Generative AI is here to stay but it doesn't mean we have to like it. Not all of it, at least. Aside from issues with copyright infringements and art theft one growing area of concern is AI animation and just, well… how bad it can be.
We've had the Netflix AI anime that infuriated everyone, but recently I stumbled across an anime style AI animation that had been created from a filmed dancer and animated using an algorithm. It's one of those AI creations that looks okay until it doesn't; on closer inspection the many (many) flaws slap you around the face like Tom palming Jerry.
You can watch the full animation in Twitter user Ponzi Enjoyer's Tweet (below), which is an AI take on classic rotoscoping – tracing over filmed footage to create lifelike animation. This technique has been around since 1915 and was used by Disney and made popular by Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth (for complex machine movements), amongst many other animators. The difference? Those uses required human, artistic interpretation and were, frankly, consistent.
it’s so unbelievably over pic.twitter.com/nLfvvwMoqAApril 11, 2023
The AI animation above shows how far the technology has come, as an AI can now create constant movement and deliver a performance, albeit one based on pre-recorded footage. What it can't manage is any sense of cohesion and continuity. From frame to frame the figure's clothes change, her shirt morphs between designs and at one point she's even barefoot. The background shifts, a watch becomes a bracelet and then vanishes. It's all bad.
As with a lot of AI art, AI animation can feel all style and no substance. Like the AI anime that had the internet stupefied in disbelief at how bad it was, this AI animation above is equally horrific for all the same reasons. In fact, it's quite mesmeric in its failings.
Jonathan Wojcik wrote on Twitter: "That looks terrible and even if it didn't, the knowledge that no human physically worked on it immediately makes it boring no matter what. The appeal of animation isn't simply how it looks but the principle of what it is."
Writer Bradaviel added his thoughts: "Still too uneven compared to real animation for me. I know they'll get there and it looks nice, but I love the "craft" too much and not only on principle."
Despite many AI animations being plagued by the same flaws of the short dance reel (above) it is actually mind-blowing how AI has progressed in the last 12 months, from poorly rendered hands and fingers to scary dead eyes many AI images being created now look, well, pretty good. Though it can always feel inhuman and lacking a spark.
Recently many leading app developers, including Adobe, have begun launching AI products, with mixed results. Adobe Firefly is the design software giant's bid to create an ethical AI art solution, while Nvidia's CEO Jensen Huang said at the company's GCD keynote "AI was about to have its iPhone moment". There's no turning back from Generative AI, it's here to stay.
Now, it doesn't have to be a terrible state of affairs and, actually, AI animation has been around for longer than perhaps you'd think, for example Disney's Lion King remake made use of deepfake artificial intelligence. Game engines such as Unreal Engine 5 and Unity are making use of AI for animation, and DeepMotion (below) is offering simple video-to-animation AI as well as using AI to 'train' rigged characters in set movements, from parkour to martial arts, for video games.
Perhaps, then, AI animation is not about the act of using an algorithm but how this new technology is used. Animation is a notoriously laborious task and many apps, such as Adobe Sensei for lip synching, have been around for a while and help speed up costly development times.
Last week Meta announced Animated Drawings, a new AI app that animates doodles and sketches. Meta's app can remove out-of-domain images so deep fakes aren't an issue, with the idea being this AI app adds to, and doesn't delete, human creativity from the process of animation.
The Meta blog states: "Drawing is a natural and expressive modality that is accessible to most of the world’s population. We hope our work will make it easier for other researchers to explore tools and techniques specifically tailored to using AI to complement human creativity."
Progress on how AI is used could actually see it enhancing our ability to be more creative, but perhaps we need to get past this initial mire of appallingly animated AI shorts first and back those developers with ethical motives when they surface. In the meantime, just replay that dancing girl video and know human animators can do much better.