The release of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in June, featuring a 25-minute intro in 1944, starring Harrison Ford, de-aged by AI, clearly indicated that the film production is AI ready. This movie marks, perhaps, a point of no return for film production in which reality and fiction merge seamlessly to create any story you can imagine.
Then, AI became an existential rallying cry. Last month, after an almost 150-day strike, the Hollywood screenwriters secured significant guardrails against using AI in one of the first major labor battles over generative AI in the workplace.
While the strike has ended, the threat of AI cast the film production, with implications for facing a new kind of automation.
“All the digital innovations we are witnessing bring challenges that must be addressed. Current debates, like the strikes of the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild asking for clear guidelines on the ownership and use of writer’s words and actor’s images to generate new content, underscore these complexities,” says Alaa Fadan, CEO of Telfaz11, a creative media studio based in Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual production has gained popularity, whereby AI has facilitated the creation of sets, characters, and environments.
With this, production companies have been actively looking into where the lines are blurred when implementing AI into their daily operations. Those in the field say that AI helps streamline tasks and seeks a balance between human creativity and AI.
“It is the synergy of innovative technology with our unique storytelling that defines the future of entertainment,” says Fadan. Easier said than done, experts in the field share how they are working towards this goal.
DEBLURRING THE LINES
At Filmworks Group, a film production company based in Dubai, Massimiliano Bibbo, executive creative director, believes that AI boosts efficiency by automating tasks and benefits the entire filmmaking process from pre-production to post-production and distribution.
Ahmed Kardous, CEO of Filmedia Production in Egypt, adds that AI can help with script analysis, casting recommendations, location scouting, post-production editing, and marketing and distribution strategies. “AI can save time, reduce costs, and provide valuable insights to improve the overall quality of the final product,” he says.
Utilizing AI for script analysis, Kardous mentions that AI algorithms can analyze scripts for potential audience engagement and genre adherence and even predict the success of a film based on historical data. AI can further look into audience data and trends to generate marketing campaigns and target specific demographics.
The digital tool also comes in handy when casting the right actors for the roles. AI does this by considering their past performances, audience appeal, and demographics, leading to more informed casting decisions.
AI makes location scouting easier by examining databases of potential filming locations and recommending options based on script requirements, budget constraints, and logistical considerations.
Additionally, if there’s anything to be grateful for regarding AI in production, it’s the post-production editing process. Kardous highlights that AI-powered tools can assist in tasks like color grading, visual effects, and even creating music and sound effects, speeding up the post-production process.
Bibbo believes AI has also made huge strides in automating and enhancing post-production processes, including color correction, audio enhancement, and visual effects.
“So, AI can really help reduce costs and improve the final quality.”
He says that filmmakers can use AI-generated previz animations to streamline the planning and visualization stages involving visual representations of scenes. Such implementations can help plan shots, camera movements, and scene compositions.
AI-generated previz animations are being used increasingly as an initial framework for discussions and feedback, helping to refine ideas from early on.
Filmworks Group has implemented this by combining the creativity and idea-generation capabilities of ChatGPT and Midjourney, thereby enhancing the concept development process, including script writing, concept art, and storyboarding. Bibbo notes that it has been handy when generating content for more complex projects with unusual mediums, like 3D projection mapping.
Moreover, as safeguarding copyright and intellectual property is essential to the film industry, AI deems practical scanning and scrutinizing vast amounts of digital content, images, videos, music, and text to identify copyright infringements.
Fadan also says that the prospect of AI-driven real-time audio translations and dubbing can revolutionize film distribution and access.
Even though there are positive use cases for AI in the film production industry, experts acknowledge issues to be addressed.
“It remains very important to strike the right balance between AI-driven automation and human creative input,” says Bibbo.
He warns that without well-defined boundaries, many in the industry might resist the adoption of AI, especially given concerns of job displacement, threats to artistic integrity, and apprehension about change.
To overcome this, there needs to be a culture of AI integration. Professionals in the industry would also be required to learn new skills and work with AI specialists, serving as a daunting challenge in itself.
Not to mention that AI technology is constantly evolving, necessitating those in the production industry to keep up with the latest advancements.
Kardous says that education and training are crucial, ensuring that the team is well-informed about the ethical use of AI and its limitations to prevent misuse. However, the production process is a two-way street between the company and the client, who may be concerned about using AI. This is solved by applying transparency with clients and collaborators about using AI in projects, ensuring they understand its role and impact.
AI is limited to the datasets it is fed, but then there are cultural nuances. For example, AI has limited exposure to Arabic content. “AI would face significant challenges in delivering precise real-time audio translations of a global film for Arabic audiences. Ensuring AI has a diverse and expansive relevant dataset is essential,” Fadan says.
Another challenge revolves around the legal status of AI-generated content. While conventional copyright law typically attributes authorship and ownership of creative works to human creators, AI-generated content poses questions of ownership.
Bibbo says there have been instances where AI-generated content didn’t meet the criteria for copyright protection in the absence of a human creator. “This raises significant questions for all of us in terms of who possesses the rights to AI-generated works.”
It’s not all a shot in the dark. Humans are essential in the production industry; AI is only a handy tool.
Bibbo says the technology is best used with highly skilled creatives, strong creative ideas, and visions, as the “filmmaking process will forever be rooted in human creativity.”
Although experts affirm that adopting AI can foster new employment opportunities through specialized developers and CGI artists focusing on AI technology, it’s essential to remember that storytelling is inherently human.
“It will never replace the work of human writers, directors, or producers. AI might streamline processes, but the core of the narrative and the heart of the story we are telling is filled with human intricacies and imperfections, it’s hard to see how AI can replace that,” says Fadan.