ANALYSIS - Human creativity versus Sora

By Ruby Derrick | 26 February 2024
Credit: Mohamed Nohassi via Unsplash.

OpenAI’s latest rollout of Sora, the text to video app, has left some creatives excited about the prospect of bringing visions to life that would have previously required significant teams and budgets.

Amid the fear of consequences and lasting impact this technology will have on the film industry, creatives are questioning if the era of mass-produced "creativity" has dawned.

A question lingers; can creatives truly be replaced? Maybe not, industry insiders say.

Sora is the latest artificial intelligence system to market; a video generator that converts text to video. 

The AI model can create videos by using either text instructions or text combined with an image, capable of producing a clip up to 60 seconds long. 

According to industry insiders, Sora operates by sampling videos in widescreen 1920x1080p format, vertical 1080x1920 format, and everything in between, allowing the model to generate content tailored to various devices and aspect ratios. 

This versatility facilitates rapid prototyping at lower resolutions before scaling up to full resolution. 

Notwithstanding the world of extraordinary pain that this may likely spell out for traditional film and animation production groups, it’s ridiculously exciting from the perspective of an idea-smith, says independent creative Adrian Elton.

It’s all a bit much. Perfectly lit, photorealistic video sequences that can unfurl over 60 seconds, all directed into filmic being without a lens cap ever being pulled off a camera? Sheesh!!!,” he told AdNews.

Elton has currently got a slate of music film clips and spec TVCs that he is cobbling away at because suddenly he can.

While the gold standard for text to video has been Runway ML (Gen 2), the 4 second sequence limit is just that, he says. A significant limitation. 

But Sora’s 60 second sequences are an extravagant shift, says Elton. Very few Hollywood grade films and TV shows would include single shot sequences that go for a minute. 

“There are certainly some iconic ‘long’ shots peppered across the history of film, but things are usually cut for pace and to create a visual momentum. So Sora generated sequences will be more than enough to work with, in almost every instance.”

He says the true challenge for tools like this is specificity and consistency; once people can ‘direct’ a cast of characters to ‘perform’ a script, and tweak those performances to a granular level, then the gauntlet will truly be thrown down, possibly never to be resurrected.

“But as the AI is fundamentally executional, it will still call upon those of us with creative discernment to develop materials which are fundamentally interesting,” says Elton.

“Understandably, a lot of the current attention is trading on the novelty of the medium as an end unto itself. In almost all but the rarest instances, audiences just want to be enjoy the figurative hot dog without contemplating how the sausage was made. Meaning the work will ultimately need to stand on its own merits.”

For Izzi McGrath, art director at whiteGREY, in this industry it's hard to find a tone of voice or brand guideline that doesn't emphasise the concept of 'humanity'.

The mantra seems to be: 'We're not just another brand, we're human, a brand infused with humanity’,” she says.

“Ironic considering tighter deadlines and budgets have increased reliance on AI-powered tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney and soon SORA. If the era of mass-produced 'creativity' has dawned, a question lingers - can we truly be replaced? Maybe not?” says McGrath.

Observing other creative fields, McGrath sees growing appreciation for human craftsmanship as a response to technological advancement. 

A shirt hand-stitched by a skilled artisan holds more allure than a mass-produced one. Similarly, a vase crafted by hand is esteemed over one churned out by a machine. And a home-cooked meal will forever outshine its packaged counterpart, she says.

“Could this be the trajectory of advertising creativity as well? SORA and other AI-powered tools are poised to revolutionise creativity, yet they may also evoke a longing for something more 'human'.”

Ignoring the minefield of copyright ethics, the cancel-culture brigade is ready to destroy anyone who uses AI in their creative endeavours, citing the potential disintegration of existing creative livelihoods, says Matt Batten, ECD at Five by Five Global.

He says every technological advancement ever invented has impacted entire industries. 

“The wheel put sled-makers out of work. The Iron Age killed bronze. Gutenberg decimated scribes. A designer worrying that their workload or role could be reduced by AI is probably using digital software tools that replaced the previous generations of finished artists, photographers, typesetters, and many more,” says Batten.

“While it is still in its infancy (and yet to be field-tested), Sora could foreseeably impact the filmmaking industry. But that same industry impacted the manufacturers and processors of filmstock when they started using digital equipment, not to mention the CGI that replaced propmakers and set builders, and any number of other technical advances that replaced existing and traditional practices.”

