Marvel Studios’ new streaming series uses AI to generate part of its opening scene, stirring controversy. (Source: Wikipedia)

Studio Draws Flack from Industry Unions for Using AI to Create Series Opener

When you combine the comic book storytelling of Marvel, with the latest Disney series on a streaming service, and mix in the raw edginess of Samuel L. Jackson, you have quite a powerful piece of production. Now add in the most recent generative AI. It happened—and it looks exciting.

As the explains, even that combination of heavyweights could not avoid criticism for potentially replacing people. Those affected could include writers, artists, and other production workers who are typically hired to make these episodes.

“On Wednesday morning, Disney+ subscribers were treated to the first episode of Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, which included an opening sequence that highlighted the mystery behind the series: shape-shifting aliens had infiltrated Earth. Soon after the episode aired, a report surfaced noting that the opening had been created using artificial intelligence, something that sparked an outcry on social media among users speculating it had cost artists their jobs.

Now Method Studios, which is behind the opening, wants to clarify those reports surrounding how AI was used in the animated opening sequence created by its design division:

“AI is just one tool among the array of tool sets our artists used. No artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools; instead, they complemented and assisted our creative teams,” reads a statement from Method Studios to The Hollywood Reporter.

Job Gains, Job Losses

Just as progress forced many saddlemakers and wagon wheel production companies out of business when the automobile came into our lives, so too will some television and movie production careers will be in jeopardy as AI advances into the industry. It soon won’t be possible to ignore or avoid the changes this technology is creating.

The technology is still relatively new to the point where the director and executive producer Ali Salim wasn’t exactly sure how it all worked but was quite happy with the results.

Salim noted: “We would talk to them about ideas and themes and words, and then the computer would go off and do something. And then we could change it a little bit by using words, and it would change.”

A statement from Method Studios explains how the studio used AI:

Method Studios Statement on AI Use in ‘Secret Invasion’

Working on Secret Invasion, a captivating show exploring the infiltration of aliens into human society, provided an exceptional opportunity to delve into the intriguing realm of AI, specifically for creating unique character attributes and movements. Utilizing a custom AI tool for this particular element perfectly aligned with the project’s overall theme and the desired aesthetic.

The production process was highly collaborative and iterative, with a dedicated focus on this specific application of an AI toolset. It involved a tremendous effort by talented art directors, animators (proficient in both 2D and 3D), artists, and developers, who employed conventional techniques to craft all the other aspects of the project. However, it is crucial to emphasize that while the AI component provided optimal results, AI is just one tool among the array of toolsets our artists used. No artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools; instead, they complemented and assisted our creative teams.

Method Studios’ team of designers skillfully leveraged the power of both existing and custom AI technologies to apply the otherworldly and alien look. The entire process, guided by expert art direction, encompassed the initial storyboard phase, illustration, AI generation, and 2D/3D animation and culminated in the final compositing stage.

Expect many more of these reports in the months and years ahead. AI and its various abilities are growing and industries are adapting to it the best way they know how. The downside to AI growth eventually will be that some movie industry workers will go the way of the wagon wheel makers of 150 years ago.