We sat down with VFX Creator and Lightricks Ambassador, Brandon Baum, to hear a bit about his personal opinion on generative AI and how it will impact the future of video creation.
This interview has been edited for length.
Lightricks Team: So, Brandon, what was your relationship to AI, or the concept of AI, before this whole explosion over the last couple of months?
Brandon B: I've always been very intrigued and curious about AI and have been invested in the AI scene for the past year now. It's always something that's really fascinated me, especially being a curious person. For the past five, six years I’ve been obsessed with AI and the concept of artificial intelligence and I've always been excited to see how it was being integrated into technology.
Lightricks Team: Now how about the concept of text to image, how familiar were you with it?
Brandon B: I, personally, was aware of it before the recent buzz. I've been following the development of DALL-E for the past couple of years now. So, I've sort of seen this process through - from versions of it being absolutely terrible a couple of years ago, to where it is today.
Lightricks Team: On the idea of text to image, as an artist, do you consider AI to be art?
Brandon B: If you consider the person creating the prompts an artist, then yeah, I think that the AI generated output can be considered art. I know that Stable Diffusion is fighting a few lawsuits about this as we speak. I’m team AI and the chance that they could lose this civil suit destroys me. I think it would be a massive step backwards for the whole industry and it’d be a really negative thing, so I really hope it doesn't happen. But yeah, I'm very pro artists using AI as a symbiotic tool.
I don’t think AI on its own is better than what we can produce as artists. However, I don't think people on their own can produce the best possible result either. I think it's the people who are able to use the AI who are going to produce the best results and they're the ones that are going to win.
Lightricks Team: And as a creator, would you say you feel threatened or empowered by AI?
Brandon B: I feel empowered. I think everything that we have around us are tools at the end of the day. I think the reason we've been successful is because we're creatives and we know how to make good content. I think that's our definitive thing. No matter what's going on in the world and the more tools evolve and get better, the better we can make our videos. So I've never been scared of tools getting too good because it's only going to allow us to do bigger and better things as creators.
Lightricks Team: So, you feel like if text to video became a thing, it would be a no-brainer to be part of your creative process?
Brandon B: Absolutely! There are so many steps and milestones to meet before we get to text a video tool that could be implemented. I guess it’s like the grand final result. That's the endpoint for generative AI.
However, there are so many places along that timeline that I'd love to start seeing companies work on. For example, Topaz Labs are doing some really awesome stuff there. They've created an AI where you can load in your footage into the platform and their AI will essentially clean up the footage and make it look better. It understands what everything in your scene is and almost like reading, rematches and repaints certain scenes. The end result just gives everything a more beautiful look.
There's another company, whose name I’m forgetting, which is in the very early stages of loading footage and then separating all the layers in a scene. You just click a button and then suddenly you've got a person being separated from the background and you can click on every single image in the scene and have individual cutouts. That is going to be humongous in the visual effects world. That basically means that the effects companies are going to be able to smash through shots much faster.
But with that being said, I guess the ideal end result is text to video. Personally, I think we’ll need to work out how we can combine what we currently do with text to video. For example, if we shoot a scene of me doing something, we’d then be able to generate the whole background using an AI prompt.
Lightricks Team: How do you think your audience reacts or would react to you using AI in your creative process? Whether it’s in general as an added tool or a more integral part of the process.
Brandon B: As far as I'm aware, I don't think we've ever made that big of a deal about using AI. I think right now AI is just this cool mysterious thing. I don’t want to lean too heavily on the use of AI, or anything, for that fact. I want people to come to our videos for our awesome ideas, the cool ways we show things, and the different perspectives on things no one has seen before. We should be the reason you're coming to the content. We have the innovative ideas and we know how to show things in a cool light, even though we've got these incredible tools, like generative AI.
Lightricks Team: So, do you think AI art generation is a fad? Do you think it’s something that will be cool for a few months and then fade away or will it just become another part of everyday life?
Brandon B: I think that there will always remain a place for it, but I think the impressive nature of the results is a fad that is already at the end of its lifespan. I don't think people are getting that excited about text to image anymore, but I do think avatars are still doing very well. In the future, I think that instead of going on stock websites to find the photos for corporate brochures or TV adverts with generic stock videos, now you can generate specific content tailored to your needs. I think this is how we’ll continue to see AI in our day-to-day lives.
Lightricks Team: Could you tell me a few ways that you and your team are using AI to advance your process and some cool use cases that you guys are using?
Brandon B: Of course! So at the very top, I love using AI prompts to seed us with ideas for brainstorms. We’ve never taken an idea that an AI model has given us and replicated it exactly, but we have mixed and matched ideas from a few different prompts along with our team’s own ideas. So it's a great brainstorming technique just to get the ball rolling. In a way, it’s a bit like a random word generator but with the added benefit or being able to continue on a certain thread.
For example, I can tell ChatGPT that an idea is a bit too violent and ask it to tame it down for a PG audience. Then, suddenly, I’ve got an entirely fresh trail of ideas. Right now, this is sort of phase one of our process.
From there, it can be anything from gathering data that you want to find out for the videos to be accurate or perusing my ChatGPT threads for puns or even asking it to respond to an email for me!
Lightricks Team: That's very cool. Have you used the text to image in any videos or mostly to play around with?
Brandon B: We've done it with some Photoleap videos but outside of that we use them in pitch decks quite a lot. We also use generative AI to sort of flesh out our stories a bit more. We’ll create a rough storyboard and then load those images into an AI model and ask it to help us sketch the idea out a bit more.
On the video editing front, Premier, which is a software we use internally to edit, has just released an AI editing feature where it transcribes the entire video. It can see the parts of the video where there’s a mistake or someone misspoke, anything that wouldn't be a usable take, and it will automatically cut it out for you and try to create a useable edit.
Lightricks Team: Is there a worry for someone like you, Brandon, as a creator, that all this AI stuff might become regulated and the copyright issue will impact how you use the software?
Brandon B: Oh interesting… I don't know because in theory, regulations are supposed to be a good thing. They’re supposed to be a good thing that helps the ‘normal’ people out, but whenever I think of regulations, there’s always a negative connotation to it. To be completely honest, I don't actually know. All I know is I want the best result in the least, harmful way.
Lightricks Team: Now one last question. We talked a lot about how AI will help your industry, but how do you see AI technology help you, as a studio, develop moving forward?
Brandon B: I think AI is going to help us better our skills by constantly tring to one up what's going on around us. I think the really cool thing about being such a small studio at the moment is the fact that we're able to make big decisions quickly and jump on things before anyone else. So we can take these huge leaps and strides just because at the end of the day, we're the super passionate nerds, who just love creating cool stuff. So when these awesome new tools come out, it's not like, oh, you know, it's a Saturday or a Sunday and we’re not working, it let's learn this cool stuff because we're having fun doing it and we want to push our skills to be the best in the game.
Lightricks Team: Amazing. Brandon, once again thank you so much for your time. It was super awesome chatting with you!
Brandon B: The pleasure was all mine!