Does Sora Mean the End of Human Movies (Spoiler: No)

Sora, you may have heard, is OpenAI’s new text-to-video AI product. Based on a brief prompt, Sora can create up to a minute of vibrant video footage.

This has created alarm in the moviemaking community; Tyler Perry has shelved plans to build an $800M film studio till it all sorts out, which seems precipitous.

The Future of Movies

This will indeed change things, and, overall, not for the better. Fakery looks like fakery and will always look like fakery.

Car chases on the screen today are more elaborate than they were in the 1970s and 1980s, but when we watch them, we really do know somewhere in ours souls that they’re not really car chases.

Compare the spectacular car chase in Jackie Chan’s 1980s blockbuster Operation Condor to the purportedly spectacular car chases in Chan’s 2020 film Vanguard. The former involved actual cars, driving around. The latter did not.

No matter how jaded you get, there is something more thrilling about seeing something real on screen.

The aerial stunts in Top Gun in the 1980s were pretty similar to the aerial stunts in Wings, 1927’s World War I saga, because they were the same thing, real planes doing real stunts, filmed with real cameras.

The sequel to Top Gun was of course a different thing.

So just as CGI has killed hand-drawn animation and real-life stuntwork, one can expect that AI generated imagery will start to intrude on cinema in a variety of ways.

AI Collaboration

Anyone who has ever tried to create a piece of AI art knows that it just doesn’t come out the way you imagined, there is just no way to describe it in the right level of detail to see on the screen what you saw in your mind.

Our colleague, Alon Preiss, has made an effort to illustrate his own graphic novel with AI art, in the once-great Audere Magazine some years ago. “It just doesn’t work,” he tells us. “No consistency of style. I spent so much time trying to get the stuff to look right, to get the characters to look the same, adjusting their bodies and pasting their faces, and redoing the drawings to try to get them to look like the same artist did it. A real artist could have done the same work better and in half the time.”

Text to video will be the same way.

For example, one film shown on the Sora website was generated from this description: “A stylish woman walks down a Tokyo street filled with warm glowing neon and animated city signage. She wears a black leather jacket, a long red dress, and black boots, and carries a black purse. She wears sunglasses and red lipstick. She walks confidently and casually. The street is damp and reflective, creating a mirror effect of the colorful lights. Many pedestrians walk about.”

A video does indeed appear, it is indeed impressive. But is it what the creator of the “text prompt” wanted or imagined? Probably not exactly.

But Sora can help the moviemaking process. It can suggest ways to film a scene that a filmmaker has imagined only obscurely, sparking their imagination.

Novelists and screenwriters won’t publicly admit it, but we would be willing to bet that some of them are using generative AI this way, to help bump them past a bit of writer’s block. “Pamela and Thomas need an act 3 conflict now before the ultimate romcom reconciliation. Help!”

So Sora can help suggest ways of visualizing the moviemaker’s ideas.

Some actions will be Sora actions, which you will recognize. Every time Tom Cruise jumps on his motorcycle, something in your unconscious will know that it’s Sora, because you’ve seen that jump before, you recognize that motorcycle.

It can also be used to storyboard. Most likely, Sora will virtual sets. This kind of thing will almost certainly become a vital part of the filmmaking process. You will get tired of Sora backgrounds, those rainy Tokyo streets.

It will become so easy to create Sora sets that even low-budget filmmakers will start to rely on it. Put your two actors in front of a blue screen, film them with your iPhone, and let Sora put them in front of an Irish seashore, there’s no reason to film it in Ireland and to lug your equipment to the seashore. No reason to wait till the light is just so.

And humans will be able to restore all those old silent films that are missing a reel. You’ll see the six-hour version of Greed. The lost director’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. It will be almost real.

AI Movies

Movies generated entirely by AI is not going to happen today, or tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

Feed any idea into a movie generator, and the AI LLM model will write the screenplay and the AI text-to-video generator will create the movie.

It won’t be good! This will not replace humans in the moviemaking process. No one is asking ChatGPT to write them a short story, and there is a reason for that — robots write awful short stories.

But these AI generated movies will amuse you, at sort of a low level. They won’t be good enough to share with the public. The appeal will be that you can see whatever you want to see.

With one notable exception.

No Sex Please, We’re Sora

OK, take out your iPhone. Download an app called “Firefox.” Once it has downloaded it, open it up and type in any ridiculous sex thing you want to see, and hit enter. Your little iPhone screen will show it to you.

Now download an AI art app, and enter the same ridiculous sex thing that you want to see (or even type in “Michelangelo’s ‘David’”) and hit enter. Well, the reaction will not be the same, you will trigger the app’s “safety filter.”

One might argue that sex is ridiculous, that we all should be born in laboratories, find someone emotionally compatible and settle down to a lovely cup of tea and an evening of All Creatures Great and Small on the PBS app every night. Maybe we would all be happier. But that’s not the way human beings have developed, and it’s unclear why Apple’s App Store permits internet portals leading to all manner of debauchery but AI generators that think a glimpse of stocking is something shocking, that they would censor most of the art in the Louvre.

Sora, unfortunately, is headed in the same prudish direction.

“In addition to us developing new techniques to prepare for deployment,” OpenAI writes, “we’re leveraging the existing safety methods that we built for our products that use DALL·E 3, which are applicable to Sora as well. For example … our text classifier will check and reject text input prompts that are in violation of our usage policies, like those that request … sexual content[.]” 

This sounds great, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be safe? But deleting the single greatest dramatic motivator from AI movies is not a good idea; censorship really never is. Otherwise we’d all be watching Thomas Bowdler’s version of Shakespeare, rather than the sexy original.

More to come on this, much more.


Content by Oblivioni. Image by Oblivioni.

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