We need a break, I think, from the political posts today. But there’s a lot in the hopper. Here’s what’s planned for How to Save the World for November:
If you think any of these topics is especially interesting, steal it and start the discussion without me, and send me a link to your post, or e-mail me your thoughts if you’re blogless. If you think there’s something sorely missing, give me a nudge and I’ll add it to the list.
Today’s post is inspired by a documentary on the new, critically-acclaimed animated film The Incredibles (don’t judge it by the typically lame Disney website — watch the ‘Making Of’ documentary instead). As intrigued as I was with Final Fantasy, it was merely high art. The Incredibles, by contrast, is pure science. Instead of the painstaking computer animation of most films, the producers of this film have developed what might be called ‘meta-programming’: They wrote simulation algorithms for each item of clothing, and for facial features and hair, that automatically program the realistic movement of these objects in response to an understanding of how the character ‘wearing them’ is ‘moving’. And they do that even when the character makes moves that in the real world are physically impossible. This is artificial intelligence in action, and it’s mind-blowing. This kind of programming, and visual AI, can actually stimulate your ability to imagine the impossible. It’s powerful, important stuff.
Among the most remarkable opportunities that this technology begins to introduce is the ability of amateurs to make our own movies. It’s only been a decade since composing, recording and selling your own symphony or rock song, completely solo, even if you can’t read music or play a note on any musical instrument, passed from being a fantasy to almost boringly commonplace. Final Fantasy raised the bar further, showing that for action films anyway, a synthetic actor is every bit as believable and sympathetic as the real thing (even moreso if the star is one of those ghastly and staggeringly incompetent scientology cultists). It is entirely conceivable to me that, before another decade has passed, anyone with a basic PC and a creative mind will be able to write, produce, direct and distribute, with no other technology and no assistance whatsoever, a credible, quality, full-length motion picture, complete with soundtrack. Imagine the consequences for:
The Incredibles uses big-name stars for the voice-tracks. The question is why? It’s not to draw crowds: Pixar is such a consistent and proven brand that it’s all you need to credentialize your film. My guess is it’s to lull the stars into a false sense of job security until voice replication software gets to the point ‘real’ actors are completely superfluous, and, just as Final Fantasy created characters that were larger than life, flawless, almost dreamily perfect (there is a theory that the more perfectly symmetrical and ‘average’ a person’s facial features are, the more beautiful they are perceived to be, and real people can’t get close to computer simulations by that standard), the nextgen synthetic voice will be more melodic, more ballsy, more perfect and fluid and seductive than any real voice. In fact, Writer-Director Brad Bird actually supplies some of the voices in the movie himself. He’s been making movies since he was 11, and could probably have made this one completely by himself. Soon, we’ll all be able to do so.
Writing will never be the same.