“Salt” is the brainchild of Fabian Stelzer. He’s not a filmmaker, but for the past few months he’s been relying mostly on AI tools to create this series of short films he’s been releasing about every few weeks. on Twitter.

Stelzer creates images with imaging tools such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DALL-E 2. He mostly makes sounds using artificial intelligence sound generation tools like Synthesia or Murph. And it uses GPT-3, a text generator, to help with scripting.

There is also an element of audience participation. Viewers can do this after each new episode vote what should happen next. Stelzer takes the results of these surveys and feeds them into the plot of future films, which he can spin faster than a traditional filmmaker because he uses these AI tools.

“I can make a ’70s sci-fi movie if I want to in my studio in my little home office,” Stelzer, who lives in Berlin, told CNN Business from that studio. “And actually I can do more than a sci-fi movie. I can think of what movie is there in that paradigm where the execution is as easy as the idea?”

The plot is vague, at least for now. whom trailer shows that it generally focuses on the distant planet Kaplan 3, which is caused by an overabundance of what initially appears to be mineral salt. dangerous situations, such as somehow endangering an approaching spacecraft. There are also various narrative threads introduced to make things more confusing (and interesting), and perhaps even some temporal anomalies.
A lot of Stelzer "Salt"  in pictures "35mm"  and "science fiction"  Created with Midjourney for this he "High definition 35mm footage of a long 1970s spaceship freighter, dark and beige atmosphere, dark electronics, salt shells on the hull, sparse LEDs"
The resulting films are beautiful, mysterious and ominous. So far, each video is under two minutes, according to Twitter’s maximum video length of two minutes and 20 seconds. Sometimes Stelzer will tweet a still image and title that contribute to the strange, otherworldly mythology of the series.
As AI image generators already exist upset some artists, Stelzer’s experience provides the first example of how AI systems can be disruptive to filmmaking. As AI tools that can generate images, text and sounds become more powerful and accessible, it could change the way we think about idea generation and execution — challenges what it means to create and be creative. While the following for these videos is limited, some in tech are watching closely and waiting for more to come.

“It’s in the embryonic stage right now, but I have a lot of ideas about where I want to take it,” Stelzer said.

“Shadows of Thoughts and Seeds of Stories”

The idea for “Salt” came from Stelzer’s experiments with Midjourney, a powerful, publicly available AI system where users can feed a text query and get an image in response. His instructions to the system produced images that he said “felt like a movie world,” depicting things like alien vegetation, a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows, and a strange-looking research station on an arid mining planet. He said he included what appeared to be salt crystals in one image.

“I saw it in front of me and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what’s going on in this world, but I know there are a lot of stories, interesting things.’ “I saw shades of stories and shadows of ideas and seeds of stories.”

Because of this "Salt"  image by Stelzer from Midjourney
Stelzer has a background in artificial intelligence: He co-founded EyeQuant in 2009, which was sold in 2018. But he doesn’t know much about making movies, so he started teaching himself software and created the trailer for “Salt.” he he tweeted On June 14. without any written introduction. (However, the tweet included a salt shaker emoji.)
This was followed by what Stelzer said the first episode a few days later. So far, he has provided a few along with numerous pictures and some short film clips. Eventually, he said, he hopes to piece together the pieces of “Salt” into one feature film and is starting a related company to make films with AI. He said each film takes about half a day to shoot.
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The vintage sci-fi vibe is partly an homage to a genre Stelzer loves, and partly a necessity due to the technical limitations of AI image generators, which are still not good at creating high-definition textured images. To get the AI ​​to generate images, it creates prompts that include phrases like “sci-fi research station near a mining cave,” “35mm footage,” “dark and beige atmosphere,” and “salt flakes on the wall.”

The look of the film also matches Stelzer’s editing style as an amateur auteur. As he uses artificial intelligence to create still images for “Salt,” Stelzer uses some simple techniques to animate the scenes, such as shaking parts of the image to make it appear as if it’s moving or zoomed in. Crude, but effective.

“Salt” is going to college

“Salt” has a small but fascinating following on the Internet. As of Wednesday, the Twitter account for the film series had nearly 4,500 followers. Some of them asked Stelzer to show how he makes his films.

To visualize this view of the interior of the cargo ship, Stelzer Midjourney took a look at the interior of the control room of the large space shuttle cargo ship.

Savannah Niles, director of product and design at AR and VR experience builder Magnopus, followed along with “Salt” on Twitter, saying she sees it as a prototype for the future of storytelling — when people actively participate and contribute to a narrative. It helps build AI. He hopes that tools like Stelzer can make it cheaper and faster to produce films that today can attract hundreds of people, take several years and cost millions of dollars.

“I think there will be a lot of that, which is exciting,” he said.

It is also used as a teaching aid. Northern Illinois University professor David Gunkel, who follows the films on Twitter, said he previously used a short sci-fi film called “Solar Spring” to teach his students about computational creativity. Released in 2016 and starring “Silicon Valley” actor Thomas Middleditch, it is believed to be the first film to use artificial intelligence to write the script. Now, he said, he plans to use “Salt” in his communications technology classes in the fall semester.

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“It creates a world where you feel engaged, immersed,” he said. “I just want to see more of what’s possible and what’s going to come out of it.”

Stelzer said he has a “somewhat cohesive” idea of ​​what the overall narrative structure of “Salt” will be, but isn’t sure he wants to reveal it — in part because the community’s involvement has already detracted from the story in some ways. as planned.

“I’m not sure if the story in my head is actually going to play out like that,” he said. “For me, the appeal of experimentation comes from intellectually, creatively, the curiosity to see what I and society can come up with together.”

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