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AI Takes Centre Stage in Marvel's 'Secret Invasion'

AI in Marvel’s ‘Secret Invasion’ has become a hot topic of conversation. The new series, which recently premiered on Disney+, uses artificial intelligence (AI) in its opening sequence. This decision, however, has stirred up controversy in the industry, given the ongoing debates around AI’s role in creative fields and the timing of its use.

The series revolves around the Skrull, an alien race infiltrating humans, which key characters like Nick Fury are tasked to stop. The creators decided to use AI for its opening sequence, claiming it aligns with the series’ theme. The bizarre and disorienting visuals produced by AI, according to them, echo the confusing and distorted identities of the Skrulls​.

Users react to Marvel’s ‘Secret Invasion’ opening credits

Ali Selim, the producer of ‘Secret Invasion’, explained in a Polygon interview that the AI-created intro resonates with the Skrulls’ shape-shifting identity. Selim admits he’s not an expert in AI workings, much like the majority of us. Still, he’s been intrigued by how it was able to embody the feeling of looming danger he aimed for in the series. He described the process as, “We would talk to them about ideas and themes and words, and then the computer would go off and do something. And then we could change it a little bit by using words, and it would change.”

Above: Shot taken from Marvel Studio‘s ‘Secret Invasion’ show open.

The AI-driven opening sequence of ‘Secret Invasion’ was crafted by Method Studios, a company known for its contributions to series like ‘Moon Knight’ and ‘Loki’. ‘Secret Invasion’s’ credits acknowledge a collaborative team from Method Studios, comprising a ‘director of AI’, a single animator, an art director, and a VFX director, all of whom worked together on the unique intro. Speaking to the future of AI in the industry, Phil Harrelson, Managing Director at Nice Shoes, postulates, “AI will likely become one more tool we can lean on inside of our familiar toolsets for now. I don’t know if a Director of AI is where this goes, but I presume there will be no shortage of employment tied to the field in the near future.”

Jeff Simpson, a seasoned concept artist who has worked with Marvel Studios and on ‘Secret Invasion’, expressed his concerns over the use of AI in artistic processes.

Marvel’s Experiment with AI and Industry Backlash

Marvel’s decision to experiment with AI has been criticized, as it coincides with multiple controversies in the entertainment industry.

When asked about measures to mitigate the impact of AI on artists’ roles and job security, Nice Shoes Creative Director and VFX Supervisor Gavin Guerra, who has been in the industry for many years, reminisces, “When has that EVER been a consideration? I remember when I started in CG back in the late 80s, every artist I knew screamed that CG was ‘not art’. Now I hear the same about AI.” His words resonate with the industry’s history of initial rejection and eventual acceptance of transformative technologies. His advice to those feeling threatened is to “start playing with AI and get used to the idea that it will be around for the foreseeable future.”

The implications of using AI in professional settings have sparked a heated debate. Artists are voicing concerns over their work being employed to train AI systems. If you’ve ever dabbled with one of these AI tools, you’ll likely be aware that once they’ve been trained (on pre-existing and occasionally copyrighted artwork), these systems possess the ability to create art based on the prompts given by users independently.

In another aspect of the entertainment industry, a significant writers’ strike has halted Hollywood. The writers’ primary demand revolves around implementing stringent regulations on the use of AI in production. They view AI as a potential threat that could either replace them or supplement their work, thus undermining their roles. Guerra adds, “The notion of job security is a myth. You have a job as long as what you do is desired by a consumer base and makes money for your employer. If no one wants what you are selling or they can make more money with someone or something else, then that will not typically end well for you unless you adapt to the current market.”

AI in VFX: Wonder Studio’s Revolution

Meanwhile, visual effects, an integral part of modern filmmaking, are being influenced by AI in unprecedented ways. At the forefront of this revolution is Wonder Studio, an AI-powered tool that is shaping the future of the VFX industry. Wonder Studio uses AI and machine learning to simplify and speed up the VFX production process. It empowers filmmakers to create stunning VFX within a significantly reduced timeline compared to traditional methods.

The tool achieves this by analyzing the user’s footage to identify areas for potential VFX enhancements. It then generates realistic 3D models and special effects based on the user’s input. This high level of customization and control allows for intricate detailing and unique visual effects.

The benefits of using Wonder Studio are multifaceted. The tool’s speed and efficiency save time and reduce production costs, making VFX more accessible to smaller production companies and independent filmmakers.

As AI and machine learning technologies continue to improve, we can anticipate the emergence of more tools that simplify and democratize the VFX production process, thereby enabling filmmakers to create increasingly immersive visuals.

Screenshot of Wonder Dynamics' user interface, a pioneering AI powered tool for VFX production.
Above: Wonder Dynamics, an AI-powered tool shaping the future of VFX.

AI as an Opportunity in Creative Production

The controversy surrounding Marvel’s ‘Secret Invasion’ is a stark reminder of the complexities involved. While AI offers unprecedented possibilities, it also threatens to disrupt the livelihood of creatives and stir ethical debates about authorship and creativity.

Nevertheless, the advent of AI in the creative process could be an opportunity rather than a threat. Used wisely, AI could enhance human creativity by generating new ideas, democratizing creative work, and even alleviating some professional pressures. Stricter regulations could also help ensure an ethical balance between human and machine creativity. As we navigate this new landscape, it’s essential to keep the dialogue open, guiding AI responsibly to supplement rather than replace human creativity. As Harrelson insightfully notes, “The invention of a computerized and searchable relational database only created more jobs for people, not less. We saved a decent amount of paper, though.” Ultimately, the future of creative production promises a fusion of human ingenuity and AI’s potential, opening exciting possibilities for art and storytelling in the digital age.