How will A.I. generated films disrupt the film industry
A Hollywood producer has told me that only superhero and horror movies get quickly funded these days. That insight put me into an existential questioning wormhole. While there are a thousand stories we can tell, why does the industry facilitate a culture where filmmakers are limited to making superhero and horror films? And why does the industry want us to label the rest of our myth-making attempts as a hard sell? Is the fear in the horror that keeps us in the trauma matrix and superhero films living out our dreams for us? How will generated motion pictures disrupt this dynamic in the industry? And how will the freedom we get from developing our own unique films, narratives, and myths affect society?
In 2021, Hollywood’s box office revenue was valued at around $20 billion. Meanwhile, studios try to get their blockbuster movies to cost $130 million or more to make, so they ended up financing the films they deemed fit for the box office. The obvious side effect of this is that independent movies have difficulty finding financial backing. This top-down triangle power pyramid will come to an end with creative A.I. tools. I am writing this article about how well the film industry welcomes generated films, what will be the implications of generated films for the industry and society in general, based on my experience as an early adopter in the world of A.I. films and tools for filmmakers with our work at Seyhan Lee.
A.I. motion pictures: An artistic revolution facilitated by GPUs and parallel processors
Creative A.I. tools are helping us emancipate our creative self-expression. Tools, pipelines, and even talents that used to belong to “the other” are now part of our own skill set. You can now paint like a surrealist with Midjourney, mocap like a VFX studio with A.I. + Ebsynth, and give motion to avatars like a professional animator with Thin Plate Spline Motion Model. From an existential point of view, creative A.I. is giving us all the tools, talents, and arguments for us to make an idea conceptualized, funded, produced, and come alive.
Before smartphones, we had to visit a photo studio or call a friend who had a Nikon, Canon, or Leica to take our headshots. Visiting professional photo studios remains an option today, as we can produce the desired result ourselves at home. Independent filmmakers will go through (actually, they are currently going through) a similar emancipation timeline. Currently, a motion picture featuring outlandish worlds, kings, queens, golems, lavish costumes, prosthetics, and otherworldly planets costs a fortune to make. Soon, it will cost pennies compared to what it costs today. In the following years, creative A.I. will be taking all the limitations between your imagination and the production in the movie-making pipeline away, turning each filmmaker into their own personal production studio. This revolution will be a significant challenge for the film industry, which single-handedly controls the current motion picture narrative.
How will Hollywood react to generative filmmakers?
The human mind and its corporate mirror, the establishment, hate being challenged. To be a visionary is to foresee a future before it happens, making vision the enemy of an establishment that fears change. Unless a corporation is agile and ready to learn and adapt, we will see their names written next to Kodak, Nokia, Yahoo, Xerox, and Blockbuster.
As of October 2022, we are far from creating any generative narrative worth watching. Yet, with the recent speed of ML in CGI developments, it has become impossible to imagine a future timeline where we will not have the possibility to generate our movies.
In 2022, apart from a handful of hyper-cutting-edge producers, directors, and niche studios, we will still find very few generated motion pictures emerging. At the beginning of the A.I. motion picture revolution, Hollywood will most likely go through a learning curve. We can expect some confusion, resistance, and lawsuits to arise from the studios at the beginning, similar to the chaos around sampling in music. But when the dust settles, the actors and directors will embrace A.I., and they will get to make double the amount of money by working fewer hours as they will be licensing their “likeness” and “style” to generative films. Director Jon Finger contributes to why Hollywood will embrace creative A.I. from the angle of minimizing risk-taking. He reminds us that A.I. tools, with their lack of latency, will dissolve the risk of filmmaking almost entirely.
Studios will develop novel ways to differentiate generated filmmaking from conventional filmmaking
As you must have seen in European castles, ecstatical graphical prints were the preferred decoration for the 17th–18th-century castle owners. The printing press, William Morris, Liberty London, and the Arts and Crafts movement brought to the mainstream floral and other nature-inspired graphical patterns. When le peuple started affording fabric and paper-based decoration items in the form of mass-marketed goodies such as wallpapers, bedding, and cushion covers, the elite started adopting the Bauhaus and minimalism as a way to differentiate themselves from the rest of the populace. While the middle class was decorating their homes like Louis XIV, the rich marveled at how less is more.
I am expecting a similar hunger for style differentiation in the film industry when creative A.I. tools will enable everyone to start making cinematic films. Currently, text-to-image models allow us to adopt the look and feel of any DP or director only by guiding the machine with words, and I expect this to be more credible and consistent very soon. Just think about it. You are Jim Cameron; all you care about is to transcend your limitations and make something that no one has ever seen before. Of course, your first instinct would be to make something else while the rest of the world is making films by typing “in the style of James Cameron”…
Studios will push directors to create a more original look and feel for their movies. This effort to always try to be ahead of amateurs or semi-professionals making professional films will give way to the emergence of new trends in Hollywood, i.e., the revival of black and white movies as resistance against generated films, the pace of studio-made movies becoming unusually slow, and having hyper-glamour film sets like Helmut Newton photography, with unique color palettes like those of Wes Anderson.
