February 19, 2024


Open AI announced Sora 4 days ago. It represents the biggest shift in visual AI progress so far, and was an inevitability. The question was always "when?"

I work in the visual creative industries, and I try to use creativity as much as I can in my working life. Based on my experiences in various positions throughout this industry, most people do not get to be creative. Most people are doing work that they find generally quite dull and seek out as much creative challenge as they can within the boundaries of their job description.

This jump forward represents a seismic shift in what it will take to produce a piece of visually appealing and engaging video. You'll very soon be able to animate, warp, or simply add frames to a still image. Even a storyboard using stick figures will be able to be turned into a fully rendered and animated animatic in any style you choose in a matter of seconds. This is something that would take a skilled professional (or team) days and thousands of pounds.

So this is will creep into storyboarding, stock imagery, documentary reconstruction, visual effects, animation and then into live action (filmed-in-person) films.

Only the most creative and adaptable will retain positions that look similar to the positions at the top of the profession that we see today. It may cause a bottom-up revolution, with smaller production companies suddenly able to produce fantastic, visually stunning masterpieces from their basement, or a small studio somewhere very obscure. And I expect that cities that currently retain all the weight in our industry (i.e. where the most professionals decide to base themselves) - New York, Los Angeles, London, and to some extent Vancouver, Toronto, Atlanta, and Budapest (cities where most English-language films are currently shot) - will probably be reduced in importance, something that's happening anyway as people decide that paying extortionate rent for a busy and stressful city life isn't worth it.

But I expect AI will already confirm what is already happening - tech giants like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple will utilise their greater technical capabilities and reach in order to maximise the effects of these technologies, reducing their budgets by paying fewer humans, and only retaining those especially visionary or creative folks to make the things that their audiences want (or at least what the algorithms say they want).

This is all unless regulation can come in to slow this down, or stop it, artificially protecting jobs. But we all know this can't happen without massive amounts of lobbying and a wide-ranging boycott of the platforms that will benefit most from it, which judging by what happened during the Writers and Actors Strike of 2023, probably won't happen.

What does that mean for us folks wanting to make something of a career in this business? I do feel like there'll be some quaint part of a future market for visual art that'll still want to view and appreciate creative and human-made productions. Much like organic supermarkets, or the Old Town of a metropolis. There'll also be a decent amount of nostalgia for old works, e.g. those films of the 60s, 70s, and 80s that still today feel miraculous that they somehow got made despite their imperfection and rebellious themes. But the industry as a viable, long term, and workman-like career as its currently seen for many hundreds of thousands worldwide, will cease to exist.

I'm curious, and a more than a little trepidatious, to find out more. Meanwhile, I'll start doubling down on a few skills I think can't be replaced in the near future, staring with friends' blocked sinks and clogged pipes - Robot plumbers won't be a tihng for at least another decade, right?

More Work
February 2, 2023

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