The modern day version of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” centers around computers auto-generating content. A few years ago there was a hue and cry about whether robo-news stories (mostly created with Automated Insights technology) would put journalists out of business. Today there’s a similar uproar over new video tools that automate some — or even all — of the creation process. Could this spell the end of video creators as we know them?
Much of the debate started when the head of TRONC (no, it’s not an energy drink, it’s a media company) said he’d be using these tools to create 750,000 videos a year. Then the New York Times published an article examining the claim, while highlighting two of the new companies that bring these fevered robot dreams into reality: Wibbitz and Wochit.
I heard about the debate from two separate groups. I run VidCon’s industry track, and there was a healthy debate over whether this was a sign of the apocalypse, or simply the death-metal thrashing of old-media dinosaurs. But I also work closely with one of the offending platforms, Wochit, who pulls creators down the path towards quickly creating video — without descending into complete automation like Wibbitz. Wochit CEO, Dror Ginzberg, espoused on the fallacy of robo-generated video in a recent piece on LinkedIn, which is worth a read for background as well.
The real question from both sides was whether computers can create video that’s as compelling as those made by real people. And the subtext from both parties — although of a different degree — was that computer-generated videos would be no better than the flotsam and jetsam of today’s distended tsunami of digital content.
I think they are both wrong. There’s nothing inherently bad about a fully computer-generated video as long as we’re honest about that video’s purpose — and clear on what automation can and cannot do.
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