AI will change the way entertainment is done. Will it be for better or for worse?

By Jon Swartz

“AI is potentially a good tool for writers – until it displaces writers”

From the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera to a Senate subcommittee in Washington, DC, and from a Hollywood summit to a Silicon Valley conference on the future of television, a topic is on the lips of filmmakers , writers, novelists, musicians and other artists.

With equal amounts of dread and optimism, they try to form an idea of ​​what the future will look like. Will artificial intelligence destroy creative communities in Hollywood, New York, Nashville and elsewhere? Or will it free artists to do better work?

The creative community is heavily divided into Big Tech players such as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Google Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) (GOOGL), the parent company of Facebook Meta Platforms Inc. (META), Adobe Inc. (ADBE) and Nvidia. Corp. (NVDA) is rushing with generative AI technology that could threaten the jobs of content creators and others. Battle lines have been drawn between the creative community — artists who fear that AI will drain their profession — and AI developers and studios who are using the technology as a way for independent filmmakers to make great movies. studio-style.

At four separate events over the past week, examples of AI-generated creative content laid bare two starkly different expectations in the entertainment industry: AI could free content creators from menial tasks to that they can focus on passion projects, or it could cost them their jobs. .

“You ask science to evaluate art, and that will always be the fundamental limit of AI,” Marc Guggenheim, writer, producer and showrunner, said in an interview. “He may be good at mimicking human voices, but he’ll never do more than mimic.”

Guggenheim, whose credits include “Arrow” and “Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia,” sees AI as a destructive force that will supplant writers and stifle creativity. Hollywood writers are on strike amid fears that studios will replace them with generative AI robots, but when AI invades the writers’ room, it could be in a much more subtle way.

Read more: With writers on strike, would Hollywood call on AI to replace?

A classic example, Guggenheim said, is how AI could turn note-taking during production meetings into an exercise in formulaic storytelling. For decades, writers have wrestled with studio executives during these meetings, saying the ratings result in more commercial, less controversial, less diverse and more vanilla content, Guggenheim said.

The concern is that AI, when fed with information about what has been successful in the past, will produce even fewer original thoughts. The example Guggenheim gave was the five-act story arc of 2008’s billion-dollar blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” saying the first note the AI ​​would likely give on that storyline would be to go formulaic. convention in three acts. “The AI ​​ratings could indicate that this approach was not properly structured,” he said.

Still, the efficiency of AI in organizing meetings and writing processes offers an attractive advantage to studios and streaming services trying to reduce content costs while streamlining production cycles. Conversely, eliminating repetitive tasks could free up creative workers to spend more time on passion projects, Hollywood insiders say.

“The shows will be inspired by this technology,” James Blevins, executive producer of “The Mandalorian,” told AI on the Lot, a conference held last week in Hollywood that explored the promises and dangers. of AI. “When you see these tools, look for the opportunity rather than seeing the sky fall.”

Added “scale complexity”

A key opportunity provided by AI is the ability to add texture and nuance to visual effects and lighting at a fraction of the cost and time required to do so the traditional way. Chris Perez, director of product marketing at Perforce Software, says advanced AI-powered virtual production will be able to add “scale complexity to more realistic and immersive environments,” like buildings and kingdoms, through surface detail and shading. The visual effects would work just as well in a superhero epic as in a period piece set in the 1930s.

The initial debate about the unpredictability of rapidly developing technology has spread to the tech industry itself, with executives from major AI vendors taking opposing views.

“These Hollywood screenwriters should be very scared. Don’t you think Hollywood will use it?” Tom Siebel, CEO of C3.ai Inc. (AI), said in an interview. To make his point, he did a quick query on himself using ChatGPT-4. A sparkling biography was produced in minutes.

“Imagine producing a script for a sitcom or procedural crime show,” Siebel said. “Generation AI may have the intellectual capacity and prose of an eighth grader now, but they’re learning fast. It’s going to be crazy. Super scary.”

