Three people debate a tense love triangle in a futuristic office. Suddenly, a hole to outer space opens up in the floor. A man who has just spat up an eyeball steps through.
Sunspring, a science-fiction short based on this premise, could be an experimental film written and directed by a group of film-school students. Indeed, it was judged to have creative merit, placing in the top 10 of Sci-fi London’s 48-Hour Film Challenge, a contest in which participants create a film based on prompts over the course of two days.
There’s just one catch: Sunspring was written by a robot.
Over the next five to 10 years, AI will radically change the way we make, program and broadcast TV and film. It’s not just taking over practical or empirical tasks; creative work like screenwriting and film editing will be part of the AI future too.
For many professionals in film and television, this means major industrial disruption.
Already, the alarm bells are ringing. On Reddit, forums of assistant editors worry they will lose their jobs. At Screencraft, a screenwriting craft and business site, a scathing review of the writing in Sunspring reveals an underlying anxiety that human screenwriters will soon be obsolete.
As film editor and editing trainer Larry Jordan writes in his blog: “... new automated editing technology will put lots of us out of work. Probably lots and lots of us. And that’s scary.”
But if we look closer, we find that artificial intelligence in television and film production isn’t a threat to human creativity — it’s an exciting tool with the potential to push our audiovisual experiences to new heights. While the automation of some creative tasks will disrupt the job market, it will also present new artistic and business opportunities for those creative professionals willing to adapt.
Rather than replacing film editors, scriptwriters and other professionals, AI will most likely act as an assistant that suggests ideas and performs rote tasks, allowing creatives to get to the business of creating.
For instance, when 20th Century Fox hired IBM’s Watson to help with a trailer for the 2016 movie Morgan, it didn’t replace the human editor. Watson just selected the most appropriately dramatic scenes for a human editor to include, freeing that editor of the tedious task of sorting through hours of footage.
Bottom line, from the perspective of audience perspective and creator profit, artificial intelligence makes sense. Already, we’re seeing how AI can make more interactive viewing experiences, while helping creators personalize content.
AI also revolutionizes the content programming game. For 80+ years since the birth of television, programming has been less of a science and more of a guessing game, relying on focus groups to determine what content to put on the air and when.
It’s been proven time and again that focus groups don’t work well — telling NBC, for instance, that Seinfeld would be a flash in the pan. But we have yet to come up with anything different.
With AI, we can eliminate the guesswork and solve the scale issue. Why scale? Because programming a content lineup in the future is not a one-to-many problem. With dynamic scheduling APIs, a content channel can look different for each and every user, creating a multiplicity of personalized channels instead of one monolithic stream.
AI will help us to deliver those unique experiences to viewers, all while building brand loyalty and increasing viewing time to drive more revenue.
AI offers the potential to take much of the perspiration out of making TV and film, leaving creators more time to make more compelling shows, more exciting videos, and “stickier” advertising content.
And if the creative machine-human collaborations of Alexis Kirke or the odd enchantment of Sunspring are anything to judge by, AI promises to open up a world of creative possibility. All it takes is for industry professionals to let go of their fear.