AI on the Lot 2023

Jul 20, 2023

In the last 12-months, generative AI media has arrived like a wrecking ball. Powerful models have emerged as consumer-friendly tools that offer jaw-dropping capabilities. Filmmakers are taking note as AI visuals flood their Instagram feeds, Twitter freaks out about the latest open-source code, and media outlets debate the future of work. 

And it’s all happening at once. Several transformative AI technologies are arriving simultaneously— image generation through diffusion models, intelligent trackless motion-capture software, synthetic voices, automatic language dubbing, etc. The list goes on. 

As AI promises to reshape the creative possibilities of film and the resources needed to accomplish them, Hollywood is reeling to understand the technology and how it will empower creatives. Reactions to the technology are a mixed bag. Fully Ai-generated videos like [Will Smith eating spaghetti]

‍make people laugh, while [AI generated avatars]( make people stop and wonder. Regardless of your reaction, everyone wants to understand what’s going on. 

So this May, AI LA hosted the first AI on the Lot where over 500 filmmakers, technologists, and AI companies gathered to explore the rapidly expanding intersection of artificial intelligence and filmmaking.

AI and Hollywood Meet in the Middle

AI on the Lot bridged the gap between traditional filmmaking and the bleeding edge of AI tools. The event  paired both the old and new— established Hollywood names and the emerging scene of indie creators leveraging AI tools. Sharing the same stage was VFX legend Robert Legato, the brains behind Avatar and Lion King’s VFX departments, and innovative AI filmmakers such as Paul Trillo, who is pioneering [image-to-image animated AI short films].

The event was a full day of panels, demos, and conversation, generously hosted by at his FYI Studios in Hollywood. Central to these discussions was whether AI will automate or augment workers in various roles within the film industry. The event came at a crucial time when many film industry professionals are seeking education about this new technology. AILA Executive Director Todd Terrazas dubbed the event “An opportunity to meet the artists and technologists leading this revolution in filmmaking”. And boy is the revolution exciting.

Every Stage of Film production 

Generative AI is particularly exciting in 2023 because it isn’t just changing one department, it’s changing the entire filmmaking process. It’s a full-stack revolution in technology. 

Many companies demonstrated new, ground-breaking technology such as [Cuebric’s AI-powered virtual production tool] that automatically segments images for volumetric stages. Founder and artist Pinar Demirdag spoke with other virtual production pros, explaining how generative AI allows filmmakers to go from “content to camera” within minutes.

In the editing bay, post production teams were excited by Wonder Dynamics’ [AI software for trackless motion capture]. CEO Nikola Todorovic demonstrated Wonder Dynamics’ ability to automatically animate CGI characters into live-action scenes without motion capture suits. While full body motion capture has traditionally been a technique reserved for high budget productions like Avatar and The Lord of the Rings, AI products like Wonder Dynamics tease the ability to offer it to anyone with an idea and a good GPU.

On the panel exploring the future of VFX, Oscar-winning VFX producer Robert Legato and leading AI VFX company Rising Sun Pictures discussed the game-changing implications of AI technology as well as the overlooked applications of machine learning that have been used in post-production for years. Rising Sun Pictures, a VFX company building proprietary machine learning and AI-driven workflows, showed off their industry-leading work in faceswap technology as well as a preview of how it might affect production, post-production, and the need for reshoots. As generative AI artist Ian Eck commented, AI will change the possibilities of the old adage “Fix it in Post”. 

On a panel of their own, Nvidia and Dell took the stage to show off an incredible real-time face-tracking avatar. Nvidia and Dell held a discussion to demystify the state of AI and emphasize how AI is becoming increasingly approachable by people who aren’t experts in the field. 

AI for the Little Guy 

“AI on the Lot” also catered to smaller filmmakers to educate them about the available tools. The event had a pointed emphasis on how AI technologies would most benefit smaller productions who lacked the luxury of large Hollywood budgets. Nico Pueringer, founder of the enormously popular Youtube filmmaking channel Corridor Crew, spoke passionately about how budgets and equipment will matter far less than ideas. As AI tools make high production value easily accessible to everyone, content will increasingly be judged on inherent quality rather than editorial polish. Coming off of his recent [viral video about AI changing animation], Nico spoke about how the future of filmmaking will be less about the tools a filmmaker has and more about their ideas.

This sentiment echoed across the conference as many filmmakers and companies stressed the tsunami of visually stunning content that will soon flood the world as AI tools proliferate among more artists. The consensus was clear: AI tools will lower the barrier of entry for anyone interested in making films.


Another topic buzzing across the conference was the WGA writers strike. Since the start of the strike, AI has increasingly become a topic of discussion in the negotiations. While production and post-production are accustomed to using new technologies in their processes, screenwriters have been more or less caught off guard by the advancement of Large Language Models.

Despite the public discourse of AI replacing writers, many writers see it as a potential tool to accelerate their work. AI is not writing full screenplays, but screenwriters are increasingly playing around with large language models as a way to do small parts of the writing process- like creating outlines and quickly generating ideas. Many writers are using no-code prompt design platforms like Pickaxe to [create AI-powered tools] that can perform specific tasks. AI on the Lot even embedded a Pickaxe-powered chatbot into the website that answered questions from attendees about the event. 

Creative Sentiment 

As Variety Magazine took the stage along with Rising Sun Pictures CEO Jennie Zeiher and several business leaders to close the conference with a discussion of AI’s effect on Hollywood business models, attendees were left with a lot to think about. The conversations between participants for the remaining two hours of open-ended conversation ranged from unbridled optimism to uncertainty to overwhelmed at where to start. 

An important takeaway is that filmmakers will be working and creating for a long, long time to come. Paul Trillo, one of the quickly emerging leaders in the AI film space, stressed that purely synthetic media (created by AI from scratch) is a long way off. In his mind, filmmakers will want to use real footage as base and ‘animate over it’ with generative AI tools RunwayML’s Gen-2. Other artists disagreed. But in all cases, artists using the technology are busier and more productive than ever.

Mike Gioia