"Including characters in an animated video help makes the subject relatable and enables you to tell a story"
Isobel Lester
Motion Graphics Designer

Animation has come a long way since the days of traditional hand-drawn techniques. The use of computers has changed the way animators and motion designers work. One of the newest technologies is artificial intelligence (AI) which has the potential to revolutionise the way animators and designers approach their work. The use of AI within the workforce has become a contentious topic over the last few years. It enables us to work faster and more efficiently, but many fear the possibility and ramifications of machines replacing people in the workplace.

As someone new to writing blog posts, I checked out other blogs for inspiration. I also wanted to see what an AI could create. The tool ChatGPT generates text based on a prompt to create anything from a piece of code, a formal letter, or a script for a film. When I asked it to generate a blog post, the response I received was remarkably human. I am sure that many companies already use this to create blog posts. However, the text was quite familiar to what I had already read, and it made me think about where the information came from originally.

AI, like ChatGPT, works by reading information from around the web, compiling it, and then generating its own version. The AI Midjourney can be used to generate images like a painting of Garfield in the style of Van Gogh or a photorealistic image of a beetle wearing a hat. In 2022 it garnered controversy after Jason M. Allen used it to win an art competition. Some consider it a form of plagiarism as the image created can look heavily inspired by one particular artist’s work. AI uses images from around the web as ‘inspiration’ and a user can request that the AI create the image in a certain artist’s style. Is it ethical to use AI to create an image in the style of an artist rather than paying them to make it?

Midjourney pompt: Garfield the cat painted in the style of Vincent Van Gogh
Midjourney prompt: a photorealistic image of a beetle wearing a cowboy hat

You could argue that designers work in a similar way. They use the brief from a client, view images around the web as inspiration and use their knowledge to generate a design. However, currently AI can only mimic other styles and combine them. The designer has the ability to expand on their inspiration and inject their own personality and experience to create something entirely new, meaningful and nuanced. Given that it can only copy and combine images, without human innovation, AI art would not progress. Even if AI had the ability to create something entirely new, would we still think it was as valuable as human-made art?

At VPI, our clients frequently ask us to make hybrid videos. These are a mix of live-action stock footage and animation. It stands to reason that within a few years, there will be services that will act much like a stock image website and allow users to create AI-generated photos and videos. This could be detrimental to those who sell images on stock websites. However, free stock image sites like Pexels and Unsplash already exist. More companies are focusing their efforts on working ethically like joining networks like B Corp and part of becoming a B Corp involves working with and supporting communities. One client we worked with stated in their brand guidelines that they avoid free sites and make a point to pay for stock images in order to support the artistic community. If AI technology has the potential to replace artists, copywriters and programmers, it could be considered unethical to use it in your business.

There are ways AI can be used to support artists without stealing their jobs. It can be used to enhance the final output in a way that might not be feasible with a limited budget, for example, it can be used to transcribe speech to make subtitles, remove imperfections from photographs and upscale low-resolution images. At Vox Pops International we use automation to quickly create multiple animations that visualise data determined by a spreadsheet, rather than manually adjusting the information saving us days of work. Check out our video explaining more about automated animations. I’m personally waiting on an AI that will let me add or remove words from a voice over while still sounding natural. By being able to quickly carry out highly technical and repetitive tasks they can free up time for creatives allowing them instead to focus on the more enjoyable parts of the creative process. 

How prevalent it becomes within creative spaces will largely depend on what the creators themselves want. If an artist uses AI to do all the creative thinking for them, then why become an artist at all? Personally, I don’t want an AI to do design or animation for me but I would like it to carry out repetitive tasks like processing audio. Much like how there are animators who prefer traditional frame-by-frame animation and animators who prefer After Effects and Cinema 4D, there will always be creatives that disapprove of AI and those who endorse it and people who use it here and there. We are at the dawn of a new technological era but how widespread AI becomes will largely depend on how the technology advances. Companies who see themselves as cutting edge may use AI while it is still a new technology but continuous innovation will rely on the minds of human artists and designers.

 

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