Hollywood and artificial intelligence.

Generally combining these two things conjures up images of world domination. Computers becoming sentient and turning on their creators by blowing up the world or maybe by locking us outside a spaceship. We can all be thankful that these Hollywood depictions of AI have not become true. In reality, artificial intelligence is becoming very useful to a multitude of industries and Hollywood is no exception. AI can be used to aid people in analyzing levels of data and accomplishing tasks that would be impossible without it. It allows filmmakers to complete projects faster and expand the universe of the movies they create.

Script Creation and Editing

Kevin Macdonald, perhaps most known for directing The Last King of Scotland, recently directed a commercial for a Lexus sedan. What makes this commercial different? The commercial’s script was created by artificial intelligence. According to the LA Times, Lexus fed IBM’s tech platform Watson 15 years of award-winning car commercials, along with consumer insights. The computer then determined the formula for a successful car commercial. Limited dialogue with visually appealing scenes, including a shot of the car driving down the road with trees on one side and water on the other. The result is impressive.

Hollywood does not have computers writing all their scripts at the moment, but AI is certainly beginning to help. A Belgian company by the name of Scriptbook has an AI algorithm that analyzes screenplays to determine whether it is commercially viable. It states that it is up to 3 times better than a human in the same job. Scriptbook can also detect how diverse and inclusive a script is and predict its target audience. It isn’t perfect, so it won’t be replacing script supervisors anytime soon. However, the founder states that it can help back up and validate their decisions.

Effects and Editing

One look at this video showcasing Nvidia’s deep learning algorithm creating photo-realistic landscapes and you can see why some of the most exciting work with AI is in post-production. Artificial intelligence is leading to massive increases in productivity with special effect artists and animators.

In this Futurist article, Darren Hendler, the head of the Digital Domain’s Digital Humans Group, discusses how he used AI in Avengers: Infinity War to turn Josh Brolin into Thanos. After scanning the actor’s face they were able to map out each of Brolin’s expressions onto Thanos’ body almost instantaneously. An amazing feat, considering this process is usually something that would take weeks.

This is just the beginning. Kristen Stewart partnered with an Adobe Engineer to create and edit a short film that resembled an impressionist painting. Disney is using robots that can do stunts without having to worry about their multi-million dollar actors jumping from building to building. AI is then used to help overlay the actor’s body onto the robot.

These technologies are prohibitively expensive at the moment, reserved for Hollywood’s bigger budget features. Hendler believes over time they will become more “widespread.” If this technology gets less expensive over time (as technology usually does), then this AI has the potential to eventually make movies faster and for less money.

Moving Beyond the Screen 

If you ask people why they watch movies, most will say for the story. What does every good storyline need? Characters. Specifically, well-developed characters that help the viewer become immersed in their world.

A company called ROI Express is using AI to further immerse the viewer into the storyline. Based out of Los Angeles the company is planning to use chatbots that act as the characters from the movie. The chatbots take into account the specific profile of the viewer and incorporates them into the storyline. The viewer becomes a part of the story.

For example, the viewer could talk to Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War as if they were one of the Avengers. They could then discuss the plot to defeat Thanos with Iron Man or Thor. The technology is not exclusive to movies either. TV shows could also use it to further engage their audience. The company is currently working with TV and movie studios to incorporate this technology and a demo version of their product will soon be available to the general public.

Companies like ROI Express are paving the way for expanded storytelling possibilities through the use of artificial intelligence. With the technology becoming cheaper every day the number of people with access to it will increase. With these new abilities, moviemakers will be able to do more and tell unique stories that would not have been possible before. An ability that I think we can all agree will be good for both filmmakers and viewers alike.