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They never seem to work right, do they? Fizzing, popping, static, wobbly image....you'll be lucky if you get proper colour! Would have thought they'd check these things at the factory, wouldn't you? But no, it seems like every last one of them has some sort of glitch. It's a wonder people put up with the things.

Related to Rule of Perception: A hologram has to look unreal, so the audience can see that it's a hologram; it's a visual equivalent of the Radio Voice. Also related to Holodeck Malfunction, and may suggest The Tape Knew You Would Say That if the protagonists are unaware they're talking to a hologram. Subtrope of Projected Man. However, it must be distinct enough that it's not simply mistaken for poorly implemented special effects. A poorly matched lighting or color for the surrounding environment on a Projected Man would not be inform the audience that he was a hologram, the assumption would be that it's an incompetent Chroma Key shot.

Note: To prevent us simply listing every hologram in fiction, be wary of adding too many examples of holograms that suffer minor blips during start-up or shut-down. Ensure that the example is intense enough to look like a real malfunction or interference of some kind.


Aversions - Holograms that work perfectly:

One circumstance where this trope is commonly averted is when a Projected Man or other hologram is a regular fixture on the show, and for budgetary reasons it's easier to film them as actually physically present, with only very, very, occasional glitches on special occasions to remind viewers what they are.

Film

  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, there are instances when what looks like in-person conversations really are comunications using holograms.
  • Played with in Superman II, in which Lex Luthor escapes prison by sticking a hologram of himself in his cell. The hologram itself is flawless, and the guard is tipped off only when he steps in front of the projector.
  • Star Wars.
    • The Empire Strikes Back
      • When the commander of the Imperial Walkers talks to a hologram of Darth Vader, the hologram works fine.
      • Likewise, when Darth Vader talks to the Emperor, the Emperor's hologram works O.K. (there's some minor flickering but it's not blatant).


Literature

  • Most of the time in Animorphs, except for a couple of occasions.
  • Conspicuously averted in The Naked Sun. Elijah was surprised to find out he was talking to a hologram because the Earth holograms did have Hologram Projection Imperfection. (The planet he was on was still settled by humans; This wasn't an alien technology thing.)
  • Holograms in Dream Park are so realistic that Gamers who allow themselves to step out-of-character still can't guess when real actors and animatronic models are switched out for holographic ones. The one time a holo's response is delayed by a couple of seconds, the Game Master chews out his technicians for the lapse.


Live-Action TV

  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer is one of the only fully-functional holograms in fiction. Shame about the man himself!
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The holodeck. Even when it malfunctioned, as it so often did, it usually looked real, without scan lines or flickers.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: For a little while Starfleet experimented with holographic communicators, where it looked like the other character was actually in the same room with Sisko et al. (because the actors were); but Starfleet stopped using it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The Doctor almost always worked perfectly, even while using his mobile emitter.
  • Quantum Leap: Al.


Video Games

  • In Deus Ex Human Revolution, holograms are almost perfect when they're working properly, which becomes a plot point when it turns out Eliza Cassan is a holographic projection made by an AI.
Examples of Hologram Projection Imperfection include:


