Imagine a full-HD hologram that looks so real that 3D objects appear to float in mid-air or surround a performer. Well that’s what world-renowned VJ, audio-visual artist and composer Stuart Warren-Hill, and now MD of Holotronica, has found a way to do with Holo-Gauze, and it’s getting a colossal amount of attention from the audio-visual world.

“3-dimensional objects can appear to float in mid air in full HD 3D. There is nothing else that can do this magic trick”

 

You may have already seen Holo-Gauze’s work in action: it was featured on Gadget Man earlier on this week, bringing a hologramatic bunch of flowers to life for Richard Ayoade to woo a potential date with. Or maybe on the Gadget Show in April where Jason Bradbury used it to create the ultimate 3D selfie of himself using an image captured on a smartphone earlier on in the show.

Truly Epic: Check out the Holo-Gauze in use at Swedish DJ
Eric Prydz’s Epic show at Madison Square Garden

Now located in Bristol, Stuart’s being inundated with people interested in using Holo-Gauze in concerts, lectures, and pretty much every other event you can think of. It’s also particularly useful for television shows as the effects can be created, live and in-shot, without the need for expensive post-production. We caught up with Stuart to talk about 3D albums, a history of VJing and how the tech behind the holograms works.

From Big Chill to big holograms

Stuart is no stranger to creating amazing audio-visual experiences – he’s been mixing music and video effects throughout his whole career, and he has the accolade of releasing the world’s first audio-visual album ‘Rewind’ in 2000. He also played Glastonbury in 2014 and was voted No.1 VJ by DJ Magazine in 2005. He explains: “I didn’t go to to art college or university; I’m self taught. I started a visuals company called SP Visuals with my pal Pod Bluman after we left school.

“We started a small multimedia club called the Ambient Club and around this time had been working with Pete Lawrence on his various club events. This collaboration manifested into what became the Big Chill.

“I started Hexstatic around this time as a VJ name and started experimenting in connecting visuals with sound as I was already into making electronic music and also very much into VJing. Hexstatic then released the Rewind AV album in 2000.”

Hexstatic makes them ecstatic

After making some award-winning music with Hexstatic, Stuart wanted to concentrate on music with a stronger visual aspect: “In 2008 I decided that I wanted to go solo and onto the next level of 3D and hologram FX. So Holotronica was born, combining the words Hologram and electronica. Also influenced by the name of R2D2’s holographic projector ’The Holotron’.

It was while he was doing a show at Koko in Camden, where he didn’t have the budget to make the effects he wanted, that Stuart decided to concentrate on finding the perfect solution to making 3D holograms: “I ended up paying a lot of money to do the show in the end,” Stuart laughs, “but it blew peoples’ minds as nothing had been done like this before.”

“For me creating visuals that appear to be real and interacting with performers is other-worldly”

 

Epic launch

With these roots it’s not surprising Holo-Gauze’s commercial launch last September was done in impressive style. Stuart showed off how he could create the world’s biggest, brightest, highest-resolution indoor hologram during superstar DJ Eric Prydz’s EPIC 3.0 show at Madison Square Garden. The show included a giant helix (see video above), a huge speaking head, and numerous rotating particle effects.

It’s been used in numerous applications since. Whether it’s bringing physics to life in a talk by Dr Brian Greene at the World Science Festival in New York or even letting three Michael Flattley’s dance against each other on stage on the RiverDance tour, the effects are impressing audiences and producers alike.

Holo-Gauze_in-use

Holograms galore: From explaining physics in lecture halls, immersive 3D shows
or creating fluid effects in concerts, to allowing Michael Flatley
to have a
dance battle with himself – there’s a lot you can do with Holo-Gauze!

Secrets revealed

So how does it work? The secret is in the special invisible metallic material, or gauze, which sits between the audience and the performers. Stuart explains: “Other scrims and meshes always appear slightly misty in appearance, but my product appears as if you are looking through clear glass. The scene is 100% invisible under correct lighting conditions so 3-dimensional objects can appear to float in mid-air in full-HD 3D. There is nothing else that can do this magic trick.”

Under the proper lighting conditions it’s so invisible that Stuart has had cameraman and dancers walk through it not knowing it was there. As Stuart says, “If you make an invisible fabric you can’t really blame people when they don’t see it!”

Inexpensive effects

The technology clearly has lots of applications: “Lots of production companies want hologram effects but until Holo-Gauze they were very expensive, difficult to set up and not very transportable,” Stuart tells us. “I have solved all of these issues and opened it up to the whole AV industry worldwide.”

@droiddothis: A holographic android being told what to do
by people tweeting it in Soho London 2014

For Stuart the attraction of his technology is clear: “For me creating visuals that appear to be real and interacting with performers is other-worldly. As Arthur C Clark said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

“It feels really good to be in Bristol because there’s a great music scene, a great visual scene and there’s a tech side to it as well”

 

Stuart’s been running his 3D hologram empire from the bedroom of his house in Bristol for a while: “I’ve been based in Bristol about three years now and I love it here. I’m involved with art, music and technology, and I’ve been doing it since the late 90s, so it feels really good to be in Bristol because there’s a great music scene, a great visual scene and there’s a tech side to it as well.”

hologauze-AV-News-AwardAward-winning tech:  Stuart getting AV News’ Technologist of the Year award 

He’s also keen to find collaborators to help develop the tech: “I want to get more involved with the tech scene because I keep hearing Bristol is like the Silicon Valley of England.” If you are interested you can get in contact with him at the Holotronica website.

And if you want to experience the Holo-Gauze magic for yourself check out Damon Alburn’s new Musical Wonder.land (inspired by Alice in Wonderland) later on this month in Manchester.

We’d like to thank Stuart for taking the time from his busy schedule to talk to us, you can see more from HoloGauze at the Holotronica site (and buy Stuart’s own impressive fully 3D album Holotronica) and keep up with Holo-Gauze here: @hologauze and Stuart himself on Twitter here: @StuartHexstatic . And while you are at it why not follow us too! @techsparkuk 

Jamie Middleton