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Fable Studio Plans Artificial Intelligence Streaming Platform

Fable Studio Plans Artificial Intelligence Streaming Platform

Generative artificial intelligence is coming for streaming, with the release of a platform dedicated to AI content that allows users to create episodes with a prompt of just a couple of words.

Fable Studio, an Emmy-winning San Francisco startup, on Thursday announced Showrunner, a platform the company says can write, voice and animate episodes of shows it carries. Under the initial release, users will be able to watch AI-generated series and create their own content — complete with the ability to control dialogue, characters and shot types, among other controls.

The endeavor marks the tech industry’s further encroachment onto Hollywood as it eyes the exploitation of AI tools embroiled in controversy over their potential to streamline production and the possibility they were created using copyrighted materials from creators they could eventually displace. Amid the industry’s historic dual strikes last year, in which the use of AI emerged as a contentious negotiating point, Fable released an AI-generated episode of South Park to showcase its tech. While some mocked it for its comedic misses, others pointed to the video as a leap forward in the tech and proof of concept that AI tools will soon allow viewers to more actively engage with content, possibly by creating their own. It also demonstrated the threat the tech poses to creators whose labor could be undermined if it’s adopted into the production pipeline.

“The vision is to be the Netflix of AI,” says chief executive Edward Saatchi. “Maybe you finish all of the episodes of a show you’re watching and you click the button to make another episode. You can say what it should be about or you can let the AI make it itself.”

Users will now be able to join the waitlist for a free testing version of the platform, which will likely last until the end of the year, according to the Saatchi. The announcement features the unveiling of ten animated shows of various genres and styles that were mostly made with AI tools, outside of music and some transitions. They include Exit Valley, billed as a satire of Silicon Valley mimicking the animation style and comedic flavor of South Park, Ikiru Shinu, a dark horror anime following the survivors of a global calamity trying to rebuild society, and Sim Francisco, an anthology series of people living in the shared universe of “Sim Francisco,” where several of the shows take place. The tech is limited solely to animation and doesn’t yet have the capability to create live action shots.

Users are encouraged to make their own episodes of the shows, the best of which will be included in the catalogue of the series when Showrunner is officially launched. The winners will get a lump sum payment, as well as revenue sharing if the show is picked up by a streamer. Saatchi says the platform’s tech allows users to create a series of scenes that can then be stitched together to create a full length episode. Prompts can range from just a couple of words to over one hundred. Users will be able to edit the dialogue, shots and flow of scenes, among other things, he adds.

“It’ll understand the core conflict of your episode and develop it with another character or location,” Saatchi says. “Or you can say ‘I want this specifically to be the next scene.’”

Fable, which won an Emmy in 2019 for innovation in interactive media, figures to keep costs down by having users create the content that others will watch. The model demonstrates the anxiety and fear that some creators have over AI: If the tech can function as all-purpose crewmembers and talent, that undercuts the value and demand for their labor. Union protections, some of which bar the use of AI tools for now, will likely take on even more significance if the company can prove there’s a market for completely AI-generated content.

With Exit Valley, Fable looks to get in on the joke of tech industrialists such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk unknowingly ruining society using AI. The first episode has rough edges — and some will likely consider it a cheap knockoff of South Park — but it has a clear storyline and is occasionally witty.

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“AI can definitely make better episodes of The Simpsons today,” Saatchi says.

Showrunner is powered by Fable’s AI model, which was created after the release of open-source AI systems from OpenAI and Stable Diffusion. Last year, it released a research paper showcasing tech that it says can write, produce, direct, edit, voice and animate episodes of shows with a large catalogue of content. The company created nine brief AI-generated episodes of South Park from a short prompt.

Saatchi says the system is trained on “publicly available data.” Asked about widespread allegations of the use of copyrighted materials by AI companies to teach their tech, he adds, “What matters to me is whether the output is original” and that the “content is what will decide whether the tech is worthwhile.”

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