A still from Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), with actor Sabrina Grdevich as a life-like mecha. (Photographed by Janusz Kamiński; visual effects supervised by Dennis Muren, ASC.)
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SMPTE Reports on “Artificial Intelligence and Media”

Roadmapping the latest evolution in visual arts.

Iain Marcks

In a recent episode of the American Cinematographer Podcast, ASC museum curator Steve Gainer, ASC, ASK waxes philosophical on previous upheavals in the motion-picture industry over the past 100 years, such as the introduction of sound, color and HD technologies (to say nothing of television or streaming): “I think it’s important for people, just like we’ve evolved over the past, to pay attention and look at what’s about to happen and be a part of it.”

Empowering cinematographers to make the most of the latest technologies at their disposal is the prime directive of the ASC Motion Imaging Technology Council (MITC, pronounced “my-tech”), chaired by Curtis Clark, ASC along with Michael Goi, ASC, ISC, Wendy Aylsworth, and Associate Member Jay Holben. Goi also chairs MITC’s AI Subcommittee, which keeps an eye on the perils, possibilities, and latest developments in artificial intelligence and, if necessary, develops tools to aid cinematographers in its use.

MITC publishes an annual report of all of its findings, available here.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) was occupied with the subject of artificial intelligence since at least 2020, when it established an AI task force — in conjunction with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) — to write a comprehensive report on AI and its impact on the media, published in February 2024.

Their 41-page report breaks down the task force’s findings in six sections on machine learning basics, the current impact of AI on the media industry, AI ethics, AI standards and opportunities, and datasets. For those who read the “Generative AI Primer” from the Television Academy’s AI Task Force (uploaded September 2023) and wanted to know more, the SMPTE paper is a deeper dive, offering a clearly-written, information-dense update on the architectures of different kinds of AI, their implications for the media industry at large, and how they might be harnessed by those above and below the line.

“It’s great to see so many of the top motion imaging scientists in the industry addressing AI from creative and ethical viewpoints,” says Goi. “SMPTE’s report is a welcome addition from a reliable source.”

Download the SMPTE report here.

For those who are curious (or concerned) about OpenAI’s announced but yet-to-be-released text-to-video generator Sora, Scientific American published an article on the extent of its capabilities, with insights from computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan.

A special feature on artificial intelligence will appear in the July 2024 issue of American Cinematographer.

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