The team created a “microexpression reference” database, analyzed “pore-level resolution images,” and tracked the elasticity of the subcutaneous layer to understand how Smalls’ facial skin moved, Scott explained. Those tiny changes in facial expressions are crucial to creating an avatar that is as realistic as possible.
All the research has paid off. “I saw the avatar throughout the build…it looked very real to me. I saw my son in the details,” his mother, Voletta Wallace, said via email. “Avatar turned out to be everything I’d hoped for,” said Scott, and when the team showed Wallace an avatar of Smalls, she said, “That’s my Christopher.”
“There was no dry eye in the room,” recalls Scott. “At that moment, we moved beyond any technical achievement we had aspired to and entered the realm of emotionally realistic simulation.”
Part of what makes Smalls a major contender for VR concerts is that he’s a star who doesn’t have a live recorded performance. “Biggie has had two albums but never toured,” said Elliot Osagie, founder of the digital media company Willingie, which co-hosted the event. The virtual performance offered fans an opportunity to finally see their heroes live and introduce a new generation to the legendary rapper.
This is where Wallace, who is also the executor of his estate (estimated to be worth about $160 million), came in. While it’s an emotional project, there’s no question it’s also a business opportunity: Scott says Wallace and her son’s estate have been looking for “opportunities for him to come back and reconnect with fans and build a new fan base.” . The latter part is especially important: Smalls’ peers are Generation X, and they’re just getting older. Placing Smalls in a metaverse dominated by younger generations broadens his audience. Wallace confirms this: “I envision More concerts, his music videos, commercials, animations, movies, and more opportunities in the Metaverse. “