30 Jan 2017

AI editing is already here. So, how do we cope with it?

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AI editing is already here. So, how do we cope with it? Shutterstock


In editing, as elsewhere, AI offers both intriguing possibilities and huge potential pitfalls. Perhaps though the biggest issue that we face is that AI editing is already here, and it is getting better and better all the time.

At a base level AI editing would seem to offer some fantastic possibilities. After all, which editor hasn’t ended up at one point or another, being faced with having to sift through hours of, possibly rather dull, footage? Wouldn’t it be great if your computer could sift through it in minutes or seconds and pick out the best, or most interesting footage, for you to choose from?

Recently, IBM did this very thing for the film trailer for ‘Morgan’. After being fed with 100 different horror movie trailers, IBM’s AI system, Watson, went through the trailers and rated it according to a statistical selection method. This drew upon a list of 24 emotions and 22,000 types of scene category. Watson also analysed the voices, music, and scene compositions and rated them on a scale of scariness.

All of this gave Watson the basis from which to choose footage from Morgan itself, finally choosing the top 10 scenes that could be used in a trailer. While the AI did not perform the actual editing, it did pick out what it thought were the best shots and scenes. It was up to a human to provide the final trailer.

In this capacity, weeding out the best footage, such a system could be very useful indeed. But AI is making advances in terms of editing in general. For example there is Magisto, an online system that works by users uploading their footage to it. The system then goes through the files and analyses their content in a way that the company claims can edit footage based upon emotion, content and timing.

To be fair the example videos on the site are pretty impressive. They look like any other low budget edits performed by humans. Of course the company would be expected to choose the best examples possible, so we can never be sure how it would deal with particularly problematic footage. But it is intriguing nonetheless.

It would be all too easy to dismiss AI editing for all sorts of reasons that I will delve into in just a moment. But technological history always teaches us that convenience usually always trumps outright quality.

AI editing: quantity over quality

The democratisation of video creation is ongoing, and video producers are being squeezed from all sides both from competition, and from the increasing number of companies that produce in-house. With artificial intelligence this squeeze will only become worse, because to a small company it means that they can shoot some semi-competent footage themselves, feed it into a computer, and let it do all the hard work. And no professional needs to be hired.

That the video may be generic and not as creative as a dedicated, but comparatively pricey, human editor, may be neither here nor there. Convenience may well win out. In other words it is that age old question of value. If a company pays, say £1000 for a short video to be edited, do they really get a video that is £1000 better than the one edited by the AI system?

For higher end producers the development of advanced artificial intelligence editing may mean an increased project work load. No bad thing if you can edit more in less time, much more easily. But the amount of work on offer is often finite. Could it simply mean even lower rates due to the speed on offer? Less income as well as less stress?

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Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is Deputy Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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