Thought Leaders Analyze AI at ETC Synthetic Media Summit

Entertainment and communications leaders explored the impact of artificial intelligence and anticipated the larger changes ahead at the inaugural Synthetic Media Summit, presented by the Entertainment Technology Center at USC in partnership with NAB Amplify, SMPTE and sponsor Wizeline, in conjunction with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Speakers addressed how new technology will make VFX cheaper and faster for studios, while for indies it will open new frontiers. Teaming AI with tools such as Unreal Engine is expected to level the playing field and launch a new era of virtual production.

While we are still very early in this evolution, M&E is already moving from generative AI to an era of significant change to traditional models. The possibilities — illustrated through clips and conversation during the daylong event — dazzled the audience at the Ray Stark Family Theatre at USC and those who attended virtually.

The Synthetic Media Summit took place following the March opening of the new USC Center for Generative AI and Society, which will explore the transformative impact of artificial intelligence on culture, education, media and the world.

During last week’s event, there was much curiosity about AI’s effect on the workforce. Presenters suggested that regardless of shifts in technologies and workflows, creativity is always going to remain important. Those who can identify the necessary tools and implement them effectively will be the ones who prove successful.

“Prompt engineer” is a new job title. Everyone should be personally experimenting with whatever AI they can get their hands on, and companies should not be fearful.

It was suggested that companies currently struggling with a transition to AI are those that chose to steer clear of early models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT or focus exclusively on their own solutions. It may prove beneficial to share these technologies with businesses and let them develop use cases. Building a large language model may not be as critical as identifying what to build on top of ones that already exist.

AI will make everything from storytelling to marketing more customized and personal. It could help agencies launch talent-friendly approaches for casting opportunities and provide studios with vital audience data regarding content response that could lead to a generative feedback loop.

Both excitement and concerns are emerging as the fervor for AI ramps up across industries and the potential opportunities seem to be moving faster than the business requirements for responsible management. Continuing to protect and efficiently monetize intellectual property will be of paramount concern to the studios. Therefore, it was suggested that guidelines will be very important.

Content companies are grappling with issues like tracing IP from ingestion to generation, and consideration of what data to feed into public models. The consensus is the genie is out of the bottle and the large language models from companies like OpenAI, Stability and Google DeepMind have already absorbed pretty much everything of any value on the Internet.

It was also noted that the European Union is expected to come down hard this year on that phenomenon of scraping. And if the courts decide that training on copyrighted material is illegal, then that could bring generative AI to a standstill.

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