CNN’s ‘Holograms’ Weren’t Actually Holograms

Not to be a party pooper but those CNN holograms weren’t actually holograms, according to the geeks.

You see (adjusts glasses), real holograms are composited from a pattern of light reflection and interference. Laser beams are involved. CNN’s technology was simply a matter of shooting political reporter Jessica Yellin with a bunch of different cameras and mashing them all together on a TV screen.

CNN used 35 HD video cameras set up around a circular room. The video cameras were spaced six inches apart, 220 degrees around their subject (including will.i.am) and shooting him/her simultaneously. In CNN’s own gleeful story about their "holograms," Chuck Hurley, the Washington bureau’s senior producer of video, called it simple chroma-key technology that’s been taken "to the Nth degree."

"Weathermen have been standing in front of green screens for years now, but that’s [with] one camera," Mr. Hurley said. "Now we can do that times 35, so you can send all the way around the subject." All those little images were digitally composited into CNN’s broadcast image of their studio. Wolf Blitzer wasn’t talking to a live, luminous, 3D picture that was in the same room as him. It was just an image of Ms. Yellin on TV screens.

University of North Carolina physics professor Charles A. Bennett told The Chicago Tribune: "I am absolutely sure that it is not a hologram in the literal sense," he wrote in an e-mail. "A ‘real’ hologram uses diffraction to reconstruct the wave front that would have come from the actual 3D object. A hologram cannot be viewed from the front and from behind as in the CNN segment—this was a dead giveaway that the image shown was not in fact a hologram. A real hologram can only be viewed within a specific range of viewing angles."

CNN called their stunt "hologram technology" and kept hologram "in quotes" for good measure, simply because it was the most recognizable way of describing the technology without getting into the science of it all.

So maybe it wasn’t a true hologram. It was still kinda cool, though.