Batten says every creative industry has already been constantly evolving with advancements in technology. They should all now be looking to add AI to their toolkit to remain relevant, up-to-date and capable creators. 

“However, there’s still that prickly issue of copyright ethics. For now, brands and agencies are watching to see who is the first canary down the coal mine,” he says.

For Huei Yin Wong, senior art director at Clemenger BBDO, Sora reopens the familiar existential question: what does it mean to be human and creative?

"We’ll start to see doubling down on the anti-design, anti-polish trend. We’ll begin to embrace the chaos of humanity as AI generated videos get increasingly refined and polished. Will Smith parodying his gruesome spaghetti-eating, Modelscope-generated video, is a great example of this," she says.

When something like Sora is as common as Google, agencies will begin to emphasise their humanness as a differentiator. We might see human-only agencies pop up, says Yin Wong.

"We may see human verifications online—to replace the ‘blue tick’—differentiating those who were born and those who were coded."

Hopeful Monsters designer Leah Spadone, says AI cannot make up for a lack of imagination, or fill the gaps in a mental bank of creative resources that any creative should be cultivating before they even touch AI.

Sora, like any AI tool that came before it, will revolutionise the ease with which creatives execute concepts in the beginning stages of ideation and production, eg. wanting to see if an idea has visual legs (framing, compositing shots, camera movement) or pitching an idea to a client without having to spend time or money producing something perfect (sometimes one establishing shot can sell an idea), she says.

"However, I don’t believe it has the capability of replacing an entire production, because it will always lack the “authentic” touch that creatives bring through small moments of humanism (see Fleabag as an example– those small moments where a simple look to the camera told us everything that she felt without using words)," says Spadone.

At the end of the day, through creative people all want to feel connected and less alone, and this can only be accomplished through a reflection of the human experience, she says.

Sora will mean that creatives have another tool in their arsenal to nail concepts, Spadone says, but those concepts are grown organically, and that is where the industry should be pushing creatives to grow.

"So as I get down off my AI generated soapbox (it’s a pink army camo-designed milk crate actually), I suggest expanding your mindset before flexing your prompting to get Sora to do it for you."

Tom Maynard, director at Amplify, says the advancement of AI when it comes to content creation over the past few years has been incredible and no doubt will have far reaching consequences on the media and entertainment industry.

What exactly they are, he isn’t quite sure of yet.

“But unfortunately it will create more pressure and create a more aggressive race to the bottom for creative services like editing, motion design, vfx and production in general,” says Maynard.

He hopes to see incredible stories being dreamt up and produced all from the confines of a budding filmmakers bedroom. 

“For better or worse the advent of Sora will have significant and lasting effects on the production and entertainment industry,” he says.

Bob Connelly, director of generative AI + motion + design at Now We Collide, says if you've been in hibernation for the past 18 months, prompts are the innovative new way to create and design content.

“So we start with a stylish woman as she walks down a Tokyo street filled with warm glowing neon and animated city signage. Initiate the generation process... and voila, like magic, a new clip emerges. Have you caught sight of the video yet?” says Connelly.

“Or any of the other exports from OpenAI’s Sora. I'm a big fan of the dogs playing in the snow. And the close up of a model’s eye blinking towards the camera would easily slide into a commercial I'm directing currently.”

Sora marks OpenAI's latest foray onto an exploding GenAI industry and thus far stands as the most potent text-to-video AI engine Connelly has seen.

“Effortlessly outshining competitors like RunwayML and SVD (Stable Video Diffusion). While I've witnessed intriguing comparisons between Sora and SVD (1.1) - Stable diffusion being the primary tool in our pipeline here at Collide-AI (a dedicated AI team within Now We Collide) - it's evident that Sora is poised to revolutionise the workflows of artists, studios, directors, animators, and content creators, if not render how we work now obsolete altogether,” he says.

Elton says for those who have reservations about the Uncanny Valley-ness of it all, they just need to recall the stunning way that Pixar brought a rigid 3D model of a desk lamp to life all the way back in 1986. 

“Similarly, great and thoroughly satisfying stories will be told with this medium too. And hopefully a lot of the old guard will be part of it and will be able to incorporate emerging AI tools into their work flows in ways that the ‘newbs’ could only begin to /imagine,” he says.

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