Artificial Intelligence unwrapped: Transforming the cinema industry [Part Two]

May 10, 2023
The DX Team
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Phil Tippett, an Oscar and Emmy Award-winning visual effects creator best known for creating innovative stop-motion animation in the original Star Wars trilogy and the RoboCop series, was originally hired to create the dinosaur effects for the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park

However, visual effects artists at the famed production studio Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) developed new techniques to create dinosaurs with computer graphics. After viewing the stunning and groundbreaking ILM footage that would go on to change special effects forever, Tippett was famously reported as saying, “I think I’m extinct.”

- A concern that we've also explored in the first part of this series -

New Technology, New Opportunities

In reality, Tippett’s future was not bleak at all.

He has continued to create visual effects for films like DragonHeart (1996), Starship Troopers (1997), the Twilight films, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) and has served as a consultant on the Jurassic World films. The newly-developed technique of computer animation was thankfully not the end of his pioneering career. 

In addition, stop motion animation has continued to thrive, including critically-acclaimed and award-winning films like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Chicken Run (2000), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), Missing Link (2019), and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022), some of which also used computer graphics to assist – not replace – the animation.

With the recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT, many individuals in creative roles in the entertainment industry recently have started feeling as “extinct” as Tippett did after he viewed that Jurassic Park footage. While AI poses potentially significant ethical, social, and legal challenges in society (such as the controversy over deep fake videos), it also shows remarkable potential to be used as a creative resource to help in both filmmaking and marketing for cinemas.

How AI is Changing Filmmaking

AI has already been in use in filmmaking for quite some time, most notably in visual effects and animation to help facilitate often-painstaking asset creation and rendering processes.

But the potential of AI to break into other creative aspects of filmmaking is already here.

For example, a 2023 episode of the animated series South Park, titled “Deep Learning,” is about the young characters using ChatGPT to complete their homework assignments and write love notes to their girlfriends. The creators used ChatGPT to write the ending of the episode. The episode also used’s AI-powered text-to-voice generator to “voice” characters in the episode (notably, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have also launched their own AI-powered visual effects technology company, Deep Voodoo).

In a similar vein, actor James Earl Jones, who has voiced Star Wars villain Darth Vader since the original 1977 film, announced in 2022 that he was stepping back from the role after more than 40 years. His replacement? AI software developed by a Ukrainian company named Respeecher that uses Jones’ previous performances as Vader to replicate his voice. The technology was first used to provide Vader’s voice in the 2022 Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The use of AI in creative aspects of content creation has given rise to criticism. For example, it is conceivable that visual effects AI tools like Arraiy could eventually complete all the VFX for a project with virtually no human artists contributing.  

Creatives continue to weigh in on the implications of AI in filmmaking. In March 2023, the Guardian used ChatGPT to generate content and showed it to creatives in Hollywood for their opinion. “While it’s exciting, of course it’s disturbing,” said Ben Mankiewicz, a television presenter on Turner Classic Movies and grandson of Herman Mankiewicz, who co-wrote the 1941 classic Citizen Kane. “I find it very hard to believe that it’s ever going to get the humanity that makes a screenplay great. I have to believe that the things that my grandfather did that made his movies great, that Joe Mankiewicz did, that Dalton Trumbo did, that Scott Frank did, are impossible for the AI program to get right.” This is, probably, echoed by the recent developments in Hollywood, with the most intense writers' strike in recent history.

But, as our CEO, Martin Berg, once put it, dismissing the "new thing" is easy. Exploring it with curiosity is hard, but it gets you ahead.

So, with the proverbial grain of salt ahead, let's see what lies ahead for our community.

Using AI in Cinema Marketing

If AI and film production are making the headlines and keeping the debate going, what about cinema exhibition?

As a key segment of the entertainment industry, cinemas can also look to AI as a valuable tool for many functions, including customer-facing marketing — something that's key and eats up a lot of resources, as we all know.

Together with our clients, we've started testing how AI could be used in cinema marketing for better email promos for instance. Here's one example of asking ChatGPT to write a description of Avatar: The Way of Water that could be used in a cinema email newsletter:

Lillehammer Kino’s Cinema Director, Clarissa Bergh, also decided to integrate ChatGPT into her marketing process to test AI for email marketing. In her initial tests, she was amazed at how quickly ChatGPT could create content about an upcoming event for Fast X and can see how it could save her time while planning her marketing initiatives. Clarissa is looking forward to sharing more information with us as a case study while she continues learning best practices for marketing, enhanced by AI.

Email newsletters are a great start, but data about frequent moviegoers’ habits could be an invaluable resource.

A cinema marketing manager could create targeted messaging by choosing an audience segment, selecting movies to feature, using a chatbot to generate content, reviewing and editing the content to give it a personal touch, and sending it to hasten the process.

Or, much like how Amazon alerts customers to similar products that consumers might be interested in, cinema marketing managers could in the future use AI to personalize a moviegoer’s experience on the cinema website. The collected data could be used to determine what genre of movies that moviegoer likes to see and automatically display showtimes for those films to entice them to return.

In the end, it's not that different to Netflix’s recommendation engine. Powered by AI, it uses a subscriber’s past viewing history to deliver suggestions for what they might want to watch (including genres, actors, and more). Or how Spotify uses AI to create customer playlists for users based on their previous listening habits (yes, you really do listen to ABBA that much!).

These are just a couple of ways that cinema marketing could be more effective and easier to grasp for busy cinema operators.

How DX is Using AI

Thats' why, we're further exploring how we can make all this even easier for cinemas. We are already preparing to use AI in our Customer Success initiatives, and we will continue to iterate our product and increase efficiency for cinemas with machine learning technologies. 

To cite our CEO once more: My general thesis on how AI will impact our work: It’ll enable us to spend 80 percent of our time on the 20 percent where we’re uniquely capable of creating the most value.

In other words, we’ll use AI as a tool to enhance our ability to focus on what most needs our creative energies.

To that end, we'll be testing tools to enhance our own creative assets for our blog, newsletter, and LinkedIn posts and share best practices with our customers so they can learn from our approach to AI-assisted marketing.

(The visual for this article was created with DALL-E, for instance)

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