- AI is going to displace jobs in Hollywood, but which ones and how?
- Those in previs storyboarding and VFX makeup and assembly editing will be among the first sets of roles to benefit from the speed of generative AI — with the hope (against hope) that they won’t be made redundant.
- Director Owen Harris probably speaks for many, commenting that films made entirely by AI won’t be films that he or anyone else will want to watch for the simple reason that they will lack humanity.
AI will have a profound impact on film and TV production and as its use increases what everyone in town wants to know is: Is my job safe?
The market for AI in video production is expected to grow from $362 million in 2021 to around $1.5 billion by 2028 as tools are adopted across the board to speed workflows and cut production costs.
READ MORE: Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Video Production Market – Forecasts from 2023 to 2028 (Research and Markets)
Owen Harris, the director of Peacock’s AI-focused comedy-drama Mrs. Davis, told TheWrap that Hollywood desperately wants AI to be a “force for good.”
“Certainly, the attraction and the amount of investment we put into technology financially, but also in terms of our own time, reflects that we get something out of it,” he added. “But the question is how much of ourselves are we giving away to get that and is trade-off worth it? At the moment, it feels very much like we’re at the crossroads.”
TheWrap has canvassed the opinion of artists working in various industry roles and of those developing Gen-AI applications and broadly concludes that AI will be widely adopted as a tool, but with humans still in charge of the creative process.
Using AI for previs and storyboarding is widely anticipated to be a benefit to getting productions greenlit and then into photography.
Dan Cobb, CMO at OneDoor, which is developing an AI-generated storyboarding and previsualization tool, told TheWrap, “Instead of making a storyboard that looks like sketches and pen and ink, now we’re going to have storyboards that literally look like the scene from the movie. And they’re going to be so close that once you’re on set, you’re going to try to match it because the quality of that image is the vision of the artist.”
He emphasized that storyboard artists who “stick with the same old marker boards” could risk becoming “irrelevant.”
At the same time, he doesn’t believe that AI will take storyboard artists’ jobs away outright and instead sees the technological advancement as an opportunity to help them do their jobs better.
The argument is that AI will enable storyboard artists to co-conceive movie collaboratively and in real time, “whereas in the past, the artist would have to go back to their closed door, spend a few days drawing, come back and show you another iteration.”
Digital makeup can also be supercharged by AI. VFX studio and AI technology startup Monsters Alien Robots Zombies, for example, has an tool called Vanity AI that it claims enables the delivery of cosmetic VFX 300 times faster than traditional pipelines. It’s apparently been used on 27 major Hollywood productions, shaving 100 weeks off schedules and saving nearly $8 million in costs.
CEO Matt Panousis told TheWrap that far from sucking up manual jobs, Vanity AI will enable better working conditions for VFX artists by slashing the time it takes to complete work.
“So from the artist’s perspective, it’s fantastic because you are increasing their output by orders of magnitude. Like the same artist that could do one shot to maybe only half a shot a day is now pumping out 20, 30 shots a day.”
What about makeup artists? Panousis doesn’t think they’ll be put out of business either.
“There’s always a creative component to makeup and that’s not something our solution handles today. Our solution is there to make cosmetic fixes really, really fast and on a really affordable scale.”
But, in the future, he added, “do you need a world where makeup artists are doing the very simple stuff like getting rid of eye bags, crow’s feet, laugh lines and acne? Maybe not.”
Shows with particularly heavy shot ratios — like reality TV series requiring rapid turnaround — could benefit from AI that gives the editor a jump start in tagging, filtering and even rough assembling rushes.
Although not in use yet for feature film or high-end TV drama, there’s no reason to suppose AI tools won’t become sophisticated enough to the same job. An editor, though, would still use their experience and skill to craft the final work in accordance to script and directorial intent.
Other AI tools at an editor’s disposal today include those for microtasks like matching style and color and auto-tagging.
For sound editing, AI can help quickly scan through large sound effects libraries to create soundscapes, Robert Harari, a music professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, told TheWrap.
“You used to sit there and have to go through thousands and thousands of banks of sounds to try and identify something that’s going to have a certain sonic texture like a harsh sound for a storm versus a quiet rain,” he noted. “It’s helping speed up processes, but at the end of the day, it always comes back to the human curation of what’s right.”
Although films are a collaborative medium many are also “authored” by a director. Is their role under threat?
Director Owen Harris probably speaks for many — perhaps in hope against hope — that films made entirely by AI won’t be films that he or anyone else will want to watch for the simple reason that they will lack humanity.
While AI can be used to help break and communicate ideas visually, he argues that storytelling is still a “very human interaction” that’s going to be “very difficult” for AI to replicate.
“I’d always hope that there will be a human intelligence that can then interact with that and be the bridge back into the creative discussion… but it’s all happening so quickly that it’s really difficult to sort of gauge,” he said. “I’d be amazed if there’s a piece of AI that could tell a story that is absolutely unique to you in a tone of voice that’s absolutely unique to you. Maybe you could mimic a bit of Quentin Tarantino but that’s not the storytelling that I want to make.”
Once thing is for sure; it won’t be just Hollywood’s writers that will be severely impacted by AI. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which has more than 168,000 members from all sides of the entertainment industry, is launching a new study of AI technologies, with a particular focus on how they might reshape jobs under IATSE’s jurisdiction.
It will also consider how contract provisions, legislation, and training programs can be adapted to ensure the fruits of increased productivity through AI are shared equitably among all stakeholders.