What a whirlwind! Whew!

I’ve been busy. I completed my latest animation: Brains: A postmodern Prometheus story. Let me back up a bit to tell you about it.

It was toward the very end of the semester last spring when I saw the Sweaty Eyeballs call for entry. The final deadline was July 14. I had counted on having the summer to complete my next project, so I had to really hustle to pull this off.

It was around April 11 that I saw this post on Instagram:

I like Rebecca’s work a lot, and I like her instagram account. The A.I. generated images caught my eye. She writes:

“I made these but they are NOT my work – they are AI – and THEY ARE NOT ART.”

Rebecca Leveille Guay

And then she goes on the explain when the images are NOT art.

I’d seen other AI generated stuff, and I honestly think some of it is pretty cool. I had been wondering if I could take something AI generated, and then work with it in a 3D space in Blender. A way to make 3D virtual puppets, perhaps?

I shared this post with Beverly, and we wondered about the Art vs. Not-Art argument. The obvious historical parallel is the invention of photography, which did not destroy painting. Will AI destroy art as we know it?

We decided to look into it. I examined several AI image generators, and settled on Bing’s Dall-e creator. It’s free and easy to use.

Beverly made this image:

It’s a lovely color, and while the sleeves are odd, it’s unique, and Beverly is going to draft a pattern for it. Cool!

I began exploring the parameters around Dall-e’s text prompts, and I’ve already written about my first three efforts: The Shopping Trip, Clowning Around with AI, and EROS. I had recently done a little screen test called The Ghost of Red, which is a follow up to The Lunatics.

I took the background from an old movie poster. I liked the feel of it, as a concept, but I know it would take me a long time to make my own. So, I wondered what I could do with AI?

I also have been hanging out with these insect characters for a few years, and decided it’s time for their own feature.

I began to work on this in earnest while we were in Portugal. I downloaded some studies on insect behavior, and began generating possible background images. I started working on the story.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I picked up a copy of Frankenstein, a modern Prometheus story and read it on the trip. Prometheus, as you probably know, defied the Olympian gods by stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the form of technology, knowledge, and more generally, civilization. In some versions of the myth, he is also credited with the creation of humanity from clay. Frankenstein’s monster questioned his creators intention in animating him and giving him such a wretched life. None of this works out well for anyone, and after reading a few articles in the New York Times, it would appear AI may not work out well for us, either.

Most people this experts know what they are doing. We have no idea how it works, why it works, or how to control it.

Roman Yampolskiy, computer scientist.

I love how nutty this is! So, I made a film about AI and used AI.

I hand drew all the characters and animated parts. I wrote the story myself. I used AI to generate the backgrounds – over 1300 of them. Now, here’s the rub – as of this writing, you can only make 1024px X 1024px images, and I’m working at 1920 x 1080. Sooooo, I found a tool online that will use – wait for it – AI! – to increase the size of an image up to 8000px by 8000px. Bingo!

I knew I needed an interface for my characters to interact with their own AI, so I started writing a JavaScript interface to look/act like a terminal screen. After about 20 minutes, it occurred to me to ask ChatGPT for help. Within another 20 minutes, I had a finished prototype that had a blinking cursor, would accept a text input, and could return a gibberish response. I styled the page’s CSS myself, too.

I like how Brains turned out. It was a lot of work – my hard work. I used AI as a tool, and I think “the hand of the artist” is visible in what I produced with it. I think that A.I. is information, not imagination. It will not replace our art.

You can watch Brains: A postmodern Prometheus story over on my animation site. Enjoy!