Anime and Manga


Film

  • Total Recall.
    • While Lori is practicing with a hologram designed to teach proper tennis serves, the hologram blurs a couple of times. Watch it here.
    • When Quaid uses the hologram wrist device on Mars to trick Cohaagen's troops, his image flickers after the trick is revealed. Likewise, when Melina uses the device her hologram breaks up when Cohaagen's troops fire into it. Watch it here. It also happens when Quaid tested the hologram wrist device while on Earth.
  • Star Wars.
    • A New Hope. Princess Leia's message to Obi-Wan Kenobi (stored in R2-D2) starts with a burst of static.
    • Return of the Jedi. When Luke's message to Jabba (stored in R2-D2) plays, it starts off with a burst of static and ends with one too.
    • Possibly justified. Lucas, et al, decided that since the signal had been bouncing halfway across the galaxy it'd be unbelievable for it not to have picked up some interference along the way. Though that doesn't explain why the recordings R2 carried, made by people standing right in front of him, suffered the same problem.
    • A greater puzzle, why does Artoo (an astromech droid, basically a self-mobile starship repairman and navigator) have a hologram projector, while Threepio (a protocol droid, and thus a professional translator and messenger) does not?
    • Holograms in the prequel trilogy frequently cut out as well, even though it's supposed to be the "more civilized age" of the galaxy.
  • In I Robot, the hologram is shown to be 2D, can only respond to a limited range of questions, and has some visual static.
  • Minority Report has a good example of not-great hologram tech, though it may be justified, being set Twenty Minutes in The Future instead of a far-future Space Opera.
  • There's a hologram of Sinestro communicating in the Green Lantern movie, which is in perfect color, but it has a couple of jumps, and breaks. The implication was, though, that because Abin Sur's ship had been badly damaged, and the alien himself was badly wounded, the escape pod's functions were all working on getting him to safety and keeping him alive, so the hologram had limited transmit/receive power comparatively speaking.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell movie the brain holograms are monochromatic.
  • The Time Machine also has a justified example, because the AI in question has been sitting around for many years -- long enough that the heroes were lucky it played at all.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. As the protagonists are walking up to Dr Totenkopf's office a Tesla-type generator creates a Huge Holographic Head image of Totenkopf that explains his motives and warns them to get out or die. Both the image and voice are distorted when powering up, highlighting the more primitive 1930's Zeerust technology of the film.
  • Screamers. The protagonists have to report a cease fire proposed by the enemy forces. A pair of doors slide open and their superior walks through and starts talking to them -- all appears normal until he suddenly starts to fizz and sputter and the protagonists complain about the unreliability of holographic projection from Earth. Like the Sky Captain example above, the scene hints at The Reveal that the Projected Man is actually dead.
  • The Last Starfighter. During Zur's transmission into the Starfighter base, his holographic head glitches several times.
  • In WALL-E, the earth is covered with holographic billboards which fizzle and static frequently. Justified, since they haven't been maintained for centuries.


Literature

  • Holos are always like this in Ciaphas Cain, requiring Percussive Maintenance to work properly.
  • In Artemis Fowl The Time Paradox, Holly uses an old holographic communication device to talk to Julius. It works out to her advantage as it hides the fact that she's de-aged and her tears.
  • The Chee holograms in Animorphs are normally an aversion, but when the Yeerks screw with the ship that powers them, the holgrams begin to fizzle, fade and fail.


Live-Action TV

  • The Doctor Who episode "The Almost People". Though there is a lot of interference anyway (the hologram only really gets through because the plot wants it to).
  • The Lois and Clark episode "Top Copy" used a hologram which somehow convinced people that Clark and Superman were side-by-side despite the fact that it was flickering. The glitches were Justified in that it was only built by a farmer's wife... but then that just raises other questions.
  • SELMA from Time Trax; despite being a 22nd century, self aware, supercomputer her holographic "visual mode" suffered this trope. In one episode she managed to make herself appear perfectly for a brief time but implied it was too much of a strain on her power systems to maintain this for long.
  • The Middleman communicates with an alien representative via hologram in "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol," and the image is blue and staticky. What makes this more amusing is that at one point, when the alien representative quotes a certain movie's catchphrase containing a swear word, the Censor Box covering his mouth is also blue and staticky.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Asgard holograms look incredibly realistic most of the time, but occasionally wobble or fritz just enough to let us know it's a hologram.


Video Games

  • Knights of the Old Republic mostly averts this trope as the holos look rather good. The audio, however, is a little tinny in the case of Dodanna and Vandar. Amusingly, if you turn down the graphics settings, the holograms will look physical.
  • In the Mega Man X series the Dr. Light holograms flicker and have a blue hue. Quite odd seeing as the hologram projector used in Mega Man 2's final boss works perfectly.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money add-on, the holograms scattered around the Sierra Madre are a uniform color, rather fuzzy and have prominent lines all over their figures. Oh yeah, and they shoot lasers. Granted this is two hundred year old equipment, though the Cloud was supposed to protect most of the Old World artefacts in the area. And lasers are cool. The fact that they can change colors suggests someone just wasn't willing to put in the work (humorously, Old World Blues has log entries which pretty much give this exact excuse; the designers were programmers, not artists).
  • Mass Effect also has an example with Vigil. The hologram doesn't even really show up you just get this weird jumble. Justified since the VI in question has been sitting around for tens of thousands of years, you're lucky it was still functional to begin with and in fact it shuts down soon after your group talks to it.
  • In Mass Effect 2, the holograms of Shepard and The Illusive Man are wavery and have horizontal lines going through them like they are on a screen instead of a 3-D projection.
  • In Disgaea, when a hologram appears, not only is the picture glitchy, but the first thing the hologram "says" is always "ffffffffffff... ffffffff..."
  • Deus Ex Invisible War: Holograms are frequently imperfect, with horizontal strobing blue lines, higher end holograms are better quality.
    • Deus Ex Human Revolution can be mistaken for normal people, except at close range. Possibly as a side effect of the game having better graphics.


Western Animation

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