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Trending Tech: Our Top 5 Innovations Changing the Film Industry
21st February 2019 By Scott Horsfield
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At Media Zoo, we are big fans of innovation and tech. As the #NoOrdinaryAgency agency, we love doing things a bit differently, and we’re always on the lookout for new ways to hone our craft.

So far in 2019, we’ve been lucky enough to do a number of innovation and tech-focused projects. From filming the Zurich Innovation World Championships to projects on smart homes, we’ve had no end of inspiration. 

Which is why – after a think, some research, a chat over lunch that ended up on more than a few tangents, and some more research – we’ve put together our top 5 future technologies that are changing, and will change, the face of the film and creative industries forever. We hope you enjoy them!


One.
Algorithmic Editing.

Researchers working on a joint project between Stanford University and Adobe, recently created software that can edit video without the need for a person.

It can follow a script, sort through multiple takes, and apply lessons learned from film editing textbooks to create nuanced and well-edited, dialogue-driven scenes. It even boasts a feature allowing the software to apply concepts such as ‘start wide,’ ‘peaks and valleys,’ and ‘jump cuts.’

Although the technology is currently unable to go beyond dialogue – due to the complex nuances in human body language and how these would relate to a script – the software could be a powerful tool in the hands of editors; streamlining their workflows by cutting out some of the more administrative tasks and allowing them to focus on creativity.

Certainly this technology won’t replace editors just yet. The level of emotion a good editor can add to a scene often relies on an almost second-nature understanding of complex human responses and storytelling; something the machines can’t do – for now.


Two.
Drones

We all know that many filmmakers and an increasing number of productions are employing drones to capture stunning aerial footage. From Planet Earth to Game of Thrones and blockbusters like the Avengers and Skyfall, some of our favourite scenes are being shot using UAVs.

Drones aren’t new; they’ve actually been around in film since as early as the late 80’s. However, a new innovation is taking their capabilities to the next level. 

Developers from MIT are currently working on drones that can avoid obstacles, stay focused on actors, and could even eventually be programmed with filmmaking techniques such as camera angles, shot sizes, framing, and many other aspects of photography. 

They would be the ‘drone cinematographers of the future.’

Future film crews might command entire armies of drones, capturing complex sequences that have previously required large crews and any number of dollies, jibs and rigs. Or they might simply input their desired shots and let their drones fly.


Three.
AI Face Generation

Not long ago, a group of researchers at Nvidia created a neural network algorithm that can generate a completely new, highly realistic face from scratch.

The technology is based on a state of the art Nvidia-designed AI known as StyleGAN – a neural network that can separate aspects of an image to learn and generate new images. 

So far, this technology has been applied to anime characters, old works of art and cats. You can even visit this website to see a new randomly generated face each time. Creepy.

The difference between this new style and the CGI we’re all used to, is just how real it is. It’s not generated by a computer after all – the image is generated by real life; the computer composes it. 

And similar technology is already being applied in video – for example Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing’s reappearances in Star Wars: Rogue One. 

Conceivably, then, entire characters could be realistically generated by similar software. We could see completely fabricated actors and actresses starring in the blockbusters of tomorrow.
And stars could be routinely brought back to life. Imagine James Dean as the next Bond; or Marilyn Monroe starring in Avengers 15! 


Four.
Virtual Reality

Many of us will already be familiar with VR. It’s a technology that feels constantly just over the horizon. So clear is our vision of why we want it and what it will be used for, that we half expect to wake up tomorrow in a VR world.

Why are we so sure of it? Well, if there’s one thing most of us can agree on about film and many other types of digital media, it’s that we would love to dive further into their worlds and stories. Why else would the resolution and size of screens be constantly expanding? And with companies like Facebook, Huawei, Sony, LG, etc. spending a lot to develop and explore VR, it seems almost inevitable that the day when we can, will come.

And new developments are bringing it ever closer.

The new Oculus Rift V2 will most likely be completely wireless, for example; enabling us to just pick up and watch, without having to set up and calibrate a range of devices. It’s also now possible to buy a 360 camera for as little as £100, while at the other end, it’s possible to shoot in 4K 3D – although this requires a significantly larger investment!

As important as these developments are, however, a standout app or game or film is usually required to lead most new tech to the mass markets. For 3D feature film, for example, it was Avatar. For the new Nintendo Switch, it’s the new Mario and Zelda games.

On the content side, then, we are seeing movements in the right direction. VR videos are becoming increasingly popular and available on YouTube. On the more experiential side, you can ride any number of rollercoasters, travel up to the end of the Ozone layer in a balloon or even fall into a black hole, while a number of exciting VR projects are showing at this year’s Sundance. Alejandro Iñárritu’s (Director: Birdman, The Revenant) VR short ‘Carne y Arena’, even won a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars last year.

360 is also being adopted more frequently by big brands; Volvo, Samsung, Oreo and TopShop are just some of those using it to boost their brand experience in 2019.

The only area, that seems to be behind in VR is the feature film. Although, directors such as Ridley Scott and Robert Rodriguez have had a stab at creating VR films, the reviews have been poor and the ideas lacking. For VR film, then, the eureka moment is yet to come. 

Five.
AI Scripts.

This one is probably the most out there on the list. Partly because each film is so nuanced, each script so different and specific to its own context, it’s quite hard to imagine a generic way to produce them.

This hasn’t stopped some people trying though. An increasing number of scripts being written by AI software and, while most sounds like gibberish, it’s an interesting experiment.

If go to the messenger in WhatsApp, you’ll see a bar above the box you type in that suggests words. The AI software used to write scripts is, in many ways, similar to that. It uses patterns in the data fed into it, to learn and make a guess at what will come next.

This tends to create scripts that meander along in a dreamlike way, because the computer frequently forgets the point of what it’s doing. Although sentences may make sense at an individual level, the machines cannot currently cope with creating a fully logical plot.

However, they can grasp genre conventions and languages. Elon-Musk backed company OpenAI has reportedly created software that has started to write convincing news fiction. After analysing 40GB of data around news writing, the GPT-2 software was fed an opening paragraph concerning the discovery of unicorns in the Andes mountains. The software was able to write the following three paragraphs of the story; following the clear narratives set out in the opening paragraph while introducing further elements that sat logically with what it already knew. 

It’s perhaps not inconceivable then, that, in the future, scripts for certain segments of film could be generated by similar software to the GPT-2. 

In the meantime though, we recommend watching this hilarious attempt to create a Sci-Fi short using the text-prediction technology in your WhatsApp. Enjoy!

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