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OpenAI’s Sora creates anxieties for Hollywood

Fears about artificial intelligence were among the major drivers of the actors’ and writers’ strikes last year. Both unions won concessions on AI from the studios in their new contracts, but the tech is quickly advancing. 

Enter Sora – OpenAI’s new text-to-video program. With a few word prompts, it can create one-minute videos showing full scenes, motions, and characters. After seeing Sora’s capabilities, filmmaker Tyler Perry canceled an $800 million studio expansion.

Sora is in its beta stages, and OpenAI has said it’s ensuring that no theft of intellectual property is happening, reports Ryan Faughnder, LA Times senior editor covering the entertainment business. 

So far, Sora can create simple scenes, and non-human renderings appear more realistic than human ones. “It looks pretty good. The human stuff is a little bit more iffy, as you would expect, but this is early days, and people recognize that this could set off a bomb.” 

Filmmaker Paul Trillo says he’s been tracking AI use in animation for years, and was floored by Sora. 

“It was a little unsettling. I have to say, even someone that is comfortable using some of these tools in my work, it had a quality that I think was edging out of the uncanny valley. And I think that’s what took everyone by surprise — that we were already here at the stage.”

What’s changed now, as Trillo understands it, is that Sora uses something called coherence to create images. That means generating the concept of the shot — first frame, middle frames, and last frame — all at once. Thus, faces don’t morph and the background is consistent. 

“It’s creating these spacetime objects so that these things exist in a four-dimensional space, and not just a two-dimensional space.” 

AI in Hollywood

During the 2023 Hollywood strikes, unions negotiated contracts with some consideration over AI use. Do those agreements square up with the technology currently rolling out? Faughnder says new technologies often outpace legal or legislative efforts drafted in response.

“You end up with legal frameworks that end up putting together the pieces after the fact. What happened last year was so interesting because all of this AI stuff really blew up as soon as the Writers Guild was getting into negotiations,” Faughnder says. “What seemed like a side issue at the beginning of the labor negotiations turned into this big thing that seemed like it was almost a centerpiece of the controversies.” 

Who would be affected by AI use? Not headline actors like Tom Cruise, Faughnder says, but below-the-line workers: “It’s the technicians and the people who are coloring artists. … Things that could potentially be automated by this technology, visual effects. That’s all stuff that studios really, really care about and spend a lot of money to produce and a lot of time, and anything that can make that process go faster, they’re going to have to take seriously because of the incentives in the marketplace.” 

As a filmmaker, Trillo says he’s used special effects for projects in the past. That includes a recent shoot at the Louvre, where he didn’t have the budget for a make-up artist.

“We didn’t have the time to be at the Louvre for four hours to do the aging makeup. So it was in that specific use case, it was an effect we wouldn’t have done had we not had access to AI. So the flip side, I think for independent filmmakers, is they can actually achieve effects and ideas and concepts that they wouldn’t have attempted before.” 

However, Trillo can see the realities where human workers, such as concept artists, lose work. 

“Why would you hire a concept artist? That actually can be an expensive price in a pre-production phase, when the director can just immediately start typing text and getting an image. As someone that uses the tool, I think it’s a sad loss. I love working with concept artists and storyboard artists because there’s a lot of human experience that goes into that conversation to reach an idea.” 

Originally Appeared Here

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