Joel Solloway, president of EventWorks 4D, LLC, is one of only two producers in the entire country working with holographic projections. He is an authorized Musion partner (the British company whose Eyeliner holographic projection technology brought Tupac Shakur back to life at Coachella). EW4D has produced holographic presentations for Cleveland Clinic, Steris Corp., GlaxoSmithKline and Samsung. Current clients include the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. We met him at his Musion theater at Ariel International Center downtown to talk about the technology.
Your company has been based in Cleveland for 20 years. Did you ever feel like you needed to move to a bigger city?
I started it as Events Work Incorporated out of my home in 1995. I was a one-man band. At the beginning, Cleveland was a market that was beginning to forge ahead, so it made sense for me to try to do what I do here. I had been in the recording industry for 15 years before that. I had a lot of contacts at ad agencies. I did commercial recording for 10 years and then I ran Beachwood Studios. One of our biggest accomplishments was Dirty Dancing, the soundtrack that featured Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes." We did Michael Stanley, Donnie Iris, Todd Rundgren, Moody Blues, Janet Jackson. It was quite a studio in its heyday.
Do you remember your first holographic projection?
I started doing them in 2007. I went to London to investigate the technology. One of the first ones we did was locally for Dealer Tire for a national managers meeting. It was the close of the show and they were showing off their portfolio. It was pretty generic — images of automotive products, wheels, brake fluids.
So talk about that trip to London.
I'm always reinventing myself because you have to stay relevant or you just disappear. I had heard about Musion Systems and they just got going in 2004. I said, "This is the wave of the future." It's been a slow go but now, in 2014, it is happening. Uwe Maas, a German engineer, was the developer. It's an old Victorian technology that was really developed in 1849. It's called Pepper's ghost. A physicist came up with the idea and it was used in theatrical applications. They would shine a light on a person under the stage and they had a piece of glass that reflected it and the person would appear ghostly up on the stage. Maas adapted it for 21st century technology. They can show it as high definition video.
Are you directly involved with any recording artists?
We're working on a project with Joe Vitale Jr., the son of the famous percussionist and drummer. We are also in the process of working on something with one of the classic doo-wop groups of the '50s and '60s, the Reflections. They had a big hit in 1962 called "Just Like Romeo and Juliet." We're going to try to preserve that genre holographically. I'm also working on an initiative called Jukebox Legends 4-D, which would showcase legends as well as new artists on cruise ships and at casinos. It's holographic jukebox where a patron could sit down and have dinner or drinks and press a button and boom, there's the Rat Pack or Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Which rock star would you want to bring back to life?
At Musion there was some initial discussion with the Jimi Hendrix family. His stepsister is very protective of the brand. He and Carlos Santana were going to turn 70 last year and both are sponsored by Fender. The idea was to create a concert series or tour with Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. How amazing would that have been? I also had some basic discussions with Chip Monck. He was the lighting designer and producer extraordinaire of the original Woodstock. He's at the top of the game. We were trying to do the same digital resurrection with the Doors. This was before Ray Manzarek passed away. It was going to be the three original members and a holographic Jim Morrison. There are a million of these guys that are deserving. The negative part of digital resurrection is there's a perception that it can be creepy. You see a dead artist and they look so real.
You were just at the NFL Hall of Fame. Talk about what you created for them.
We produce the enshrinement festival, which is three signature events: the Hall of Fame Fashion Show, the Hall of Fame Friday and the Game Day Roundtable. It's a big production. Each one has about 5,000 people in attendance. That was broadcast around the country on the NFL Network.
Did you use any holographic images?
No, it's funny. I've had discussions with the NFL. They came on board too late for this thing. I wanted to create a holographic dais where I could have had the players in their heydays. Maybe we can do it for the Super Bowl.
Which project has been the most fun?
They all take a long time. The fun sometimes goes away because you're working so hard. We've done some unique things. We're developing potential business with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to build a permanent installation in Canton and we're talking with the Illinois Holocaust Museum to preserve the survivors. Skokie has the largest concentration of holocaust survivors. That's a really interesting project.
Talk about the Abba holographic projection.
They're icons in Sweden. They have a museum in Stockholm. It's like karaoke. A person goes up on stage with Abba and they're caricatures. You can sing with them. They videotape it and you can take it with you.