Content Insider #813 – Unease
By Andy Marken – [email protected]
“They won’t fear it until they understand it. And they won’t understand it until they’ve used it. Theory will take you only so far.” — J. Robert Oppenheimer, “Oppenheimer,” Universal Pictures, 2023
In 1889, Oscar Wilde proclaimed “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”
Don’t believe him, consider:
- In 1872 Jules Verne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas and in 1954 Richard Fleischer directed a movie by the same name
- In 1960 Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard settled the Pathosphere Trieste on the floor of the Mariana Trench
- In 1902 Georges Méliès did a film Le voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon)
- In 1969 man stepped foot on the moon
- German expressionist Erich Pommer saw a different tomorrow in his 1927 film Metropolis.
- The industry got even more creative …Ex Machina, Blade Runner, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Minority Report, Terminator, RoboCop, and dozens more.
Obviously, no one takes movies seriously!
Despite the noise surrounding it today, AI didn’t just suddenly emerge on the scene.
It has been working in the background for years, helping people find information quickly on the Web, recommending products/shows based on what you’ve seen in the past, even recommending different ways of writing stuff.
Tech leaders like Microsoft, Google and others have been rushing to be the AI leaders.
People working in the field have been saying be aware and slow down – a bit – because we don’t know what we don’t know.
The one thing everyone agrees with is that it’s coming, certainly can be very useful, mistakes will be made and there will always be bad people ready to do bad stuff.
Nasty Folks — AI can be an exceptionally powerful tool for creatives to use but we can also say that there will be people who just want to use it to tamper with tomorrow.
A growing number of examples have been cited showing how generative AI, ChatGPT, GitHub and derivatives of AI/ML can take over time-consuming, boring tasks and deliver reasonable – sometimes better – results, solutions.
For example, during a 60 Minutes segment a few months ago, Demis Hassabis, CEO of DeepMind Technologies, noted, “AI dreamed up a winning chess strategy no human or computer had ever seen before.”
Despite uncertainties; generative AI, ChatGP, GitHub and every derivative of AI/ML are integral parts of every company’s earning report.
Studios, networks and streamers are aggressively exploring ways they can use the technology to improve the quality and economics of their content development, production, distribution.
At the same time, the industry’s unions/guilds are focused on determining how the technology will impact the work, income and future of content creators.
“AI is already hard at work assisting industry professionals at every level of filmmaking,” said Allan McLennan, president of 2G Media Optimization. “At NAB, every booth was talking up their generative AI enhancements and at IBC this fall it will be even more prevalent.”
Tool Set – AI technology is proving to be a valuable assistant to postproduction people by doing the drudge work and giving them the time they need to quickly and effectively turn video and audio segments into exceptional creative films/shows
“Tools from Adobe, Avid, Blackmagic (DaVinci Resolve) and others are already helping editors in many phases of post-production,” said McLennan,noting that the AI-enabled post tools can cut down on drudge/redundant work, insert placeholder images, add simple effects, enhance/identify/retrieve footage making it more searchable by shot types, emotional arcs of the characters, scenes, objects, talent and colors.
In other words, it can help post pros be more effective, more efficient.
“They’re becoming smarter and will become super-useful editing/production tools that will save time in tedious and iterative post-production work along with help editors meet deadlines,” he added.
AI can also assist the project team even before the shoot begins.
Increasingly, it can help carve through reams of crew names, helping select the best team members for the film or show based on their past success with similar projects. It can also recommend location options based on the storyline, identify issues that might arise and make suggestions that will improve the film/show while staying on budget – time/money.
Action – AI tools help producers, directors and filmmakers get the right – and sometimes even the best – shots the first time, minimizing the need to reshoot segments.
When it comes to actual production AI is increasingly used to optimize camera angles, map lighting and make other technical recommendations that deliver the results and impact producers and cinematographers want without costly reshoots or attempting to make the corrections in post.
AI increasingly is a silent partner/assistant that helps the DP (director of photography) on the production set.
