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AI vs ART

5th August 2023

AI in the entertainment industry:

Why brand strategy is more important than ever

There’s no escaping artificial intelligence (AI) right now. Whether it’s facial recognition, your smart speaker or the latest Instagram filter, everyone is using AI – even without realising it. It’s in your social media feed, powering your digital payments, and even helping your phone or laptop to autocorrect.

Whilst some of it may seem like the stuff of science fiction, this is just the beginning. AI is no longer a technology of the future, so what can we expect, what does it all mean and should we be excited or concerned about its potential?

In this paper, we’ll take a look at the impact of AI on the entertainment industry, including what we’ve seen so far. We’ll then explore the potential, the implications, and how businesses and professionals can respond to industry change.

We’ll also discuss the importance of brand identity and how a solid foundation of brand strategy can help you to stay authentic, create cut-through and capitalise on the trend to avoid being left behind.

The growing power of AI

In a recent global artificial intelligence study, PwC estimated that the total economic impact of artificial intelligence will be $15.7 trillion in the period to 2030, making it “the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast changing economy”. And when we consider how many areas of our lives it’s already permeated, you can see why.

AI is essential in many of our day-to-day tasks, enabling automation, personalisation and even fraud detection. Most people are familiar with Virtual Assistants or Chatbots online, and are using apps to monitor traffic or weather conditions almost daily.

But AI and its machine learning (ML) subset are nothing new. The concept has been around since the early twentieth century, with science fiction depicting artificially-intelligent robots and dystopian futures, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in 1927 to franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek and The Matrix.

By the 1950s, the idea of artificial intelligence was cemented in the minds of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers the world over and, thanks to the development of computers and machine learning algorithms, AI flourished in the 60s and 70s. This continued into the 21st century, with more funding and computer storage bringing us to the age of “big data”.

The human capacity to collect data is now far outperformed by artificial intelligence, which can process huge amounts. Applying AI in this way has been successful in a number of industries including banking, marketing and social media, and of course, entertainment.

Current trends and popular tools

2022 was the year when AI became truly accessible, with the democratisation of Generative AI tools enabling the general public to use these algorithms to create pretty much anything, from the pope in a puffer jacket to Donald Trump’s arrest.

The big hitters in the space right now include OpenAI’s Generative AI model, ChatGPT, and image generators such as Midjourney. These algorithms take existing data and use them to create entirely new content.

Other examples include ‘deepfake’ technology, which uses AI to make it appear as though someone did or said something that they actually didn’t, by replacing the likeness of one person for another in audio or video.

Whilst there are legitimate concerns about the current trajectory of AI, it’s not showing any signs of slowing down, with the potential to improve efficiency, reduce the risk of human error and drive profitability.

From fiction to reality

Since artificial intelligence first graced our screens, television and film have continued to portray the future, with each reimagining of AI more elaborate and fantastical than the next. But now, the things we once imagined are becoming our reality.

In 2023, AI is having a huge impact on everything from imagery and video to set design and theatre robotics. It’s being used in sport to support officiating and by streaming platforms to recommend shows, films or music. It’s even written a play which premiered online in February 2021.

So, what does AI in the entertainment industry look like right now?

AI in the entertainment industry

Like many other sectors, AI has been making its mark in the entertainment space for a while, be it film, television, music, theatre or sport. The technology has already been applied in ways similar to other industries – such as content personalisation on streaming services like Netflix or Spotify – and it’s evolving all the time.

Both platforms use AI and machine learning to provide recommendations based on users’ preferences. Netflix even goes so far as to personalise thumbnails to entice users, by ranking hundreds of frames from movies and shows to decide which are most likely to encourage a click.

Spotify also took personalisation to a whole new level earlier this year, with the launch of its AI DJ feature. DJ is “a personalised AI guide that knows you and your music taste so well that it can choose what to play for you”, delivering a curated lineup alongside a hyper-realistic commentary.

Let’s take a look at how artificial intelligence is being used in other areas of the industry.

Film and television

We’ve already touched on film and TV’s long relationship with artificial intelligence, so what’s changed in the last near century? The short answer: a lot. In addition to personalised viewing recommendations and AI-powered distribution from streaming services, the technology is also being used in a myriad of other ways.

AI-powered platforms and machine learning algorithms are being trained and applied to casting, improving the accuracy and efficiency of decision making. They can also be used to enhance visual effects and even analyse
data of existing scripts to generate new, original stories.

It’s not uncommon for shows and films to be using machine learning or AI in some way or another, but its application in VFX is probably the most recognisable. Recent examples include Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian where actor Mark Hamill was de-aged to depict a younger version of his original Star Wars character, Luke Skywalker.

