Go on social media today and you see all manner of discussion about the state of artificial intelligence in today’s filmmaking, mostly with regards to the ethical questions of altering an actor’s performance without their consent. Now, in a world where we’re chronically wondering how soon before our robot overlords bring the world of “Terminator” to fruition, the next step becomes open collaboration between studios and AI companies.
Earlier on Tuesday, AI company Metaphysic announced a “strategic partnership” with entertainment and sports agency CAA as well as the provider of AI technology for the Miramax-produced feature “Here,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and “Yellowstone” star Kelly Reilly.
The one-two punch is interesting. An AI company teaming up with one of the biggest entertainment agencies as well as partnering on a major motion picture, and to talk to the company’s CEO, Tom Graham himself he focuses more on the ways this will benefit storytelling and filmmakers. With the budget for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” rumored to be $350 million to $400 million dollars, any opportunity to decrease the bottom line is beneficial.
According to Graham, the cost of creating with AI is between 20% and 50% of the cost of creating with traditional VFX, as well as open up opportunities that aren’t obtainable. “There will be a proliferation of content that comes out more democratized, cheaper, immersive, interesting, [and] great for the audience content,” Graham told TheWrap.
Graham certainly understands the skepticism towards AI. In the last week, Twitter users have criticized the use of NVIDIA’s eye contact AI as well as the other footage of already shot performances being altered with the technology. In the case of “Here,” the feature Metaphysic is collaborating on, the technology isn’t being utilized to replace the actors. “It’s tracking this space, this house, and this room over the course of human history, and part of that is this one family across generations,” Graham said.
For now, the big gamble is what a film with extensive of use of AI will look like. With the feature currently in production all Graham can say is, “Every technique is really pushing the cutting edge.” Zemeckis himself said in a prepared statement that a large emphasis of the tech’s uses will be in aging and de-aging the performers. “The film simply wouldn’t work without our actors seamlessly transforming into
younger versions of themselves,” Zemeckis said. “Having tested every flavor of face replacement and de-aging technology available today, Metaphysic are clearly the global leaders in feature-quality AI content and the perfect choice for this incredibly challenging, emotional film.”
While Graham is mum on details he maintains this will be a proving ground for AI usage in filmmaking. “‘Here’ will be the first example of a real extensive use of AI in a big, star-studded movie where the use of AI is not just window dressing [but] is essential to the storytelling,” he said.
But the CEO understands the reluctance from viewers, specifically the belief that tech like this could eventually replace actors entirely. “It’s a long, long time until human creativity or performance is replaced by any of these technologies,” he said. Right now AI is building off existing performances, as opposed to creating wholly new ones with AI actors. “AI can create the performance. It can take someone’s performance and put somebody else on top of it, but you still need those underlying actors,” he said.
There are many questions when it comes to the future of AI and entertainment. But to hear of this newfound collaboration, the door to integrating AI into modern-day storytelling is closer than we think.