AI usage reveals new landscape for creators and filmmakers in ‘Late Night with The Devil’

“Late Night with The Devil” is a 2023 independent horror film that debuted to much fanfare at South By Southwest on March 10, 2023. The film did not contain any AI generated artwork at the SXSW showing, but had a few interstitial images generated by AI in its theatrical release just over a year later on March 22, 2024. This use of AI in an independent film sparked controversy on the place AI takes in the filmmakers toolkit.

     Recent SAG-AFTRA strikes have been focusing on AI since the debut of ChatGPT in late 2022, and this marks another case of generative AI usage in film which has prompted calls for a boycott from some social media users. This is not the first time generative AI has been used in high profile releases, with 2023 seeing the use of AI in the intro to Marvel’s “Secret Invasion.”

     The social media backlash towards the principal filmmaking duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes led them to respond, affirming that they stand by their decision to use AI in the interstitial scenes.

     Images generated by AI sources such as Midjourney, DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and others tend to have a difficult to define, dreamlike quality. As a whole, they are as cohesive as an image created by a human, but when scrutinized they show their true colors. Telltale signs of AI generated content include but are not limited to: incorrect numbers of fingers or toes, nonsensically laid out images with out of place elements, and malformed text with no meaning.

     These are signs, but not conclusive proof of AI generated content. AI models are perfectly capable of producing content that does not have any of the aforementioned flaws. In the evolving landscape of machine learning and artificial intelligence of 2024, it’s important to take rules of thumb like these with a grain of salt. The latest models are being actively tuned to overcome these issues and create even higher quality images with similar levels of effort.

     As seen in the interstitial images in “Late Night with The Devil,” very little care was taken to create good looking scenes. These frames are full of the previously discussed nonsense endemic with low-effort applications of artificial intelligence. This janky appearance makes the usage of AI relatively obvious, however as they are short scenes it may be missed by the untrained eye. As seen with 2022’s “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” generated by Jason Allen of Colorado, great looking AI generated images take effort and time, much to the chagrin of those trying to use it without understanding its limitations.

Official poster for ‘Late Night with the Devil’ (2023)

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