AI looks set to have a profound impact on the filmmaker's craft, and not just in some undefined far-off future either. Matt Gregory on the way AI is impacting filmmaking here and now in 2023.
In 2023 AI has not simply moved into the film and TV technology space, it’s wrecked the place like a Bull in a china shop. Or has it? You may have noticed that RedShark has had a big focus on AI recently. We actually have always had a focus on new technology trends (that is what we do after all) and RedShark Editor at Large, Dave Shapton has long banged the drum for AI to enhance various areas of film & TV technology. In fact he’s been a keen advocate of AI since we started RedShark together back in 2012. However, I’m not even sure Dave would have seen just *how* disruptive AI has become. Especially to the area I cover off first below.
Artificial Intelligence is transforming various industries, and the world of filmmaking is no exception. With its ability to analyse data, automate processes, and simulate (at times scary) human-like intelligence, AI is going to revolutionise the way films, TV, commercials and any other moving image content is created. Done right it can enhance creativity, efficiency, and storytelling capabilities. But not without risks to real people, in fact only a week ago our Editor, Andy, and I were discussing the pros (few) and cons (many) of AI-based voiceovers. Hey, I’m a dollars and cents sort of guy that likes to save time and money, however Andy rightly put me straight on that front thanks to his network of VO artist friends in the industry. Spoiler - AI voiceover is not on the list of 5!
So here are the actual five key ways AI will change filmmaking, IMO potentially paving the way for a new era of cinematic innovation.
1. Storytelling and script analysis
I have to address this first. Right now (late June, 2023) the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are on day 56 of their strike where along with their request for a cut of streaming residuals, they want assurances that Studios will not simply use ChatGPT to replace any of their membership of 11,500 screenwriters (we covered the reasons behind the stroike extensively here). The WGA themselves accept that ChatGPT can be a useful tool for research or facilitate script ideas, however they want to draw the line at being replaced completely. We know AI technologies have the potential to analyse vast amounts of data, including scripts, film databases, and audience preferences. By harnessing this power, filmmakers can leverage AI algorithms to gain valuable insights into storytelling elements such as plot structure, character development, and dialogue. AI can identify patterns, analyse successful film narratives, and suggest improvements to enhance the overall storytelling experience. This simply wasn’t possible a year ago. By augmenting the creative process, AI can help filmmakers craft more engaging and compelling stories. On a budget, yes of course this makes sense but do the major streaming platforms and studios need this? No, they have a pool of serious talent from the likes of the WGA - however will that stop them *wanting* to use AI? I haven’t seen an example of a full screenplay written by ChatGPT that has been a hit yet other than witty “500 words in the style of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City on how the Titanic disaster is a parallel to the NYC dating scene” viral spots.
2. Improved pre-production planning and location scouting
This is something that is potentially very helpful, actually based on a project I started this week - already is very helpful! AI can significantly streamline pre-production tasks, making planning and logistics of filmmaking a lot more efficient. For example, AI algorithms can analyse historical and geographical data to recommend optimal shooting locations based on a simple idea or highly specific requirements. This technology can save time and resources by eliminating the need for extensive manual (expensive and time consuming) location scouting. In virtual production AI can also simulate photo realistic visualisations of scenes, enabling production companies to visualise shots before physically setting foot on location. This is something I’ve been using this week on a commercial project - it’s an advancement in pre-production planning that can definitely help with costs and save time.
3. Intelligent video editing and post production
This is a big one and it’s only just getting started. Video editing and post production processes have always required extremely talented people to drive the software at the top end. That actually hasn’t changed much, things have gotten more efficient but editing to tell a story still is an art form in itself. However, AI-powered tools are revolutionising these processes by automating a bunch of tasks. For starters AI algorithms can analyse footage, detect key moments, and suggest optimal editing choices. Automated video editing software - albeit still in its infancy - can remove the need for manual frame selection, enabling filmmakers to focus on the creative aspects of their work. AI can also enhance post-production workflows by automatically adjusting colour grading, stabilising footage, and improving visual effects. Just take a look at Adobe’s Sensei led tools for starters: Premiere Pro can now automate scene detection, colour matching and audio cleanup. It also has its new (brilliant) text based editing tool that we use on all of our commercial content that contains dialogue. After Effects has content aware fill and motion tracking and on the audio side Audition uses AI to take care of noise reduction, automatic speech alignment and audio restoration. All jobs that dare I say it, editors and post professionals would have described as laborious until very recently.
4. Realtime VFX and CGI integration
Now things get very interesting. Incorporating visual effects (VFX) and computer-generated imagery (CGI) seamlessly into live-action scenes has always been a complex and time-consuming task. However, AI-driven advancements are making real-time VFX integration a reality. AI algorithms can analyse live footage, track camera movements, and render realistic VFX elements in real-time. This technology allows filmmakers to preview and adjust VFX shots during the shooting process, reducing the need for extensive post-production work. Adobe After Effects offers advanced motion tracking and compositing capabilities. Real-time VFX and CGI integration powered by AI will provide creators with greater creative freedom and flexibility - especially in a world with more and more productions using in camera VFX tools and virtual production set ups, resulting in more immersive and visually stunning cinematic experiences.
5. Personalized audience engagement and marketing
We are now at the point where we get to the Minority Report stuff. We know AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data from social media, online platforms, and audience behaviour to create personalised marketing strategies. This already happens. But by understanding individual preferences, AI can recommend films to targeted audiences based on their viewing habits, demographics, and interests, just like in the Netflix “for you” section. This personalised approach to marketing can lead to more effective audience engagement, increased ticket sales/ streams/ views, and improved ROI for film production companies. Additionally, AI can analyse audience feedback and sentiment, enabling filmmakers to gain valuable insights that are way more effective than the established focus groups/ test audiences of the past and refine their storytelling techniques for future projects. Which kind of takes me back in a big loop to point number 1 doesn’t it?