AI in entertainment is a hot topic right now, with Hollywood writers and actors striking over the potential use of AI in the creation of TV and movies. Those striking creatives won't be pleased with the announcement of an AI model that can allegedly “write, animate, direct, voice, and edit” an entire TV show. The proof of concept is a fake episode of South Park.
The episode itself has been posted to Twitter by Fable Studios, alongside a white paper on “Generative TV & Showrunner Agents." The episode itself is 11 minutes long, and briefly showcases the tool (called SHOW-1) used to generate a story using AI. While scripts and visuals are built from a large language model (LLM) and diffusion tools, the user picks characters, locations, and enters a prompt for the AI to work from.
Announcing our paper on Generative TV & Showrunner Agents!Create episodes of TV shows with a prompt - SHOW-1 will write, animate, direct, voice, edit for you.We used South Park FOR RESEARCH ONLY - we won't be releasing ability to make your own South Park episodes -not our IP! pic.twitter.com/6P2WQd8SvYJuly 18, 2023
In a very meta plot, the short features Cartman and Butters attempting to launch his own deep fake streaming service in the midst of an actor’s strike. It is, admittedly, a very South Park story, and like all of Cartman’s antics in the actual show things don’t go so well for him. Thankfully for human writers, the plot is basic, easy to deduce and not very funny.
But the tech does seem rather impressive, assuming it’s working the way Fable claims. Though there are plenty of problems in terms of quality. Occasionally characters end up floating in mid-air, a lot of the character models look off and a bunch of the voices sound identical.
South Park does have a very basic animation style that might suit this proof of concept, but I do wonder how effective this tool would really be with other concepts.
Apparently, the studios’ goal is to create AIs that are “alive” rather than chatbots that only pop into existence when summoned. That way you could watch the lives of those AIs unfold on your TV — which is likened to reality TV and The Truman Show.
Social media backlash
Fable Studios has made it clear on both Twitter and speaking to TechCrunch that it has no intention of letting people create their own episodes of protected IP. However, it does have high hopes for the use of AI in entertainment, though the company admits the need for strong protections that would prevent producers using AI tools without artists’ permission.
I have to say, though, it’s a very strange time to be releasing this research and showing the possibilities of creating TV shows without a cast and crew. That feels like it runs contrary to the very reasons why the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are on the picket lines.
I'm not the only one thinking this. The response to the news on social media has been merciless.
"If you watch this wreched video you'll see the first thing the ai southpark characters mention is how the strike is gonna delay their favorite shows and that sucks. These ai bros have no ethics whatsoever, it's baffling," wrote Twitter user @loogie_9.
Another Twitter user, @RobThez, added: "Like they're using South Park because it's easy to copy the basic animation style of but the layouts are atrocious And then the writing falls into the usual AI pitfalls - heavy repetition, inconsistent narrative, won't be too mean (lol), and there's just no theme or argument."
Others were even more blunt:
South park made an entire episode using chatGPT to write the script and the joke was that AI is bullshit that adds nothing substantial to any piece of art of any medium. You clearly did not get the memo https://t.co/5f4twHHEVFJuly 20, 2023
The team behind SHOW-1 hope it will launch later this year as a product called The Simulation that can be applied to TV show and movie production. However, at this stage, especially with the ongoing strike action, it’s unclear how such tools may end up being implemented in the tech industry.
Hopefully, if they are, the results are slightly better than this fake episode of South Park — and fairer to the creatives themselves.