Ed Catmull from Pixar & Disney | #StefanVetterShow, Episode 3.

How will artificial intelligence influence filmmaking?

I had the privilege to ask this question to Ed Catmull, co-founder and president of Disney Pixar, at this year’s WORLDWEBFORUM in Zurich.

Ed built up Pixar alongside Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. Pixar was aquired in 2006 by Disney for $7.4 billion. Since then, Ed Catmull serves as president for both Pixar and Disney Animation.

Stefan Vetter:  I’ve read your book. It was very inspiring when you talked about creating a culture that fosters creativity. Pixar is at the intersection of technology and human creativity.
Do you see a chance that machine learning will complement the creativity part as well? Do you think that films will one day be written by software, by machines that are able to create stories to inspire people?

Ed Catmull: I actually think that it feels like some of the scripts are written by machines nowadays. Because they’re formulaic. The way to look at it is that the deep learning will have an impact on the industry. Not in the ways that people expect. So it’s an important technology. There’s no question about it. I can see a number of ways that it will impact.

I think the story telling part is probably not one of those in a meaningful way. That’s largely because the kinds of experience and emotions that we have as people are things which we try to put into these films.

If you analyse a 1,000 scripts then what you end up with is something derivative out of that world. That actually happens now. There are film writers who look at other films and they use the vocabulary of film making to tell their story. They’re not very original.

It’s when you try to make something new that it becomes original. That’s a very human part.

“Deep learning is undoubtedly going to be an important technology. It just isn’t what people think it’s going to be. I don’t know what it’s going to be.”

So deep learning is undoubtedly going to be an important technology. It just isn’t what people think it’s going to be. I don’t know what it’s going to be.

Which other ways do you see technology influencing film making?

One of the things that’s happening is that the barrier to entry is low. A lot of people can breach that. A lot of people are. There are a lot of very talented people now who have the access to make something who didn’t before; it was too hard.

In fact that’s already in place. The issue is there is no economic model. It still costs them money. The question is, how do they get out there and get noticed? So that’s a challenge –but no longer a technical challenge. They can do that already. It’s a business sense challenge, a livelihood challenge. It will take a while to figure this out.

Thank you very much.

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