Another interesting development comes from Texas-based company StoryFit, who are leveraging AI technology to compile data on storytelling elements in scripts. The platform helps writers and studios understand and better connect with their audiences, providing insights on character relatability, plot inconsistencies or even which books should be adapted for film.

Perhaps one of the most incredible applications of AI in film is the use of Neural Radiance Fields or NeRFs. This new powerful and low-budget VFX tool can learn how light is reflected in a scene and produce a 3D model that looks like it was shot on the same set. Using just a few input images, AI can fill in any gaps not covered by the camera and estimate how that section might look, creating light and manipulating images in ways previously unimaginable.

Theatre

As a traditionally human-centric art, theatre is perhaps an unexpected place to find the presence of artificial intelligence. But it is seeing development of AI technologies, from lighting robotics to set design and even playwriting.

Examples include the use of tools such as Midjourney for theatrical design, to create set designs in collaboration with AI, and plays written entirely by AI such as THEaiTRE: When a Robot Writes a Play or the Young Vic’s production of AI which featured the GPT-3 system on stage.

Theatre and the metaverse

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the world of live theatre into the virtual and digital space, with creators streaming live or pre-recorded performances to audiences at home. It also saw live theatre enter the metaverse, where AI has been integral to development.

Virtual reality and online spaces allow theatre to maintain its live identity, whilst providing new and more interactive ways for audiences to experience the narrative. One example is YouTuber Rustic Mascara’s appropriation of the video game space for live performance back in July 2022.

In an attempt to fill the live-theatre void during the pandemic, actor Sam Crane live streamed the first ever full production of Hamlet inside the online world of Grand Theft Auto. You can learn more about this and the future of theatre in the metaverse in ‘The Future of Theatre’ Conference from The Stage.

Sport

Emerging technologies such as AI, big data, and IoT (Internet of Things) are becoming essential components of sport in recent years – and there are already a plethora of applications. One of the most prolific is the introduction of technologies such as VAR (video assistant referee), goal line technology and Hawkeye, designed to help support officiating and decision-making.

Other examples include the use of computer vision for tracking and analysing human motion. Machine learning algorithms can use data to evaluate skills and player potential, ranking them to help with scouting or recruitment.

AI can also be used to predict results or ball possession, and provide game analysis, spotting trends, tactics and flaws.

Music

The music industry has already had its fair share of run-ins with AI, with mixed responses. We’ve highlighted the use of AI in streaming to personalise listening and improve user experience, but what about AI-generated music?

2023 has already seen AI make headlines in the music world, including a music generator that can turn any subject into a Drake-inspired record, or a new Oasis album that imagines how the band might have sounded if they’d stayed together.

But this new era of music making is not without controversy. When French DJ David Guetta used AI technology to add Eminem’s ‘voice’ to one of his songs, it sparked a debate about copyright and creators’ rights. Calls to ensure that artificial intelligence is used to support culture and artistry rather than replace it have been heard across the industry, something we’ll explore in the next section.

It’s clear that the industry is taking note and exploiting AI technology where the opportunity presents itself. But what’s the impact so far, is everyone excited about the potential of AI or are there concerns about its future?

The impact of AI on entertainment

The evolution and increasing popularity of artificial intelligence is controversial across all industries, with many recognising its benefits and potential, whilst simultaneously raising concerns about risk.

In April 2023, Avengers’ Director Joe Russo predicted that AI could be making movies within two years. This, coupled with reports that the first AI-generated feature film will begin production in May 2023 is enough to send filmmakers into a flat spin – our worst fears about robots taking over could be realised in an imminent dystopian reality.

The benefits

For the film industry, one of the biggest advantages of using AI is its ability to save time and resources. It’s also being used to improve accuracy and efficiency, analysing huge amounts of data – such as actors’ past performances or social media activity – to predict who is likely to be successful in a particular role.

This data analysis can also be used to analyse scripts and create new, original stories, saving time for screenwriters and providing opportunities for creativity and storytelling. AI can also save time and money on VFX, making it easier and faster to add visual effects, using NeRF and other technologies.

Theatre has already reaped some of the benefits of artificial intelligence in its ability to connect with larger audiences onlines. But there are also positives to be drawn from the use of AI in other areas.

Set designers Jason Jamerson and Michael Schweikardt discussed how tools such as Midjourney can be used to improve the design process, arguing that if used in the right way, it might help the process of materialising an idea for production. They explain that they don’t want AI to design the set, but it can give them new, interesting concept overlays whilst allowing them to remain the designers.

In sport, as well as helping to improve the accuracy of officiating – making sports fairer and less subjective – AI can also produce personalised training or nutrition plans for professional athletes. Thanks to the development of wearable technology which provides information about the wear and tear on an athlete’s body, AI can even help improve health and fitness or prevent injury.

Computer analysis is also used to influence line-up decisions before and during games. By comprehending metrics such as motion, speed, serve placement, and even player posture, AI helps managers and coaches make better decisions for their players and teams.