It’s not just writers who are afraid. Actors hear that studios want to digitize their voices and bodies for stages as well as for advertising and promotional purposes, said James G. Sarantinos, editor of Creative Screenwriting Magazine. And writers, he said in an interview, “could become glorified engineers to come up with AI scripts.”

But change is essential in any economy as diverse and vigorous as the United States’, says a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, who thinks the changes will be less drastic than some think.

“We have gone from an agricultural society to an industrial society and now to a knowledge society,” said David Blumberg, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Blumberg Capital, in an interview. “A lot of these doomsday Malthusian theories are almost always wrong. In the short term, AI will mainly make you much more efficient at your job.”

However, other players in the tech industry urge caution.

“This AI inflection point is still human-centric,” ServiceNow Inc. (NOW) President CJ Desai said in an interview. “But we have to make sure it’s an augmentation of a human. Artificial intelligence can never replace human intelligence.”

AI is just a tool, notes Andy Parsons, senior director of content authenticity initiative at Adobe Inc. (ADBE). “It doesn’t have to take over humans. If our legislators and others get it right, it’s largely an accretive tool that helps humans do more,” he said. in an interview. “But for creatives in particular, and the creative professionals and audiences Adobe serves, they are remarkable tools for creativity.”

Startups are developing products that will determine the future of AI in writing and other creative pursuits. Sudowrite, an AI “writing partner” that launched on Thursday, has already helped dozens of writers generate novels, for example.

“I’ve heard over and over that it doesn’t necessarily use fewer people, but individuals are more productive,” said Monica Landers, CEO of StoryFit. “There is a level of excitement for the future.”

StoryFit uses AI to help the film industry with scripts and characters. “I was prepared for negativity, and instead I have people with decades of experience who have never seen anything like this saying they will find a way to include me in the funding if that’s what it takes for them to be able to use their AI,” she said. in an email from Cannes this week.

Disruptive Technology Disrupts Creatives

People in the creative industries have taken this disruptive path before. The introduction of the camera in the early 19th century forced portrait painters to move into Impressionist art; the introduction of sound into films with 1927’s “The Jazz Singer” ended the careers of some actors, directors, cinematographers and others; and in the 1990s, computer animation changed the way animated films were made.

The history of creative work in technological evolution has led some, including Scott Steindorff, television producer and documentarian whose credits include “Station Eleven” and “Chef”, to take a pragmatic approach to AI.

“We’re not going to stop it. We have to understand it and accept it,” he said in an interview. “When the internet came out, everyone was against it, and it ended up helping us. AI is like an advanced Google.”

For now, generative AI can produce a poor script when someone gives it a story idea and a few characters. But that is likely to change over the next few years as technology advances.

“AI is potentially a good tool for writers – until it displaces writers or shrinks writers’ rooms,” said Jason Vredenburg, literature and film scholar and associate professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Despite its ability to replicate the cookie-cutter content of programs like procedural crime shows, lowbrow sitcoms, and superhero movies, the underlying drawbacks of AI are that it’s repetitive, with residual biases and that it relies on stereotypical representations of race and gender, Guggenheim said.

“There’s definitely this gold rush going on. People are going too fast,” Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said in an interview. “We’ll always need the human element. You can increase creativity, but you can’t completely replace creatives.”

Indeed, some artists are embracing “the intersection of intelligent human decisions with AI speed enhancement” to augment their work, StoryFit Landers said.

At Hollywood AI Summit, Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, an art and creative technologist who developed Cuberic, a generative AI project, expressed it in scientific and artistic terms. “You dance with the machine to understand the essence of how to do it. AI tools invite us to think differently,” he said.

“Whether it’s a news article, a book, a song, or a Hollywood movie, writers will always be in the driver’s seat, harnessing human creativity and imagination,” said Volker Smid, CEO of Acrolinx, an AI software-as-a-service platform. “It won’t go away.”

Thérèse Poletti contributed to it.

-Jon Swartz

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

05-26-23 1157ET

Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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