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Generative AI Can Free Up Creative Possibilities

Content Insider #830 – Tools

By Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com

“This is a nice boy. This is a good boy. This is a mother’s angel. And I want the world to know once and for all, and without any shame, that we love him. I’m going to teach you. I’m going to show you how to walk, how to speak, how to move, how to think. Together, you and I are going to make the greatest single contribution to science since the creation of fire.” – Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, 20th Century Fox, 1974

Okay this upheaval in the content creation/production/distribution industry has gone on long enough and what we need is some creative solution that will solve it rather than simply moving the chairs on the Titanic.

Everyone agrees there isn’t pay equity for the work they do, and the other guy/gal is coasting through his/her daily work racking up big (obscene) returns when the project is finally retired to the library.

Entertainment today is just like every product.  

Success or failure is based on supply/demand.

Last year the global film industry took in $77B while the cinema box office revenues were $26B and of course that doesn’t include the industry’s “other” income – pay TV (fading fast), DVDs (fading faster), airline sales, merchandise etc.

Yes, it was those nasty tech companies that came up with the idea to bypass everyone and economically/conveniently stream stuff to your home.

We know a lot of them and honestly…they aren’t the bad guys/gals. They are part of the solution to big problems.

                                                                        Source – giphy

Fading Memories – Going to movies is still popular with some folks but huge segments of the potential audience have found other viewing sources they can enjoy just as well if not better and getting them back into theater seats will be extremely difficult.  

Movie houses attendance has been slipping since 2012 according to Bruce Nash, The Numbers – https://tinyurl.com/57uytd2v – even though the number of theater screens has grown to more than 208,000.

Despite the insistence of tentpole producers like Tarantino, Cameron, Nolan and others as well as the pressure from A list actors like Pitt, Washington, Downey Jr., DiCaprio, Cruise, Hanks and many more around the globe that films “need” to be seen in theaters; only 33 percent of regular folks said they might go to a movie house. 

Only eight percent said they regularly go while 41 percent rarely attend, and 18 percent simply don’t see a movie in a theater.

Problem #1

In addition, people – everywhere – were getting tired of their increasingly expensive TV bundle ($100 – $150/mo.) which may have 500+ “channels” but they only watched five-six.

 They had to pay them an additional 20 +/- minutes of their viewing time to watch ads rather than the video stories you produced. 

It was easier for folks to get a divorce than bail on their bundle contract.

Streamers just gave people what they wanted… less expensive entertainment solution they could watch on their terms – when, where, screen.

Sorta Problem

Yes, the d*** tech folks – Google/YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Apple – came up with the idea of sending content over the internet to viewers around the globe to enjoy on their screen for a “modest” fee.

People loved the idea.

According to Statista more than 3.5B people around the globe now watch content OTT.

 By 2027 that number will increase to more than 4.2B.

Those kinds of numbers attracted studio bosses everywhere to jump into the streaming business and put that money into their coffers.

After all their stuff was better than the tech guys stuff even though studios were making the tech streamers stuff.

Source – CNN

Fields of Dreams – The excitement of having a huge bundle of entertainment potential tied to a big monthly expense has faded with most folks who have discovered there’s a less expensive way to watch the few shows/movies that really interest them while the rest of the time the bundle remains unused.  

BAM! more than 200 streamers popped up around the globe all “knowing” they could easily grab millions of valuable subscribers willing to pay “just a little more” for their insanely great content.

Simple right?

Just turn on the service, charge folks “a few bucks” and they’ll put their seats in their seats and watch endless hours of your great films/shows and everyone sees a big payday.

Problem #2

Source – StephenFollows

Profit Odds – While studio executives and Hollywood promoters/reporters love to tout the exceptional profitability of movie tentpole productions, the truth is delivering profit is very hard to do in the entertainment industry.  AI may help improve the odds for the projects that get greenlighted and delivered…we’ll see.  

Based on years of extensive and in-depth research by Stephen Follows, less than 50 percent of the films studios produce actually make a profit and if it’s an indie project the odds are even worse.

Ok the industry isn’t as shifty as Mel Brooks 1967 satirical black comedy The Producers because most projects are greenlighted with the idea that they’re going to make money.

 Unless you’re on Wall Street, the odds are against you turning a profit.

It’s literally impossible to pin down how many films were produced around the globe last year because some were “theatrical”, some were straight to stream, some were local/regional, some are sitting in someone’s library waiting…

IMDb lists 14,301 titles and you could probably double/triple that number, say it with conviction and probably no one would challenge you.

But there are a lot of great films wrapped up every year and that doesn’t include the volume of shows/series that were only intended for smaller screens.

Remember, ordinary folks who work/sleep/eat/raise kids only have maybe two-three hours a day to watch stuff.

In addition, we waste some of that time watching the news to keep abreast of what’s going on around the world beyond the video content industry.

Honest to gawd there is more going on than scripted and unscripted projects.

In other words, there is simply too much video content to watch which is one of the key reasons Netflix, Amazon, heck all the streamers have pulled shows from their active libraries for…later.

Source – StephenFollows

Not Cheap – Budgets for films and shows vary widely and the greenlighted budget is just the starting point for the actual cost.  Fortunately, studios have also become very creative in “selling” the project to reduce their losses and maybe, just maybe, turn a profit.  

In addition to an overabundance of good/great content, they are also expensive to create/produce/deliver (expensive is a relative term).

According to Statista the industry employs more than 2.2M to do all this creative magic and pays out about $192B in wages (yes, we know…where’s your piece of the pie?).

