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Pepper’s Ghost and the hunt for the hologram

I love my tech, but when it comes to creating things I’m pretty useless. The ideas are there but the implementation not so much, mainly because I’m all fingers and thumbs. To see how the experts do it though I popped down to this month’s Maker Monday at BOM Lab – a monthly event which brings creatives and technologists together to collaborate and develop ideas.

Each month organisers pick a theme and the groups get making. The events are a great mix of thinkers and doers so the outputs are pretty spectacular.

This month organisers chose to explore the ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ technique to create simulated holographic projections. The theory behind it is pretty simple, all you need is a sheet of holographic foil positioned at 45 degrees to a projection source.

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Your immediate thoughts might be “Whoa – holograms. Surely they require some major kit?” Well actually you’d be wrong (sort of). Although more sophisticated equipment is needed for intricate holograms like the Iron Man example below, you can actually create your own hologram Blue Peter style with sheets of holographic foil or clear acetate, black card, a smartphone and plenty of cellotape.

 

There are three key types of projector used to create a hologram; single plane, pyramid and multi-planar, each one creating a very different effect.

Projector technique

Put into our group, we decided to explore how holograms could be utilised in theatre as a way of enhancing the visitor experience. Due to time and resources we opted for the single plane system, using an empty beer crate, which we ‘borrowed’ as a viewing box. With lots of gaffer tape and plenty of creative thinking our prototype worked, projecting an illusion of Benedict Cumberbatch in the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein. Needless to say we had plenty of fun creating it.

Other groups created an iPhone case that could be turned into a portable projector and a very ambitious double holographic projector.

Although our prototype was basic, it really got us thinking about the applications in theatre as a way of creating a more immersive experience for those watching.

If you want to have a go at making your own holographic projector head over to the Maker Monday Tumblr where they have lots of useful explanations, links and downloads for you to have a go at home. Also don’t forget to follow @maker_Monday on Twitter for news on future collaborations and workshops.

The next Maker Monday is on Monday 30th September at BOM Lab.