Pepper's Ghost

Made by sxv, Marie Shaw, ashleyle and mmzucker

The goal of this project is to explore and demonstrate the human perception of depth through the process of creating a 3D holographic projection from a 2D video.

Created: October 20th, 2015



In this project we will play with the idea of how we perceive three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional spaces. By constructing an apparatus that gives the illusion of three-dimensionality and setting a video of it with an audio track of an object moving around you, our video will play with the audience's sense of space. While there are many different illusions out there, we thought pairing a video that implies three-dimensionality with audio that sounds like things are surrounding the audience would make this project a holistic experience rather than a simple video. In addition, physically creating something then shooting a video of it makes the idea of the illusion much more relatable. 


Curatorial Statement

Depicted is a visual and audio loop of a projected image using the clear plastic of a CD case and a smart phone playing a specially formatted video. The video is projected onto the panels of a plastic pyramid from all sides to create the illusion that there is a three-dimensional object floating above the phone. The audio is also formatted to create the illusion that you are immersed within the holographic 3D space, even though it is simply one track with varying levels of left and right channel volume.




The projector was made out of the plastic case of a CD case and glue. We drew and cut out the shape we wanted on a piece of paper to use as a guide.

We then traced the shape onto the plastic case and cut it using a box cutter. To do this, we cut on the lines from one side of the case, traced them on the other, and then pushed the pieces out. 


Next we glued them together into a shape resembling a pyramid with the top cut off.


Finally we placed it on an iPhone playing a video from Youtube and filmed it in a corner of the room. To make it darker, we placed a jacket over the phone and camera and blocked the light.



For the sound, we went for a 3D panning sound effect and made it using Audacity. As we decided on the jellyfish, we went for a sound reminiscent of water and jellyfish movement. After deciding which clip to use, we used After Effects to edit it and layer the sound on it. The final clip or "gif" was uploaded to Youtube.


Perceptual Illusion

Pepper's Ghost is a specialized illusion created by John Henry Pepper in 1862 and has often used in theatre, amusement parks, and concerts that is used to create a hologram, or perceived three-dimensional body in space. A powerful technique of playing with perception, Pepper's Ghost has been used to create 3D holograms of ghosts in the Haunted Mansion ride Disneyland as well as holograms of Tupac and Michael Jackson used at music festivals. 

In a Pepper's Ghost room, two rooms are constructed at a 45 degree angle from one-another with a sheet of plastic separating them. When an object (or projection of an object) appears one room, the body reflects light through the pane of plastic into the first room, making it appear that the three-dimensional object has appeared out of thin air. For our illusion, we used four plastic panes that reflected the cell phone video of a moving jellyfish into the air. Just as in a Pepper's Ghost room, the light reflects off the plastic panes to create a three-dimensional hologram that appears to be suspended in space. In our illusion, the four plastic panes allows for more degrees of freedom. When the jellyfish moves, the viewer's brain perceives it to be moving in and out of space.



The idea originally came to our group when one of us mentioned that there was a hologram/projection project that anyone could do using the plastic of a CD case, a smart phone, and a specially formatted video. We started off by looking at a few videos of the results, and then we looked at instructional videos of how to achieve the same result.

The outcome is very similar to other works in the field, but we add depth by also featuring sound. We turn a 2D video into a 3D hologram and we also turn a 2D sound into a 3D sound.

There are a good number of preceding projects and you can view them on youtube, for example

Though small-scale holograms like this are relatively simple to create, the illusion used, Pepper's Ghost, is a commonly-used perceptive trick with numerous applications in media. Like our illusion, holograms such as the Tupac and Michael Jackson holograms used at Coachella in 2012 fall under the category of the Pepper's Ghost illusion and utilize the same perceptive tricks of light and cognition.



The first idea we came up with was to have a afterimage illusion on top of a TV static background. The viewer would have to count the number of times the soundtrack loops to keep track of how long they're supposed to stare at the image before they shift their gaze to see the afterimage, while hidden messages run through the static, which was inspired by the gorilla suit/ball-passing video.


However, we decided this idea had too much going on and thus would be hard to pull off well, so we brainstormed for another idea. We chose the hologram because we thought it had visual impact and were more comfortable with shooting a video than making an animation. 

After choosing to do the hologram, we had to decide what video we wanted to use. The top choices were a fish swimming through the water and a rotating Earth. We chose the fish, because there's more obvious movement by it. However, when we were filming, we found that a jellyfish looked better than a fish, so we decided to go for the jellyfish. For sound, from the beginning we decided on doing a sort of 3D sound effect.

Ashley and Marie worked on making the projector and shooting the video. Xavi made the sound file and uploaded the final product, and Melissa edited the whole video.



Although we were definitely constrained by our lack of expertise in many of the tools we used as well as in video production, our work clearly expressed our original intent. The "holographic" effect was undeniably achieved; the projection was vivid with vibrant colors and the movement was smooth and clearly "popped out" of the phone screen. Coupled with the surround sound audio, the overall experience was believable. 

However, various elements dampened the intended effect, such as the clumsily cut perspex CD cover, which resulting in jagged edges and visible scratches, and the poor decision to use Krazy Glue, which left sticky residue and a hazy film over the supposedly clear CD cover. In addition, the video was shot in a room that leaked fluorescent light, despite our attempts to create a dark setting with chairs and jackets. At the same time, the relative darkness of the surroundings combined with our amateur photography skills made it hard to clearly focus on the hologram through the camera lens. 



Although our homemade 3D projection is not technically a hologram, through its production, we were able to explore the general concept behind holographic projections and the mechanics of utilizing wave properties of light to generate a perception of depth. In particular, in order to create a holographic effect, the projected video must contain four trapezoids of the same video rotated and spliced to create a ring. By placing the funnel created by trapezoidal pieces of perspex over the screen playing the video corresponding to the appropriate trapezoids, each of the trapezoids pass through their respective perspex trapezoids, combining to create a single projection above the phone screen that appears 3D. The usage of four videos and four reflective screens from four sides create an illusion of depth, while the angled placement facilitates the "pop-out" effect. 
If we were to repeat this project, we would look for more refined ways to cut out the trapezoidal perspex pieces, as well as use clear tape rather than Krazy Glue. We would also shoot our video in a completely dark room and use a camera suitable for dark settings. It would also be interesting to create our own holographic video and perhaps explore the possibility of using a video that doesn't have a black background. 



The Pepper's Ghost Illusion

Turn your Smartphone into a 3D Hologram | 4K(

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The goal of this project is to explore and demonstrate the human perception of depth through the process of creating a 3D holographic projection from a 2D video.