Jobs in Hollywood Most Vulnerable to Automation, According to The Hollywood Reporter

AI-generated artificial intelligence is leading to job losses in Hollywood, with little hope for relief in sight.

A survey of 300 leaders in the entertainment industry shows that three-fourths of participants indicated that AI tools contributed to the removal, reduction, or consolidation of jobs within their organizations. The study estimates that nearly 204,000 positions will be negatively impacted in the next three years.

The forefront of the displacement includes sound engineers, voice actors, concept artists, and entry-level employees, according to the research. Visual effects and other postproduction work are particularly at risk.

The Concept Art Assn. and the Animation Guild commissioned the report, which consulting firm CVL Economics conducted from Nov. 17 to Dec. 22 amid member concerns about the effects of AI on their work. Founder of the advocacy group, Nicole Hendrix, states that concept artists are increasingly being required to “polish” AI-generated works by studios, resulting in lower billed hours and reduced job opportunities.

“We’re observing a lot of role consolidation and reduction,” says Hendrix. “Many people are currently unemployed.”

The report provides insights into the mainstream adoption of human-like chatbots that can generate text, audio, and lifelike images, and their impact on labor. Sam Tung, a member of the Animation Guild who serves on its AI task force, states that the union will reference the study in negotiations with studios when their contract expires in July.

“A good point of reference will be what the WGA sought and won,” he adds. “They wanted to ensure their jurisdiction was protected and whether or not members were required to use generative AI.”

Guardrails for the use of AI emerged as a contentious issue in strikes by writers and actors. The Animation Guild will likely seek to strengthen protections in their new contract, while the studios will likely insist on some AI allowances. In November, former Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg stated that the technology will replace 90 percent of jobs in animated films.

According to the study, over two-thirds of companies in Hollywood are considered early adopters of the technology. Roughly a third of those surveyed predict that AI will displace sound editors, 3D modelers, re-recording mixers, and audio and video technicians within three years, while a quarter said that sound designers, compositors, and graphic designers are likely to be affected.

By 2026, a third of respondents said over 20 percent of all entertainment industry jobs, or roughly 118,500 positions, will be cut, the study says.

Tasks most likely to be affected by AI include creating realistic sound design for film, TV, or games; developing 3D assets; and creating lifelike foreign-language dubbing. The tasks least likely to be affected include writing film, TV, or game scripts, as well as performing music or vocals.

The report identifies visual effects work as vulnerable to displacement by AI tools. According to the study, 80 percent of early AI adopters in the industry currently use the technology in postproduction. TrueSnyc, for example, can manipulate the movement of performers’ lips to accommodate dubbing in different languages. The report states that the proliferation of such tools is “likely to suppress demand for multilingual voice actors.”

Similar displacement will also occur in other stages of production. Whereas hair and makeup artists or younger actors may have been employed to de-age actors, studios may turn to de-aging technology like they did in Here, starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright. In a similar vein, AI tools may increasingly be used to help create images that can streamline character design and storyboarding process, lowering demand for concept artists, illustrators, and animators.

According to the report, nearly 77 percent of respondents use AI image generators enabling, for example, individuals to upload landscape photos to virtual productions screens or speed up rotoscoping in postproduction. They have applications in 3D modeling, storyboarding, animation, and concept art, among other things.

Concerns about the ability to exploit material generated by AI tools likely play a role in decisions around whether to cut jobs in favor of AI tools. While AI-made works are not eligible for copyright protection, material in which a human played a role in its creation might be. This provides a layer of protection for concept artists and animators.

“There’s still some apprehension around AI because of copyright issues,” Tung says. “It could be a legal morass, and a savvy legal department may not want to open that can of worms.”

According to Hendrix, concept artists in particular have seen work dry up over the past year.

Cameron Scott Davis said in a report compiled by the group that an L.A.-based advertising company abruptly stopped hiring him for ad campaigns after it adopted AI tools, which could “produce hundreds of iterations of concepts and illustrations in minutes.” He added, “Just last week I interviewed for a job at a game studio as an Art Director that admitted to not having a single concept artist on staff. ‘We just use Midjourney’ they said.”

In another testimonial, a senior concept artist for a game studio said that his employer in 2022 asked him to “fix” a series of character designs it generated using AI tools after he was initially asked to come up with original renderings.

“Later, I found out what keywords they’d been using to prompt the AI, and it was all references to existing huge IPs mixed with generic adjectives like ‘cool’ and ‘photorealistic,’” he wrote.

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