A while back I wrote a blog post on my photography site about AI image generation. I was wondering how long it would be until AI could create a convincing photograph. Fast forward to today and Photoshop has AI tools built in with Adobe creating AI video tools for After Effects and Premiere too, all with convincing results. There are many, many others doing the same.
It’s understandable that writers and actors have been calling for strong protection against their own writing, voices and even appearance being used without fair recompense. At the time of writing, American unions have been striking for over 110 days for many reasons, but featuring in them is a desire for fairer AI protection. This lengthy period has led some to endure loss of income, jobs and even homes across California. It’s had far reaching consequences worldwide in fact, with plenty of UK projects being suspended or pulled thanks to the links to the US.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. It’s easy to shout out and tell folk to get back to work. Imagine though, not having that desired protection or framework in place. In that scenario, the current 10 figure cost to California alone could potentially be far higher.
Actors and writers could lose out to an ever decreasing pool of AI-assisted talent. Voice actors might find their voice effectively bought with unfair terms in perpetuity. Their income would be gone. Actors could be placed in any video without permission, causing a Wild West of IP lawsuits.
Productions themselves could get weaker, with script after script of middle of the road shows, AIs borrowing sentence structure and characterisations from years of work. Visuals could homogenise, with actors turning in to uncanny-valley dwelling automata.
Even if this dystopia I paint here is temporary, the loss of earnings could be huge and quality of work underwhelming compared to the original content made by real humans daily.
A brighter future
The TV and film industry will likely shrink in light of the strikes and common usage of AI. It has appeal for small graphic design projects and concept work. I do also believe though that we are an incredibly diverse, creative species, capable of creating extraordinary worlds and telling beautiful stories. We are also able to diversify in what is a fast-paced industry.
I personally believe many VFX jobs are safe. Directors, producers and editors all like to put in their opinions on how a particular VFX shot can be improved. The first version will go in a creative direction they may or may not like but it will need iterating on usually. Many of the requests made are open to interpretation and fairly abstract. If you want great results out of AI, it pays to be specific.
Many software developers are integrating aspects of machine learning into their VFX software, making awesome tools that make our jobs easier. AIs are not likely to create entire shots themselves that fulfil a client brief first time, if at all. Let’s hope the strikes end soon so everyone can use these awesome tools to keep making original content that folk want to watch and those who need protecting feel safe in their chosen work.