The advent of artificial intelligence promises to change nearly every aspect of human existence, so it makes sense that we will begin with our movie-going experience. We joke, of course. Artificial intelligence has already been here for some time and is constantly growing and changing in unexpected (but often regrettably racist) ways, so it’s not like filmmaking was first on the docket for this sea change in technology. However, people are beginning to experiment with just how they can use this new aspect of computer technology to create art and a German entrepreneur thinks he has found at least one way.
According to The Byte, German tech entrepreneur Fabian Stelzer is working to create an (almost) entirely artificial intelligence-made movie titled Salt. By using freely available online image-generating software like Midjourney, DALL-E 2, and Stable Diffusion and voice-generators like Murf, Stelzer is building a science fiction movie in serial installments. Basically, Stelzer gives text prompts to these artificial intelligence programs, they build images and voices, and those are edited together to create a narrative. Stelzer views it as a “community choice” driven story, in which the suggestions of viewers are used to build the next step of the plot. In a sense, it is similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure story, except that rather than human ghostwriters under the employ of Bantam Books, artificial intelligence is creating imagery that feeds to human imagination, which loops it back to the machines for the next step. Neat, right? You can actually see part of what is being developed here:
— SALT (@SALT_VERSE) June 14, 2022
Salt appears to take its visual cues from lo-fi science fiction films of the 1970s like Silent Running and Dark Star. In particular, it has some real vibes of the original Ridley Scott Alien. From what can be seen from the artificial intelligence-generated footage, Salt appears to be centered on a group of space explorers (possibly some kind of miners or industrial workers, as in Alien) discovers a planet with overwhelming lodes of salt. There are flashes of ships floating in orbit, dark caverns full of mineral deposits, and some real spooky stuff. All of the voices (except Fabian Stelzer’s) are artificial intelligence-derived, which makes all of this a fascinating look.
As of right now, the artificial intelligence tools being used to make Salt can only work in still images, so it is not exactly a “motion picture.” However, there is certainly a history of science fiction films that take advantage of the still image (just ask 12 Monkeys), so that does not necessarily detract from what is being done here.
Given that Fabian Stelzer is described as an entrepreneur, it should be no surprise that he describes the project in overwhelmingly hyperbolic terms. Speaking to PCMag, Stelzer describes the experiment as part of a movement in artificial intelligence that rivals the development of photography itself. Not to speak in small terms, he says it might even be akin to the development of the written word, ie, the foundation of most of civilization. But even taking that with a grain of you know what, Salt looks pretty cool.