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Experts say movies need to use AI now to be successful

By Simona Vasytė, CEO of Perfection42

George Lucas, the visionary creator of Star Wars, declared that artificial intelligence (AI) in filmmaking is inevitable: ‘It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe these cars are gunna work. Let’s just stick with the horses.’’ 

AI will change the way we experience movies; we saw a similar situation when digital tools appeared. When George Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic in 1975, they were the first ones to use digital technologies and that’s what made Star Wars and other movies iconic. AI-powered movies are the next step. 

Here’s how the implementation of AI can affect each stage:

Pre-Production: Costume, set design and storyboarding

In recent filmmaking, AI tools have played an increasingly supportive role during pre-production, complementing human creativity rather than replacing it. A recent study suggests that generative AI could potentially save filmmakers 20%. For a $100 million family movie, this translates to $20 million.

AI can assist in idea generation when creators get stuck – people can analyse vast datasets of existing films, scripts and audience preferences to suggest how new plot ideas could start or what potential character developments can be.

While in animation AI has a huge potential for character design and development, in filmmaking this shifts to costume and set design. It cannot hire an actor, but it can help us create mock-up designs for what the actor will wear and how will it look. Additionally, while so many scenes are currently shot using green screen, testing different visuals and whole worlds will be easier than ever. And the fact that we can easily iterate on these designs is very appealing.

Aside from that, storyboarding, traditionally a time-consuming task, can also be accelerated with AI, generating detailed and consistent frames based on the script.  

We say that current AI is like a creative partner. For example, our AI-based storyboarding tool addresses the time-consuming nature of traditional storyboarding that all movie makers use for pre-production. It allows them to plan better, make quick adjustments and iterate on-the-go, saving time by 50%-80% in some cases. As a result, humans can focus on creative storytelling. 

Production: Emerging AI applications

While AI tools are yet to fully excel in the production stage, they are already being used in innovative ways. Some videographers incorporate CGI effects and 3D models directly during shooting, enhancing visual storytelling on the spot.

We don’t hear that in the news, but during industry conferences, we suddenly find out that big recent movies made extensive use of AI during production. It’s stunning; unless they tell us, we could never tell that happened. However, most of the tent-pole movies are using AI in production now. This will extend to a smaller budget and independent movies too.

A notable instance of AI’s impact can be seen in “Avengers: Infinity War.” In this film, advanced AI algorithms were essential in bringing the villain Thanos to life. These algorithms carefully examined Josh Brolin’s facial expressions and body movements in real time, while shooting the content, to create highly detailed CGI animations.

We have another use case that is emerging right now, its AI-powered cameras. They handle tasks like tracking subjects and adjusting framing. In a way, this tech helps directors and cinematographers make high-quality shots accessible to everyone. Creativity will once again become the top skill in the industry.

Post-production: Advanced AI applications

Here come the green screen designs we talked about in pre-production. If anything has changed during the production stage, they can be adapted in minutes. Now, we can retouch them, in-paint or modify them with additional details. It’s technically an AI-based world creation.

Techniques such as rotoscoping to remove unwanted elements from shots, upscaling to improve image quality and denoising are already commonplace. These AI-driven methods enhance the efficiency and quality of post-production work. A recent study stated that a comedy creator saved up to 10% in $ and cut their production time by 4 weeks.

Another example dates back to 2016 when 20th Century Fox partnered with IBM Research to develop the first-ever “cognitive movie trailer” for the suspense/horror film, “Morgan”. This costly, time-consuming process usually takes 10 to 30 days, but with IBM’s system, it was done in about 24 hours.

We have to stop saying that AI will cut jobs. It will cut costs and time, but the best writers will be writers with AI skills, not AI itself. It’s nothing without supervision. We will benefit greatly from it, though; soon enough movies will be dubbed and lip synched to a language of your choice without making kids question “why do the lips move so weirdly?” The cinema industry will become more accessible and inclusive, and experts who know how to use AI will excel, enhancing not only productivity, but creativity too.

Image: Production of Star Wars, Source: Industrial Light & Magic 

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