• AI by itself is not creative, but it is a useful assistant in creative processes
Are camera crews, scriptwriters, actors, costume designers and scene designers about to become irrelevant in the production of images and videos? That seems to be the case as production companies, graphic designers and advertisers adopt artificial intelligence (AI) tools to generate realistic-looking content.
Computer-generated images are not a new phenomenon, having been used in films as far back as the 1960s. Until recently, using computers to generate images and videos was a very expensive, time-consuming process involving a team of people.
AI has made it easy enough for a single person to produce an image in hours. In that sense, AI has helped media professionals do more work within a short time, but is the improved productivity coming at the expense of jobs?
Brian Leonard, a graphic designer with Lenny Arts in Nairobi, has embraced AI to test and tweak new ideas to produce unique artwork. He discovered that AI has powerful features he can harness.
"The introduction and integration of AI to my workflow has been a great thing! I'm able to put out so much more accurate, near-perfect work with the same energy as I would back before AI," Leonard says. "I'm able to come up with awesome scripts as if it's something I have done for a very long time."
TIME AND PATIENCE
Leonard warns that it takes time and patience to learn the basics of AI, but learning is limitless. The bottom line is not to be lazy with new technology.
"If I can learn, unlearn and relearn certain things effectively, there's so much I can do without limitation," Leonard says.
Job Ogweno, head of Noma Creatives, does not see AI as a threat to creatives because using AI demands "a great deal of creativity to get the best out of it".
"While I appreciate Generative AI as the next if not current frontier in the digital and design world at large, however hyper-realistic some generative images may be, I often feel they lack 'soul', which is a big deal for any authentic artist," Ogweno says.
He has tested AI in his professional capacity and finds it "incredible" for doing tasks such as copywriting, proofreading, research and summaries. Ogweno is yet to be wooed into using AI to create images, videos, voiceovers and narrations.
"I understand why visual creators or even corporations might attempt re-routing towards AI creations either to cost-cut or because it's quick and might not be copyright-bound, but in the end, for me, real images win any day in the arts and design world," Ogweno says.
Long associated with small businesses with tiny advertising budgets, AI is increasingly being used by mainstream organisations in their publicity campaigns. This is why fears of job losses are growing.
2023 saw a rapid increase in Kenyan companies using images produced with AI. The images have appeared in advertisements for mobile phone services, consumer products, postal services and educational institutions. The increased adoption of AI in corporate circles is exposing its weaknesses, though.
So far, the most baffling AI advertisement was done by the Postal Corporation of Kenya. The image showing employees in a call centre was meant to portray the Postal Corporation as a customer-oriented business, but AI "hallucinated" instead of producing the desired results.
Of the four call centre agents in the image, two of them had three hands each. Two of the four were clearly of European origin. The Postal Corporation of Kenya is not known to employ non-indigenous Kenyans. The image was removed following public ridicule, but the incident adequately illustrated the dangers of using AI in corporate communication. Graphic designer Brian Leonard says paying attention to details is necessary to avoid embarrassing pictures.
"I mean as a Kenyan, you're able to just look at a picture and note that this is not a Kenyan or African model. If your marketing person or creative is not able to note these mistakes before putting them out to the general public, it raises the question: what can we entrust you with? Are your services similar to what you put out?" Leonard says.
Elsewhere in the world, content creators are using AI to analyse massive amounts of data that would have taken humans years to process. A good example is the production in 2018 of an advertisement for the Lexus brand of luxury cars.
According to the Journal of Art, Design and Music, the producers of the Lexus advertisement worked with tech company IBM to examine 15 years' worth of video, text and audio from successful motor vehicle advertisements. Within a short time, AI discovered components that were present in award-winning advertisements. With those findings, AI helped create the script flow and outline for the new advertisement.
The ability of AI to quickly analyse massive amounts of data in a variety of formats helps content creators to better understand the preferences of targeted audiences. As Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo recently noted, content developers who use AI stand to remain viable in business.
"We are no longer in an era where families consumed content as a unit through common television screens. The younger generation is more concerned about personalised content, which they can select using mobile devices. This is an opportunity for content developers to ensure all their content is aggregated to suit personalised consumer trends," Omwoyo said at the Connected Summit 2023.
Based on the opinions of experts in the media industry, we should expect AI to play a greater role in the production of music, pictures, advertisements, films and television content. Anyone wishing to remain relevant in the film and advertising industry has no choice but to adopt AI in one form or another. AI by itself is not creative, but it is a useful assistant in creative processes.