This year marks my twentieth year in the creative industry. A jubilee that I get to celebrate while being on the brink of a creative revolution - one like I’ve never experienced before in my career: the start of AI being a part of our creative process. Or as some see it: the intrusion of it, maybe even the beginning of a complete take-over. And yes, I’m talking about tools such as Midjourney or DALL-E, that can generate fascinating imagery in the blink of an eye. Our sector is being divided by this matter: are these kinds of tools a curse, or a blessing?
Personally, I see these kinds of new technologies as an opportunity that we should embrace and explore. All art forms and creative expressions have always been a conversation between the creator and the audience. With the breakthrough of generative art tools powered by artificial intelligence, machines are now entering into this dialogue. But, there’s always new software being developed and released, and often met with resistance. Raising the age old concern: are we going to leave this to computers? Just think of Photoshop - while now being well established, even becoming a verb, its release raised the same questions at first.
While it might seem these AI art tools are breaking through at a rapid pace, the teams behind them have been working on them for years, and even decades. Machine learning has been deployed by many creative tools such as Unreal Engine, and Adobe's Creative Cloud to integrate advanced intelligence in their experiences. But for the first time creatives have access to powerful tools with AI at the very core of their functionality. And they are mighty impressive - I've never seen anything like it, and especially not at the fast rate it’s being adapted.
"A lot of questions arise on how the value of human invention and creation should be balanced against AI innovation and creation."
But we shouldn’t be afraid of these kinds of tools. They're not so much an adversary, as they are an extension of any creative team. AI will not replace the value of direct human creation. But we'll have to redefine the concept of co-creation and rethink how the collaboration between man and machine will affect IP and copyrights. A lot of questions arise on how the value of human invention and creation should be balanced against AI innovation and creation. The advent of AI will definitely require changes to the existing IP frameworks.
How we use AI at StoryMe
For now, let’s focus on the possibilities AI tools offer to open our imaginations, give us unique stimuli and let us explore new things. I see a lot of practical applications to visualize ideas much faster, saving the creative tons of time.
In our creative team, we have spent countless hours on concept art, trying to show potential clients our ideas. Now, we have the opportunity to create those in minutes. We can explore different concepts and visual styles, making that part of our creative process much shorter. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney are therefore, in my opinion, ideal for experimenting with new visual styles, creating mood boards or using the results as concept art in pitches.
The past few months, our art directors and motion designers have started experimenting with Midjourney. Next to that, we’re also exploring the new possibilities of AI software in other departments. Our sound designers, for example, are currently testing Play.ht, a tool that can generate AI voices. Although these kinds of tools aren’t yet as advanced as Midjourney and DALL-E, they’re still pretty impressive. While we won’t be replacing our voice actors soon, we already made AI voices dialogue with existing voices. Can you guess which one is the real voice and which one computer generated in the video below?
AI audio tools already save us a lot of time. The voices Play.ht generates today, still sound too emotionless and ‘unreal’ to use in the final audiomix of most videos. But, they’re great if we need a temporary track for an animation, or to pitch a concept to a client. Our sound designers no longer have to read in that track themselves - which is a real timesaver.
It's far from perfect
You may have noticed by now I’m pretty excited about all these new opportunities! But, all tools still have shortcomings and can’t be used in any end video. They still have some errors in the things they generate. That’s why, at StoryMe, we use it mainly in the preproduction phase as a research method to explore new concepts and to add new variables to our creative process - at least for now.
I have no doubt that, in time, all sorts of future creation tools and techniques will benefit from AI. And I won’t hesitate to use them all the way. Who knows, we might even be able to generate complete videos with the help of AI. In the production of animation videos, AI and Machine Learning already have proven to be helpful to take care of labor-intensive work. These tools save a lot of time for animators, helping them to automate and speed up the production process, so they can focus on creating and animating instead. If you want to be updated on how science can help humans to create extraordinary things, the YouTube series Two Minute Papers is a must watch.
"AI will get a more prominent place in our creative processes as time progresses."
At StoryMe, we like to stay on top of these things. You know what they say: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer 😉 All jokes aside, I’m confident that AI will get a more prominent place in our creative processes as time progresses. But they’re not a threat - or at least, not in the immediate future. AI is woven into many aspects of our lives already - algorithms have long determined which series we get to watch on Netflix or which posts we see on Instagram. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. But AI being a (co-)creator of art, something we long thought only humans could do - we must acknowledge that it’s a historic milestone.
It's said that creativity is simply connecting things in new ways. This is perhaps the simplest explanation of what it means to have an idea. In my opinion creativity is combining inputs you've been exposed to, in order to create something new. I am therefore sure in our creative teams the human craft and talent will never be replaced by these new technologies. Instead, I am looking forward seeing how the evolution of those tools will complement and amplify the human creative potential in new ways. And if we combine our human advantages with those of AI, we’ll be able to create even better art - and videos, for that matter 😉 Can’t wait what the next two decades in the creative industry will bring.
PS You might be wondering what the header image is about. Well, it's one of our experiments with Midjourney - a personalised AI penguin portrait we gifted to the StoryMe team. In this LinkedIn post, I explain the whole story.