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Can generative AI boost our storytelling?

24 April 2024
Image of a man whose head is a yellow balloon, from the film Air Head, by 'shy kids' using text to video tool, Sora
Image illustrates Air Head, a film from 'shy kids' using text to video tool, Sora

The EBU Media Summit’s Showcase Panel on 24 April arrayed four international media leaders who use generative AI to make visual and audio content with the same ease most people only feel using email.

This absorbing exchange was steered by Madiana Asseraf, Head of Corporate Development & Strategic Initiatives, who spearheads the strategy around which frontline AI practitioners across the EBU and its membership coalesce and communicate.

She outlined the EBU’s work in this field, focusing on the AI Strategies paper that was published on 15 April as a 10-point checklist distilled from the reported experiences of 14 EBU Members.

Madiana then sought the panel’s views on the creative opportunities of AI today and where they think this increasingly powerful technology will take the media business, particularly public service media (PSM).

Martina Poliaková is Head of Strategic Development at Czech Radio, a definitive early adopter that has used generative AI to make a radio series called Digital Writer since 2020.

She said the narrative process had evolved in step with technology, and they’re now working with ChatGPT4 and Midjourney. The goal of Digital Writer was to “bring this niche topic to the public in a creative way”, she said, and to dispel the idea of AI as a tool that will replace people.

Canadian musician and filmmaker, Walter Woodman, leads a creative collective and indie band called shy kids, which made the film Air Head this year using OpenAI’s startling new text-to-video tool, Sora. The film portrays the life of a man whose head is, in fact, a yellow balloon.

Walter said he made the film to show OpenAI’s Sora researchers some of the possibilities of the tool.

“We asked ourselves if we could use exclusively generative AI to make a compelling story, and especially a compelling protagonist,’ he said. ‘But we hit a wall because it’s hard to generate human faces in a consistent way. You couldn’t tell the differences between dogs, but with humans you can, which is why we used a balloon. This limitation then became our ethos.”

On ensuring AI is a net positive for society, he said PSM-led media literacy is paramount because it’s important that the lines between content and news don’t blur.

“People think AI will fix everything, but it brings a new set of challenges as well. More media literacy will help people know what they’re watching and how it was made,” he said.

BBC Gen AI Editorial Executive Rachel Jupp said the BBC thinks long and hard about the ethical and editorial implications of AI.

“As a news provider, the question of disinformation is one of the sharpest edges on the AI discussion,’ she said. ‘The BBC has principles we apply to our approach to pilots to ensure we harness technology to strengthen our public mission. PSM are in the space to shape its application of AI in a way that protects value and leads creativity and storytelling while always being transparent and open about our AI deployments.”

Geneva-based film producer Alexandre Iordachescu, MD of Elefant Films, said his early experiences of using AI for scriptwriting had largely been a failure.

“We felt it was missing something,’ he said. ‘It couldn’t write “between the lines”, which is actually the most important part in some ways.”

Where it excelled, however, was in mood and storyboarding, although it ‘takes a lot to push the AI to your visual direction’. Alexandre predicted that AI in public service may ‘come to improve existing ideas but it won’t be the main creative tool’ because of its inability to be truly spontaneous.

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Jo Waters

Head of Content Communications

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