Adobe Premiere was released in 1991; iMovie, eight years later. Because they both existed as we grew up, digital technology has been central to our paths as artists and filmmakers. These tools feel as natural an extension of our creativity as pen and paper. But unlike their analog equivalents, digital technology improves with rapid consistency. Update after update, new products ship, and new features debut. These developments empower artists to push their chosen medium forward.
As Netflix, Disney and TikTok battle for attention, and creators try to monetize their digital work through new technology like NFTs and Creator Coins, it’s clear we are at the forefront of a paradigm shift. Now, digital tools will not just simplify and assist in the execution of creative work, but take over more and more of the creation itself. For example, editing software may go from a tool that allows us to perform edits to one that begins to suggest and perform editing tasks by itself.
We’ll be the first to admit that we’re overwhelmed by this rapidly approaching future, especially since it’s still blurry and uncertain. An incredible amount of content and tools are available out there, but none more interesting to us than artificial intelligence.
Creative AI Tools
Unlocking Creativity With AI
Through our series Calamity AI, we explore the current capabilities of artificial intelligence when applied to artistic pursuits. As we’ve used AI to create short films, songs and cocktails, two things have become clear:
- The technology can produce incredible, though inconsistent, writing.
- Making videos is still a lot of work.
Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator, has proposed that we’re approaching a point he calls Moore’s Law for Everything, in which the increasing power and prevalence of AI will lower the cost of all consumer goods and services, making them more accessible. We’re ready for this revolution to come to creative work. Although AI can cut hours out of the writing process for us, the rest of the production still takes immense time.
We have to direct the actors, pick the lighting and shots to use, record the sound, and edit everything together just to get to a final video. Then the menial work starts: thumbnail creation, posting, sharing and promotion. If we could offload some of this work to AI tools, especially the more tedious and less creative tasks, our output would increase dramatically in both quantity and (hopefully) quality.
Calamity AI has always been about pushing this tech to its limits. We’re curious what happens when AI does as much of the work as possible. Many of these tools would likely be used more sparingly on a big movie or even some other YouTube channel not focused on exploring the creative potential of AI. Their impact, however, would still be huge.
There are so many small tasks that must be completed well to bring together a successful YouTube video or blockbuster film. The combined hours that creative AI tools could save would free up artists to work with more focus on their key competencies.
Take music, for example. On a large film, the music that ends up in the final cut is the product of a music supervisor’s team working for weeks. On a short YouTube video, we often spend more than an hour searching for the right music and then editing and mixing it. This process can and will be automated through software soon enough and will save creators hours of time each year. In turn, this automation will drive down the cost per video, increasing the profits of creators both small and large.
A Smarter Process
As companies rush to build tools for the emerging creator economy, everyone is focused on the last stage of the process, specifically posting, sharing and distribution. Typically, this step is where direct monetization happens. Patreon and Substack control content delivery and, in turn, customer relationships, taking a cut of the profits for their efforts. Likewise, Dapper and Rarible can turn an artist’s work into unique, monetizable code through NFTs.
And VCs are rushing to dump money into these companies. Although they’re working on real and viable solutions that we think will help creators, we would love to see more work on and more attention given to the front end where the creative work happens. If companies can build and disseminate tools to help people create things faster and better, then we’ll all reap the rewards on the back end. Investment in these tools over the next decade will be an incredible opportunity for VCs to earn a great return, and help push creativity forward at the same time.
We suspect Netflix and other major players in streaming media are already working on these types of tools to help them make more content for less money as their subscriber numbers begin to plateau. The key, though, is that these tools shouldn’t be the exclusive plaything of a lucky few.
GPT-3 makes a good case study here. Since its launch, more than 300 companies are relying on — if not entirely built on top of — this technology. Although the software is relatively accessible today, it’s already clear we need a more decentralized alternative to this amazing technology. Otherwise we may end up with the digital equivalent of the Vantablack debacle, in which the artist Anish Kapoor was given exclusive use of a special, ultrablack paint. Rather than making this incredible technology available to all creatives, it’s now the province of just one person. GPT-3 is accessible now, but should its API be abruptly reined in, many businesses might shutter overnight and leave people looking for alternatives that don’t yet exist.
Any future creative tools will need to be open for creators to get the most out of them. Hate it or love it, TikTok is a great example of what might be possible. It has been instrumental these past couple years in ushering in a new era of filmmaking and giving a new group of creators access to a broad audience. One key to the app’s success is that it nailed the mobile video editor. TikTok offers a simple but feature-rich GUI that allows mobile users with no prior experience to easily make mini-masterpieces.
Artists today can and will increasingly fold these tools into their workflows, employing technology to create new and amazing things. Some of these tasks, from shot listing, editing, color correction, sound design and more, may eventually be offloaded entirely to AI. Our videos explore this idea to the extreme, trying to offload as much as possible. But most likely, just like with the proliferation of digital editing software, creators will use these tools to expand their visions and capabilities.
In the interest of art, kids today should grow up feeling like AI tools are a natural part of their creative process and use them to their advantage. Art is fueled by the latest technological advances, and artificial intelligence is the next step in advancing productivity.