do have to say that what I do and what everybody else, like me, is doing in marketing and advertising cannot be defined as holographic. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hologram as follows:


noun \ˈhō-lə-ˌgram, ˈhä-\

Definition of HOLOGRAM : a three-dimensional image reproduced from a pattern of interference produced by a split coherent beam of radiation (as a laser)

It is really interesting to see how some of the companies out there claim to offer holograms when they are clearly Pepper's Ghost applications or direct projections. If you already know what Pepper's Ghost is, you will understand that the actual image is either based on a 2 dimensional projection reflected off of either glass or foil at a specific angle, or it is a reflection of the actual object or person. So either, these companies do not actually know what a hologram is, or they are deliberately misleading audiences and clients who don't know any better. This is where the jury is still out. For all of the years I have been working in this field, I have emphatically underlined that we do not make holograms, but optical illusions that appear holographic. It seemed to be a little harder for clients to swallow. They so wanted a hologram and sure enough that is exactly what they call it themselves. Case in point, 2005 Lexus IS launch used a system I worked on personally to project a full size Lexus car in Time Square. The execution won Team One Advertising a silver Clio. In everything that was blogged, posted, printed or otherwise distributed it said "hologram".

I certainly don't blame the above mentioned companies for being ignorant or, at best, using the term loosely. (I believe the latter) Holograms are what the clients want and the illusion of an illusion is where technology is at the moment, at least in practical applications. So both suppliers, clients and everybody else surrender to calling a 2D application a hologram. If it looks like a duck....... 

There have been situations where I wished the term had not been used so carelessly. When CNN announces an on-screen gadget as a "hologram" my phone rang off the hook. I spent a lot of time explaining to my clients that what they saw was actually a clever camera trick and that Wolf Blitzer never saw Jessica Yellin. He was looking at a mark on the floor. They actually explain it on camera but the headline underneath says HOLOGRAM!!! Oh dear!
First of all, this must have been quite expensive and utterly useless for something that could have been done with one camera as opposed to CNN's 34 at a fraction of the cost. As a matter of fact, my very good friend and partner in Brazil, Marcelo Gebara Stephano of UAU Midia, actually did it live on national Brazilian TV. It's the space pen all over again!

There is actually serious work being done in this field but it is a far cry from replacing traditional advertising, let alone, not so traditional optical illusions.

So, why do I care if no one else seems to? The public doesn't know and/or doesn't care about the difference and so advertisers and marketers feel free to overlook in favor of an easier to understand and more readily acceptable term and/or concept.

Well, when (not "if") we are capable of creating actual holograms as we see them in the movies, what are we going to call them? Will the definition of a hologram be so diluted that it will have to change? So far, I am not ready to call what I do anything but an optical illusion. Maybe I need to come up with a clever abbreviation, like they did with AR (Augmented Reality) Maybe I should just call it OI, any ideas?


  1. Sounds like the industry needs some clarification. What about lenticulars? Are they holograms? Seems like no is the answer...

  2. That is a great question. That could be the subject for a follow up post!

  3. This hits my main discomfort with the industry throwing around terms like "hologram", "3D", "4D" and "HD". There is too much ambiguity in those terms that get thrown around.

    Betsy- I agree, not a hologram. Perhaps "Optical Effect" is a better term?