Studios and streamers haven’t been bringing in as much as they told shareholders the first of the year because of the DGA, WGA, SAG-AFTA strike despite the BS they tell stockbrokers and investors.

But they have “saved” money by not being able to do films/shows and haven’t had to spend those huge marketing budgets.

That hurts because people need to be enticed into the theater and sign up for more services.

Names that help put seats in theater and home seats were sidelined from hyping their films/shows so suddenly “gotta see that” becomes “yeah maybe” attendance, subscriptions slipped no matter what their publicists say.

So, what’s keeping them afloat?

Source – EarlyOfficeMuseum

Studio Creatives – The most unheralded creative people in the film/show industry spend their time at work moving expenses and income around so depending on who wants to know – Wall Street or creatives – they can show exceptional returns or devastating losses on the studios/streamers projects.  

Sure, the bosses love to tell Wall Street and stockholders what a great job they’re doing saving/growing their organizations and that they really deserve those eight/nine figure salaries.

But “everyone” really knows that their really creative folks are in their accounting departments.

Paramount laid off 25 percent of domestic staff, Disney eliminated 7-10K positions and is trying to figure out what to do with properties that won’t fit into tomorrow’s plans, WBD had a revolving door of executives/staff during their “reorganization.” 

Actually, no studio or streamer escaped without some bloodletting.

Through it all CFOs showed how creative they were at making their bosses look good to Wall Street by showing how wildly profitable their films/shows were, how much they had saved by “retiring” projects early and how promising tomorrow was going to be.

Still…

Source – Capital Books

More Lipstick – All of the makeup and fantastic phrases in the world don’t cover up the fact that profits come from the creative output of project teams, not the executive office.  

We’re at a point in the industry’s history where we need to restart the creative engine and we’re going to boldly suggest that everyone takes advantage of all of the tools available.

That includes selective the use of generative AI.

We know, we know WGA, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, trades, union groups and yes even we are concerned because we’ve all seen the AI-based movies.

None of them seemed to have the happy ending that everyone wants.

When computers were introduced folks swore they were evil.

Turns out they can be used to create love stories/sonnets and send them to people around the world.  

They can also be used to create death threats/divorce filings/military attack plans and other things to ruin/kill people/property/more.

The same will happen with Generative AI by design and accident.

So, let’s approach its use strategically and cautiously where it can show the greatest benefit(s) for all of the industry instead of jumping in the deep end and using it for…everything.

Researchers have used machine learning to identify hit songs with 97 percent accuracy (https://tinyurl.com/3e7bzszn).

We have 5,000 years of written history and more than 150 years of film history with data that can determine if a video story has a chance of being something that will resonate with people or be a money/talent sucking flop.

AI at the outset

Source – IDC

Sorting Data – Studios and streamers have huge libraries of data on films/shows that clicked with the audience and those that didn’t.  Generative AI can be very useful to the project team to determine what production will resonated with folks and what won’t work.  This could dramatically improve and speed the greenlighting of just the right shows/movies.  

Every studio has some person who makes a lot of money greenlighting projects.

 He/she uses all of the data they can find to determine if it gets the funds it needs or gets thrown in the garbage.

If a film is a hit the greenlighting boss (or team) takes all the credit for picking the right producer, actors, creative/production teams and rakes in a bonus.

If the project falls short, they say, “The data/analysis failed,” “fire” it and keep their job.

Think of the time and money the studio could save by having a really great AI tool that reviewed all of the data, made a go/no go decision so the creative team could produce content people want to enjoy, and streamline the studio overhead.

Time, money saved, and everyone is happy including the audience…freakin awesome!

Audience Appeal

The importance of the second-best use of generative AI was proven during the strike when creative team members were “discouraged” from going out and promoting their work to encourage people to see the project at the theater or on their home screen.

Tech companies have proven time and again making a better product doesn’t guarantee its success.  

It has to be creatively and scientifically promoted so it appeals to just the right people.

Some folks like horror, drama, romcom, superhero, western, documentary, animated films.  Others not so much.

“Everyone” knows that streamers scrape and save every bit of audience data and that data can be invaluable in convincing men, women, kids that they’re going to miss something really special if they don’t catch that film/show.

The right generative AI tool can help marketing creatives develop visual/verbal/written messages that resonate with the target audience.

Source – NBC

Great Plan – It’s a beautiful thing to see a film/show marketing plan come together and work as planned.  The plan requires good data and perfect timing but when it works…it really works.  

The project gets optimum audience reaction which feeds the satisfaction of everyone on the creative team, produces optimum return on the project’s investment and with the right contracts for everyone on the team gives them the best possible financial return for their work.

Other AI tools that will be developed by content folks over time that help them speed, polish and improve their creative work.

 However really good/great movies/shows require a unique human perspective and emotional depth that only comes from real life experience and creativity.

Sure, there are studio bosses, Wall Streeters and stockholders who envision the time when an entire movie/show will be produced by AI but who or what will it appeal to?

Source – 20th Century Fox

The project won’t even rationalize, decide as The Monster did in Young Frankenstein when it said, “In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life.”

AI is being touted as an efficiency improver and in the long haul we may find that it delivers on that promise, but will it ever be able to deliver a unique film/show that reaches in and touches all of the human senses?

Don’t even bother answering that rhetorical question because generative AI is really data using/modifying data to produce…data.

That data will enable creative teams that deliver entertainment that isn’t simply mediocre.

Best of all, it will save audiences from suffering through those mediocre movies, shows and ads that studio/organization executives requested, greenlighted and distributed.

Andy Markenandy@markencom.com – is an author of more than 800 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software, and applications. An internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields; he has an extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media, and industry analysts/consultants.

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