Brought back to life ... Snoop Dogg, left, performs on stage with the eerie, but incredibly convincing Tupac hologram.
An eye-popping hologram of murdered rapper Tupac Shakur has stolen the show at US music festival Coachella and amplified questions about the future of "live" performance.
The high-definition projection of the gangsta rap icon appeared with superstars Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre in a stunning end to the first weekend of the annual music festival in California, setting off a wave of social media debate.
Thousands in the crowd gasped as the shirtless Tupac - killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996 - rose up on the stage.
As they were ... Snoop and Tupac in the late rapper's heyday.
"What up, Coachella?" the digitally revived Tupac shouted before launching into his classic single Hail Mary.
Amazingly life-like, down to his signature tattoos, Timberland boots and jewellery, the hologram stalked the stage, swapping phrases with Snoop Dogg and performing 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, Come With Me, and Gangsta Party.
Then, Tupac's image dissipates.
The stunt was the vision of long-time friend Dr Dre, who sought permission from Tupac’s mother before commissioning the San Diego company AV Concepts, with the help of James Cameron’s Oscar-winning digital production company Digital Domain, to recreate him.
"We worked with Dr Dre on this and it was Dre’s vision to bring this back to life," Nick Smith, president of AV Concepts, told MTV.
‘‘It was his idea from the very beginning and we worked with him and his camp to utilise the technology to make it come to life."
Digital Domain is behind the digitally altered images of Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy, and Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Even Australian cricket legend Shane Warne has been the subject of holographic technology, coming face-to-face with a life-size, three-dimensional image of himself at the National Sports Museum in Melbourne in 2008.
Watch an investigation into the killings of Biggie and Tupac
The cricketer listened to the virtual Warne talk about his career, including the "ball of the century" that bowled England's Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes.
A spokeswoman for Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, told entertainment website TMZ that she was ‘‘thrilled’’ with the latest recreation, although the experience was bittersweet. She did not attend Coachella but watched the performance live online.
The stunt set social media ablaze, with Tupac trending worldwide on Twitter and his name mentioned at least 40 times a minute. It was still trending in Australia this morning.
Singer Rihanna, who was at the show, tweeted: ‘‘#TupacBACK #unbelievable #IWASTHERE #STORY4myGrandKidz.’’
But others said the hologram was too realistic for comfort.
‘‘Tupac at Coachella. so legit it hurts,’’ tweeted @nadia_is.
‘‘That Pac Hologram haunted me in my sleep. Rest In Peace 2pac,’’ tweeted @questlove.
A twitter account, @HologramTupac, was quickly set up and had attracted more than 12,200 followers by this morning, AEDT.
‘‘I could have sworn I died with a shirt on,’’ one of the first tweets read.
Mr Smith, from AV Concepts, would not divulge the cost of the stunt to MTV but said it was ‘‘affordable’’ compared to the cost of attracting entertainers from around the world.
He said the hologram took almost four months to create in a studio, and the price range for a comparable live event would be between $100,000 to more than $400,000.
The visual magic could spell a new era for live entertainment, with many on Twitter saying they would be prepared to pay for the experience of seeing Tupac in concert again.
Mr Smith said his company had the ability to visually recreate long-dead figures in the studio.
"You can take their likenesses and voice and ... take people that haven’t done concerts before or perform music they haven’t sung and digitally recreate it," he told MTV.
AV Concepts was also behind the 2005 Grammys performance featuring Madonna and the holographic members of the Gorillaz, as well as holograms used in concert by Celine Dion and the Black Eyed Peas.
Also a hit at Coachella on Sunday night was Australian singer-songwriter Gotye, whose hit single Somebody That I Used to Know is taking the US by storm.
The song has raced to number two in the US charts after featuring on the television show Glee and after the 31-year-old - real name Wally De Backer, appeared on Saturday Night Live.
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