Can AI Replace Animators?

Unless you’ve denounced your identity as a human and have been living in the jungle for the past year or so, you must’ve heard about artificial intelligence (AI).

No, we’re not talking about the villainous robots that threaten humanity in Hollywood films, but tools like ChatGPT and Jasper. They’re all anyone is ever talking about.

And never since the online phenomenon ‘The Dress’ took over the internet in 2015 has an idea been discussed so passionately.

Just like other industries, animators have also raised concerns about the tools. Contributing to their worries are some recent developments, starting with…

Marvel’s Secret Invasion – The First Victim of AI Tools

GIF Courtesy: GIPHY

Blockbuster-churning studio Marvel is often at the center of heated discussions. From the lack of compelling villains to killing off prominent female characters, the franchise isn’t without its naysayers.

Almost a month ago, Marvel, once again, found itself in hot waters with the release of Secret Invasion – an action-adventure, science fiction, and spy thriller miniseries developed for Disney+.

The problem wasn’t the show itself, though the slow pace does test your patience, but rather the opening theme. The intro – as confirmed by the director – was AI-generated.

It opens with greenish characters, UFOs, and city landscapes morphing into each other as the credits appear on the screen.

Method Studios, the visual effects company that created the opening theme, backed their decision with a pretty solid reason. They said Secret Invasion was about otherworldly shapeshifting creatures – the Skrulls – infiltrating the US and other governments.

So, it made sense that they’d take the help of AI tools to design the series’ opening theme.

People, however, were having none of it, especially since last year, news broke that Marvel has a VFX problem: a VFX artist working for the studio claimed that they had coworkers ‘sit down next to them, break down, and cry’ because of the stressful environment.

That, combined with other instances, opened a can of worms. The biggest one, of course, was the fact that if multi-billion-dollar companies can replace employees with AI, where does that leave others?

Can AI Replace Animators?

GIF Courtesy: GIPHY

After this whole fiasco, there were multiple questions in animators’ minds.

“Are we next?”

“Would this be a good time to start looking for jobs in other fields?”

“Is Jersey Mike’s currently hiring?”

Although we can’t say with absolute surety, AI won’t be replacing animators in the near future.

The short explanation is that it’s impossible for AI tools to animate as visually stunning as humans do. They’re not advanced enough in the art of creating images that move seamlessly.

For example, a YouTube channel created an animated video entirely using AI titled “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

There were many problems with it:

  1. Some of the images were copyrighted, which is a direct violation of intellectual property laws.
  2. A few characters weren’t fully developed; their limbs and fingers seemed c0njoined.
  3. The lip sync was below average, making it difficult to focus on the dialogues.

Apart from the above-mentioned caveats, developing a coherent story for an animated video takes a lot of time. That’s something AI tools haven’t learned. Not yet, anyway.

All these scenarios point towards one thing – there’s no escaping AI platforms. But, at the same time, they’re not 100% reliable. So, does this dilemma have a middle ground?

It does.

Make Animated Videos Using AI Tools

AI tools are significantly impacting the animation industry, regardless of whether you like it or not. While we’re not fans of them, why not utilize the software smartly?

If you’re not sure how, here are a few aspects of animation where AI can help you:

Script Writing – Writing a script can be mentally taxing. And without one, you can’t move forward. But instead of letting this become a roadblock, use AI tools to generate ideas to work your way around this problem. Although you can get the whole script written, too, it’ll require your input nonetheless. So, it’s better to use AI for inspiration only.

Storyboarding – A storyboard is a critical component of an animated video. It lets you visualize your ideas and plan out your shorts. However, owing to the heavy work involved, creating a storyboard can be labor-intensive. To save your time and resources, consider using AI, which can take the stress out of the process.

Character Modeling – At this point, you must’ve seen hundreds of AI renditions of fictional characters. From the cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. in Indian attire to the human counterparts of The Powerpuff Girls, they’re practically everywhere. You can do the same to create characters for your video or improve the quality of existing ones.

The Drawbacks of AI in Animation

GIF Courtesy: GIPHY

It’s impossible to talk about the benefits of AI in animation and not mention the limitations.

Lack of Creativity – The primary objective of AI tools is to churn out content. It can be anything – images, write-ups, or animation. That, as you can imagine, eliminates the ‘creative’ factor. Moreover, these platforms rely on data they’ve been given, which may or may not be up-to-date.

Cookie-Cutter Solutions – If two companies enter the same prompt to have an AI tool create an animated video, it’ll be hard to distinguish them. This means you should give up any hope of gaining a competitive edge, making you look like one of many similar organizations.

Control Concerns – Many AI tools add their own ‘touch’ to animated videos, like adding blocks or changing colors. It’s bound to ruffle some feathers, especially considering, as a business owner, you want to be in complete control over what you put out for the world.

The Answer Is Simple

AI technology has risen over the past few years. And the popularity doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon. But at the same time, it can’t replace writers, animators, storyboarders, or illustrators in the near future.

If we had to give a reason in one line, it would be this: the craft, artistry, and depth humans infuse in animated videos cannot be replaced by AI.

So, walk the fine line between using AI tools ethically and using your creative skills to stay caught up.