We’ve barely come to grips with AI creating works of art or “photographs” of people and things that never existed, and already there are examples of AI-generated video. The question is, would you watch AI-generated movies one day?
From the Holodeck to Westworld
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, we’re introduced to the Holodeck. It’s a large room on the USS Enterprise that uses forcefields and holographic to create whatever virtual world its occupants desire. Ask for a character, give them a vague description, and the computer will do the rest. If you’re not quite happy, you can ask the ship’s computer to tweak things a little until you’re happy.
Flash forward to the fourth season of the Westworld reboot, and we see one of the characters working as a “writer.” She sits in front of what appears to be a holographic display and dictates her story to a computer. The computer dutifully conjures up the images as she describes the scene and the characters.
Both of these technologies are still science fiction, but when it comes to a computer system creating sights and sounds based on nothing more than a verbal description, we’re much closer than you may think.
Machine Imagination Is Exploding
Machine learning has been advancing rapidly, and anyone who isn’t keeping a close eye on the technology may experience some figurative whiplash when the results of this constant advancement make it into the mainstream.
Machine learning solutions can now write entire articles that match what human writers would come up with in many cases. These machine-learning models and algorithms can produce music, faces of people who don’t exist, and even voices.
The application that seems to have created the largest impact is so-called “AI art.” Systems such as DALL-E 2, MidJourney, and an ever-growing groups of competitors can take your “prompt” in plain human language and then literally paint you a picture. This has been quite controversial in art, but the virtual ink was barely dry when Meta (Facebook’s parent company) unveiled their AI video generator.
This follows from their earlier work to help users take control of their AI-generated images in a way that goes beyond “inpainting” where parts of the image are erased and the software tries to fill in new details closer to your specifications.
These advancements also bring us closer to creating continuity with AI-generated imagery, something which is crucial for storytelling. While the clips shown by Meta are just a few seconds long, it’s not hard to image this being scaled up to the length needed for storytelling.
A Whole New Meaning to “Filmmaking”
Imagine if an author who sits down to write a story also ends up creating the entire film. What about taking a book that already exists and a computer system turns it into a finished film or television series?
This is still a far-fetched idea, but in light of what machine learning systems can do today, it no longer seems like a flight of fancy. Given the terrifying speed with which AI art and its derivative technologies are advancing, this might be an emerging reality in the coming decade, much less this century.
The Economic Inevitability of AI-Generated Movies
Modern-day movies and television series have massive budgets and require the involvement of hundreds and even thousands of people who bring diverse skills and talents to the table. Every time a studio greenlights a project, they’re taking a huge gamble that the project will at least make back its costs.
If machine-learning technology ever reaches the point where a film production can be entirely generated using machine-learning systems or a production system that uses the technology to reduce the resources you need to make a movie, it would quickly gain traction.
It’s likely not a matter of “if” the entertainment industry would embrace such tools but rather how quickly it will happen. We’re already seeing synthetic actors, the resurrection or de-aging of actors, entire sets generated by video game engines, and much more. AI-generated movies would be the latest in a long line of similar tech revolutions in the film industry.
Sturgeon’s Law Still Applies
Assuming that computer power sufficient for the job was cheap enough, technology like this could mean that anyone who can string a few sentences together can make audiovisual content. That sounds like a recipe for a flood of content, and it probably will happen.
However, today we already have a slew of fan fiction and “YouTube Poop.” As Sturgeon’s Law states: “ninety percent of everything is crud.” An absolute increase in the amount of content also means an absolute increase in the amount of excellent content.
So even if you don’t have much choice about watching something that’s at least partially AI-generated, it’s likely that some of it will appeal to you. AI-generated films open up the curious possibility of having movies customized to specific viewers. Perhaps the protagonist changes gender or ethnicity according to the viewer’s preferences, or the scary spider monsters are changed to something less terrifying to arachnophobic audiences. The possibilities seem endless.
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