Step by step, this is how creative A.I. will be integrated into Hollywood
The first introduction of creative A.I. will begin (has begun actually) with visionary producers. Openers and title sequences are the segments of the production pipeline with the most artistic freedom. As the outcomes of the creative A.I. models are still wild wild west and are more artistic than realistic, this gives an excellent opportunity to spice up the title sequence market. In 2019, Westworld used a tiny bit of Style GAN-generated reflection in their opener, but expect much more artistic A.I.-generated openers and title sequences in 2023.
The second will be the integration of A.I. into the Unreal Engine and volume stages for virtual production. We are currently working with a mixed reality volume stage in Los Angeles and we will be hosting a demo for a select group of filmmakers this fall. Keep following my blog, as in the following weeks, I will dedicate an entire article to A.I. and virtual production.
Concepting, storyboarding, and animatics will be the third. These high production costs are going to change very soon. Creative A.I. will liberate the storyboard artist from the repetitive, revise til you die burden and cut down costs/production times.
Following openers, virtual production, ideation, storyboarding, and animatics, the next creative A.I. impact in Hollywood will be that of VFX. Adventurous producers and directors are already inquiring about adopting generative VFX in their films. Still, the impactful integration of A.I. VFX in the production pipeline will occur when artificial neural networks learn real-world physics, temporal cohesion, and filmmaking lingua franca.
A.I. VFX will happen in two parallel ways, one in 2D and the other in 3D. On the 2D front, Facebook came out with Make a Video Studio and an anonymous group introduced Phenaki. Both models enable the generation of animated gif-quality videos that mimic temporal cohesion. Meanwhile, on the 3D front, many early-stage text-to-3D models are making headlines, including Dreamfusion by anonymous authors, GET3D by NVIDIA, CLIP Mesh, and CLIP Matrix by Nikolaj Jetchev. In the following months, we will witness these open-source models and new ones integrating light, coherent foreground and background generation, video-driven motion, performance, camera movement, generated depth maps, and all other aspects of the production pipeline.
In the next years, one or multiple platforms will combine all these scattered production pipeline tools under one interoperable roof, like a virtual film generation studio. Studios like ours specializing in A.I. motion picture making will pop up, either serving traditional studios as vendors or merging with them. Needless to say, there will be A.I. Netflixes carrying only generated content. In our last discussion with director Jon Finger about the future of the entertainment industry, he predicted that even a generated-films-only streaming service will likely be disrupted by A.I.-generated dream states that can transition seamlessly between the personalized reactive show, game, social experience, and relaxing escape on a whim. He later added that A.I.-induced digital dream states will rule a coming generation’s lives.
Meanwhile, human ingenuity and creativity will always play a central role in these new horizons. The point of a tool is to serve humanity, and creative A.I. is nothing but a tool in the service of filmmakers.
Fear of creative A.I. is taking over jobs in Hollywood
Fear of A.I. taking over our jobs in the future or making humans irrelevant is a regular topic I cover in my articles. If this is the first time you are reading my blog and if this is your primary concern, I kindly invite you to check out my article, How will humans remain relevant in the age of A.I. and Dall-E 2?
If I were to be a storyboard artist, editor, actor, producer, or light technician and have been in the industry for eons, I would be much more concerned about studios only investing in sequels, horror, and superhero movies. I consider the limitation of human creativity a much bigger crime than giving people a creative self-expression explosion tool, like creative A.I. Did e-books, audiobooks, and podcasts put printed book publishers out of work? One can argue yes; not all, but some, yes. Meanwhile, in the U.S., more than 1 million books are still printed and published (2021). And when you look at the situation from a bird’s-eye view, the introduction of alternative knowledge consumption tools elevated the level of knowledge in the collective consciousness.
Creative A.I. vs. profit A.I.
I want to end the article by inviting all of us to discern A.I. tools that favor the establishment (profit) vs. the creator (expression). The film industry, together with all the rest of the creative industries, has been tainted with data-backed A.I. tools that “predict” how much an innovative idea or expression will be liked, shared, or monetized. Creative expression is a vessel for the divine to descend to human awareness, and we should meet with suspicion any instrument that questions its validity. If the Paris municipality were to consult an A.I. during the pre-production of the Eiffel Tower about the profitability rate of a steel tower that serves no purpose, what do you think would be its answer?
Creative A.I. allows dreamers to put out artistic self-expression right now in the form of art and music, and the next frontier will be filmmaking. Welcoming creative A.I. tools with resistance would be similar to bashing digital cameras, cars, or other paradigm-shifting tools that improve the human experience and expand freedom. Anyways, what is the meaning of life if it is not to self-express by way of freedom and creativity?
Dear reader, thank you for taking the time to read this article. These industry-changing novel ways of motion picture creation spread to others when you engage with my thoughts socially, so thank you for subscribing to my Medium channel and sharing this article with your following.
With love, Pinar