AI Film Editing— What Will Become of the Human Editor?

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Professionals that work in the creative industries have a problem, and that is one of precarity—and workers from other fields seem to know it too. “Why don’t you go into a more stable job, like Insurance?” my Father says on the daily, as I tell him that I want to edit videos for the rest of my life. “Forget your ‘dreams’, get a job that will guarantee paying the bills!” 

Those words have been echoed to anyone and everyone in the creative workforce—and with good reason. As technology advances, industries such as the film industry also advances, as they use visual effects, editing software and other means to accomplish works that never before have reached the quality that it has achieved until today. However, this heavy reliance on technology begs these questions: can the very technology that we use to create bodies of digital work one day replace us, making the human film editor obsolete? If this is a legitimate threat (which it is), are we protected by guilds and unions if this threat were ever to dawn upon us?

Symptoms of this coming take over can be seen right on our mobile devices. Applications that are able to create and edit videos for you are more than commonplace, and that guy that you used to go to for editing together your baby photos, graduation pictures or wedding images is now out of business. Now that the editing process is in the hands of the consumers, video editors will find it hard to stand out in the sea of AI robots who seem to do it perfectly in under 3 seconds for free. It’s hard to see how this attitude could not spill over to the film business— or perhaps it already has.

The trailer for the 2016 film “Morgan” seems to be an average horror trailer. It builds suspense and leaves the audience wondering what it’s all about. However, this trailer was no ordinary trailer. “…the team at IBM, fed Watson [a computer] a bunch of horror trailers to analyze and learn from. Then they fed it the movie and let Watson identify several scenes to use for the trailer… A real editor then edited the final scenes into a trailer.”

Although a real editor had some hand in the final process, a computer analyzed numerous horror trailers, recognized algorithms or patterns, then chose what scenes the editor should consider using. Although this may seem to be helpful to the human film editor, it brings the question, when will human editors no longer be needed to do the editing at all?

Are we protected by from this seemingly “far-off” threat? Are we supposed to be? Looking at the Motion Picture Editors Guild for an example, its benefits for its members include: Motion Picture Health and Welfare, Motion Picture Pension Plan, IATSE National Benefit Funds, Set Wages and Working Standards, Post-Production Practice Facilities, Training Courses, Available for Work List, Magazine, Screenings, Bi-Monthly Mixers and Annual Events (Los Angeles), Credit Union and Union Plus. When trying to find contracts that could be used to argue that we just might be protected from the effects of AI editing, I could find none. True, there are contracts that deal with the issues between New Media and the creative laborer, but not a contract called the, “It’s Unlawful for a Robot to take an Editor’s Job” contract. Perhaps this early on, it is too soon to have a contract that specific to our anxious concerns. Perhaps, we may even need the government to step in for us, but of course, that’s no guarantee, if even a possibility.

Some may argue that human film editors will always have a place in the industry. They may think that as creative workers, we understand that film is a creative product that no robot can completely make with innate creativity. How about when filmmakers begin to see that it may be cheaper for them to have an AI just do a couple edits here, a couple there—what then? In this climate as a future aspiring editor, it’s not a matter of if it will happen, it’s a matter of when, and at this rate I guess Insurance isn’t sounding too bad after all.

 


Works Cited

humans.txt. “Will AI Replace Video Editors? | Motion Array.” Make A Reflective Metallic Texture In After Effects, 21 Nov. 2016, motionarray.com/blog/will-ai-replace-video-editors.

FoxMovies. “Morgan | IBM Creates First Movie Trailer by AI [HD] | 20th Century FOX.” YouTube, YouTube, 31 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJEzuYynaiw&feature=youtu.be.

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