The Big Picture
- Artificial intelligence is portrayed as both a threat and a potential savior in The Creator, presenting a controversial topic in Hollywood.
- While AI has received criticism for its use in visual effects, it is seen as a valuable tool that enhances human creativity and productivity.
- The film’s VFX supervisor expresses that AI is not a replacement for human artists but rather a “bigger hammer” that helps them push the boundaries of their work.
The Creator sees humanity in crisis in the near future, around 40 years from now, as artificial intelligence has become sentient and threatens our way of life. A well-trodden path, but one that is presented beautifully and a big part of that is down to the effects created for the film, on a fairly limited budget for a film of this scale.
Collider’s editor-in-chief Steve Weintraub had the chance to sit down with the film’s VFX supervisors, Jay Cooper, Visual Effects Supervisor at ILM and Andrew Roberts, the Onset VFX Supervisor, to discuss a myriad of topics about the film, but most prescient was the subject of artificial intelligence, which is presented as the biggest threat to humanity in the film—or is it the savior of us?
Artificial intelligence is a controversial topic in Hollywood, being a key facet in both WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, but the genie is out of the bottle as the saying goes. As far as visual effects goes, Disney and Marvel received a lot of heat for their use of AI to help create the title sequence for Secret Invasion. However, as an augmenting tool, the benefits of AI in VFX are clear, as Cooper explains.
A Bigger Hammer
“I’ll say this very clearly: it’s not going anywhere. It’s definitely here to stay, and we are using it in our pipeline, or it’s leaking into our pipeline,” said Cooper. “It’s funny, it’s like the exosuit, right? It’s a way for us to be more impactful with human effort. So, it’s leaking into our layout world and pose estimation, for facial understanding, for image clean up, texture synthesis, and things of that nature, but it’s not going to be replacing humans.”
He continued, explaining that artists would always control what needed to be created. Describing AI as a “bigger hammer” which would be used to assist artists in “going further” with their work, Cooper noted that its effectiveness as a virtual assistant would ensure it didn’t go anywhere soon.
“At the core of what we do are great artists making good decisions and receiving feedback. I mean, I’m in this space pretty deep; there’s very, very little way to influence these AI tools after you get an initial representation of whatever we’re asking for. So the thing that we bring to the table is understanding what the ask is, interpreting it, and then evolving as we’re giving feedback. And right now, there are no tools that are like that. I don’t see those any time soon. So for us, to me, it feels like it’s a bigger hammer, you know, and it’s able to make us be more effective or punch harder or whatever, but I don’t see it as an existential threat.”
Cooper went on to elaborate, saying that it is “incredibly difficult” to make small tweaks with AI, saying “If you have a small request in the AI world, every single time you ask it, you’re starting from scratch, at least with the tools that I’m familiar with,” lending confidence to his assertion that the visual effects artist remains key to the VFX process, even with the growing presence of AI.
The Creator opens in theaters on September 29. Check out our review of the movie here.