But having already seen how AI can be leveraged to support and improve traditionally-human tasks, what other positives might come from implementing this technology across the industry?

The risks

Despite these wide-ranging positive impacts, there are understandably concerns about the risks associated with the increased use of artificial intelligence. The most obvious is of course, the potential for AI to replace human jobs.

As algorithms and AI tools become increasingly advanced, there is a risk that they could replace some roles that humans would have historically carried out. Ultimately, this could lead to job losses in the industry along with a fall in creativity, uniqueness and emotional depth that only humans can provide.

The Guardian reported earlier this year that creatives across the industry are taking action against AI, in a bid to protect their jobs and original work from automation. Photographers and designers are among the first to face a “genuine threat”, and Hollywood filmmakers are worried that advances in the technology will mean fewer jobs across the industry and pose “a real threat to writers down the road”.

Another challenge to AI technology came in the wake of deep-fake technology being used for so-called ‘revenge porn’, with devastating consequences. Understandably, this led to wide-spread criticism and calls for further regulation in future developments.

There are calls for more regulation in other areas too. Apple’s development of synthetic voices for audiobooks has caused controversy and concern among the voice actor community. Some are worried about damage to the livelihoods of lesser-known actors and have pushed for the technology to advance more ethically.

Thoughts from the industry

So, will we see homogenisation or a decline in the quality of entertainment or art? Author and screenwriter Marthese Fenech thinks the technology needs regulation and a cautious approach. She explains, “I do very much understand and empathise with the concerns of my fellow creatives and artists. I still harbour some reservations about the technology; none of us wants to be replaced by a machine, something without a soul or the ability to emote.

“Admittedly, I am often reluctant to adopt burgeoning technology – it took me years to transition from an analog camera to a digital one. As an author, screenwriter, editor, and teacher, I’ve met the growing pervasiveness of AI with resistance and hesitation.”

However, having seen some of Mark’s work, Marthese has shifted her perspective: “Mark’s ability to completely transform a project from something passable to something transcendent has altered my perspective. To see something that has lived in my imagination for two decades come to life so vividly defies description.”

Don’t just compete – capitalise

There’s no denying the huge potential of artificial intelligence. Now, the entertainment industry has the chance to capitalise on the trend and do incredible things.

It’s time to start viewing AI as an opportunity, rather than a threat. So, how can creatives not only stay competitive but make the most of new technologies?

BIFA founders Raindance, explain that “by highlighting the value of human creativity, filmmakers can differentiate themselves from AI and justify their continued employment”. They also stress the importance of staying “competitive by continuous learning and adapting to new technologies”.

The combination of both AI and human ability has huge potential. By collaborating with AI experts or learning how to use the tools effectively, creatives can learn new skills and stay ahead of the curve. This is something Mark is very interested in, with plans to help businesses and brands use AI to their advantage.

Whilst AI is great at solving problems or processing large amounts of data, there are nuances and concepts that only humans can offer. Some tasks are difficult or even impossible for AI to complete, such as those requiring empathy, social skills or physical dexterity.

So how best to maintain humanity and protect originality? One way is to have a strong foundation – to know who you are and what you stand for. In other words, a brand strategy that really stands up.

The importance of brand strategy

As the entertainment industry becomes more saturated and AI tools are used to create content or marketing materials, it’s more important than ever to maintain originality and authenticity that can’t be replicated by machine learning. If you want to create cut-through in a competitive space, having a strong brand personality and a plan for how you’ll deliver your key messages are both vital.

Whatever your role and niche within the industry, every brand or business needs a unique and authentic voice, even if what you’re saying or selling is the same or similar to your competitors. As AI technology continues to develop, creating human connections with messages that really resonate will help give you the edge.

There are ample opportunities to use AI tools to help you learn more about your audience or find new ways to connect with them. But at some point, you’re going to need that human touch to make whatever you create uniquely yours.

The future of AI in the entertainment industry

When it comes to creativity, there’s always a need to protect what is sacred. But if leveraged in the right way, artificial intelligence could be – and indeed already is – hugely exciting and potentially beneficial for the entertainment industry and business owners that don’t have blockbuster budgets but need to reach their ideal clients.

By having a clear brand identity and a strategy to help you bring your message to your audience, you can remain authentic, stay relevant and make the most of any opportunities AI might throw your way.

I believe in bringing the joy of entertainment to as many people as possible and helping business’s both large and small achieve their dreams. With over 20 years’ experience in the creative space and a finger on the pulse of the latest technologies, I’m here to help.

 

Mark Horton

Brand Strategist / Creative Human  / Intrigued by all the latest Technological Toys.

(Note this article was researched and written by humans!)

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About MARK

Helping people use Brand Strategy, Design and the latest technology to reach their ideal customers.

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