Friday, February 16, 2024

Sora - as Producer, Director, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Casting Director, Costume designer and actors

Sora, from OpenAI, may go down in the history of movies or moving pictures, as a pivot point. It is significant as that filmed train thundering into La Ciotat, scaring the theatre audience or The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length talking film. 

I’ve been involved in making a feature film, way back in the 1990s, at Epic, we made ‘The Killer Tongue’. It was a schlock-horror where a woman killed men who had wronged her with her tongue. It was all very fraught…. And expensive and we lost an eye watering amount of money. Lesson learnt. One amusing moment was when Quentin Tarantino said we “Had the best film poster at Cannes”… we dropped the word ‘poster’ as you do… in Hollywood! Didn’t work – the film bombed.

Film making has just been turned on its head, no longer requiring huge investments in production. All the components seem to be heading towards very low cost – everything – sound, lighting, worlds, people, action. A bit like painting and photography, only faster.

Sora is just so powerful. Even on its first release the shorts were stunning, the movement, lighting and reflections. There’s a moment when what looks like a Japanese woman walks down a street and turns to camera and the whole scene is reflected in her glasses, where the movie camera should be, but it isn’t. there is no camera as it has been replaced by a text prompt. In another two pirate ships heave around in a black sea of coffee, prompted by the simple worlds “Photorealistic closeup video of two pirate ships battling each other as they sail inside a cup of coffee." No prompting course needed.

This puts movie making in the hands of creative people who can dispense with the very high production costs of a crew, set and, at some point, perhaps actors. It may even do a good job at editing. AI is already doing colour balancing volume setting across cuts and many other functions, it has just jumped into the Director’s seat, into a creative role. 

There will be those who will baulk at this, in the same way people baulked when photography challenged painting, printmaking challenged original works and CGI in film. But this is different, as it is not technology that is scaling or become a new medium, it is technology as a creative agent. This is technology, as Producer, Director, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Casting Director, Costume designer and actors. This is technology as movie-maker. It democratises movie-making. Some will recoil that, especially those who make money from scarcity, the Hollywood moguls and their crew. It will reshape film making, in what way no one can be entirely sure but things change, life changes, art changes. It is the very definition of art.

Ever since the concept of the ‘arts’ and the 'artist' arose in the Romantic movement in the late 18th century in Germany, seeped in German idealism, and the concept of the individual artist, imported by Coleridge and taken up with enthusiasm by everyone in the arts to this day, we have worshipped the artist as an individual. Well, here we are he/she has arrived- we now that very concept in film. The AI auteur has arrived.

Going back to that moment when the woman turns to camera and there is no reflected camera, the fact that film making is free from the physical constraints of the camera, sets and costs, we may see a Renaissance of film making. Free from the tyranny of actual optics and physics, anything is possible. On the other hand if you want realism, the actual realism of historical settings may be far easier, with more authentic props, clothes, items, weapons and so on, than was ever possible before.

If you want extinct animals, you can have them, thundering across a snow-covered landscape, without the cost of going there. CGI is now well and truly yours.

An animated character that is the product of your imagination, just tell it what you want in a prompt.

A fast moving car chase, from a helicopter or drone, with good lighting through a dirt landscape.

A busy street scene with a Chinese Dragon and large crowd moving towards you.

New Genres

We may see new genres emerge, certainly a widening of participation and what can be done in moving images, as anything is now possible. My own view is that this will combine with other forms of AI and the shift from 2D to 3D, to create film experiences where we participate, either as agents within the story or our avatars as participants in the story. Movies and games will combine to form a new medium.

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