But while Hollywood generally eschews the practice, the music industry has been using C.G.I. to recreate performances of dead musicians for years. In 1991, Natalie Cole sang a duet with her father, Nat King Cole, who had been dead since 1965. And in 2012, a hologram of Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996, was featured onstage at Coachella, a music festival near Palm Springs, Calif.
People who saw it were reportedly more puzzled than upset. “The crowd had no idea what to do with the hologram,” Billboard wrote then, noting that fans looked more uneasy than pleased.
Four years ago, a plan to feature a hologram of Whitney Houston on the NBC show “The Voice” was scrapped after footage leaked online. (Houston died of an overdose in 2012.) In the leaked footage, Christina Aguilera, one of the show’s original coaches, introduced a hologram of Houston singing “I’m Every Woman.” Fans criticized it, saying the hologram looked nothing like the singer.
Houston’s family balked as well. Pat Houston, the singer’s sister-in-law and the executor of her estate, said in a statement to Entertainment Tonight that “Whitney’s legacy and her devoted fans deserve perfection. After closely viewing the performance, we decided the hologram was not ready to air.”
The family, though, did not give up on the idea. And in May, it announced a concert featuring Houston as a hologram, with recordings of her vocals backed by a live band. The show, created by Base Hologram, followed other events that featured dead singers, including Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Maria Callas.
Mr. Ernst said he bought the rights to use Dean’s image and would use old footage of the actor, as well as computer-generated images. Dean’s voice, though, is being recorded by another actor. “That’s where we drew the line,” he said.