AI is being used throughout the film/show production industry, including by guild and union folks, who actually create the material for the projects.
It helps in corrections, rewrites, suggesting edits and deliver material that can be used by the producer, director, filmmaker and actors.
“The operative word,” McLennan said, “is helps. It doesn’t replace creativity, ingenuity, collaboration and the emotional intelligence that’s necessary to turn a bunch of ideas, facts into something that connects, resonates with the viewer.”
The writers’ strike – the first since the 100-day strike in 2007 – is about wages, team size and other issues surrounding what is basically a freelance industry where artists move from job to job.
With the increase streaming content/services, creatives are seeing shortened seasons and the volatility of films/shows being canceled/replaced to boost subscriptions and viewer interest (this in an area where AI can estimate audience reception and audience mix).
Generative AI and products like ChatGPT can do a “decent” job of contributing to the the first draft, given specific guidelines; but it can fall short – at this time – in developing what-if scenarios, alternative story flow, surprise twists, completely original ideas or emotional stories that have what we can only describe as the human touch.
Maybe, Maybe Not – Ask ChatGPT a question and it will give you an honest answer based on all of the information it can find and if it’s creative work, it’s up to you.
Producers, showrunners and writers have already found AI tools can accelerate the creation process by repeating segments, putting multiple pieces together, streamlining the writing process; but when the script is delivered, the finished product doesn’t match what humans can do … at this time.
A lot has been said about people across all industries who will be replaced by AI.
Effect But – Generative AI ultimately will influence certain aspects of everyone’s work but will assimilate into our lives and be as natural as facial recognition unlocks your iPhone for you.
A widely circulated/cited Goldman Sachs report estimated that a quarter of work tasks could be replaced by AI and two-thirds of the jobs be at least partially automated, but 63 percent of the workforce would continue in their present position but with much lighter workloads.
The report also emphasized that 60 per cent of people today are employed in jobs that didn’t exist back then because of new technology and there’s no reason to believe we won’t adjust/adapt to the new productivity tools.
There was one benefit from implementing generative AI in the video storytelling arena that should be of concern to management, according to Our World in Data, a collaboration of England’s University of Oxford and the Global Change Data Lab – https://tiny.cc/#.
Boss Change – AI will increasingly be used across the board but it won’t affect all people equally.
Studio and show executives have already “played with” generative AI and ChatGP to prepare loglines and develop pitches based around past sure-fire films/series rather than take a chance on something new, unique, engaging.
If they’re one of those folks in the $1-40M income bracket, they probably already use the tools to greenlight decisions.
If it’s a hit, they can take full credit for the concept that worked in the theater or on the home screen.
If it doesn’t click with the audience, they can always pass the buck and blame the technology.
It’s a logical way to CYA and protect that cushy office and huge salary.
Okay, so we’re being a little facetious, but industry bosses have more than a passing interest in what Wall Street has currently embraced, especially with the promise of doing what the Street wants studios, networks, streamers to do in the months/years ahead … lower costs and improve profits.
“A prolonged strike will undoubtedly have an impact on how quickly studios, networks and streamers could begin using generative AI/ChatGPT,” McLennan observed, “but it won’t mark the end of the need for writers, writing rooms.
“The technology will be another good tool that when used in creating and bringing story ideas to life,” he added, “just as computers were exceptional aids for writers to put their ideas, thoughts and emotions on paper when they put down their pens.”
Creativity and ingenuity will always be the foundation of the visual stories the industry develops and distributes to a very human audience.
When it does begin to be more widely used by video content creators, there’s no reason not to take some sage advice from J. Robert Oppenheimer when he said, “I don’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But I have no choice.”
But we learned how to harness power, put it to productive uses and even explore the vast universes around us.
Right now, generative AI, ChatGPT and the other derivations are extremely interesting technologies we will learn to better use to enhance production, deliver more production efficiencies and create even better/more compelling entertainment.
Andy Marken – [email protected] – is an author of more than 800 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. Internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise, especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields. Extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants