CPH:DOX ’17: Can artificial intelligence be creative?

COPENHAGEN — It was last summer that Fox studios put its trust in a supercomputer to help create a trailer for its new thriller-horror movie. It’s a prime example of a ...
March 20, 2017

COPENHAGEN — It was last summer that Fox studios put its trust in a supercomputer to help create a trailer for its new thriller-horror movie.

It’s a prime example of a time when filmmakers were comfortable putting a step in the creative process in the hands of a machine. In a world where technological advances, including the rise artificial intelligence, have become the subject of so much research, will we see more companies in the movie industry becoming reliant on AI?

Jim R. Smith (pictured), IBM fellow and manager of multimedia and vision, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, discussed the intersection between creativity and AI to an audience at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival on Monday.

So, can artificial intelligence be creative?

“Not yet on its own, but clearly, artificial intelligence working together with creative human persons has a great potential to produce things which go beyond what we do today,” said Smith.

IBM was contacted by Fox Studios last summer to see if its supercomputer, Watson, could analyze Fox’s new thriller-horror movie Morgan and develop its trailer.

Smith and the team at IBM fed the computer 100 horror film trailers and cut them into scenes. Watson then performed visual, sound and composition analyses on each scene to grasp the nature of the trailers. 

After watching Morgan, Watson picked out 10 scenes that were given to the IBM in-house film editor to create the trailer. Only one of Watson’s picks was discarded, as the film editor thought it had a twist that could spoil the movie.

Smith said the media gave the trailer a lot of attention because of its use of artificial intelligence. It also helped start a discussion on the topic of AI and creativity.

Watson played a supporting role in creating the trailer, but if creativity is a combination of method and magic, Smith said, there is the opportunity for AI to have a role in augmenting creativity.

AI can excel in its ability to analyze large amounts of data, find patterns, make connections and make suggestions that can improve the process for those who the tech is helping, he added.

Smith told realscreen that while in this case Watson was used to create a horror trailer, it could also be applied to other genres, including documentaries, by applying the same method. The goal of the project with Morgan, he said, was to produce a single trailer, but in practice there is the potential to create individualized trailers for everyone in the audience.

“We see great potential to apply this processing to many domains of video content by repeating what we did here.”

Smith also noted that this approach to making a trailer could also be applied to a feature-length film.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.