` In conversation with: Rob Payton - Directory

Jakub Laskus & Agnieszka Celej pinned down director and DP Robert Payton in Warsaw, at CHPTR, last month. To talk about building relationships with brands and agencies; redefining the director; and after shooting hundreds of commercials on traditional locations, his newfound love of Virtual Production and Mixed Reality. Here we try to pick the bones out of it!

Jakub Laskus: AI has been lately igniting our imagination. What do you think about creating assets using artificial intelligence? Perhaps, this is something that might be a game-changer, maybe even as soon as next year. 

Robert Payton: Everyone wants to try it at the studio. All the guys I work with on the LED volume are playing with generating AI images and seeing what they look like on the LED Wall. For backgrounds, I think it works perfectly. I think there’s a real logic to using it for backgrounds; but at the moment, for foreground elements, or for creating everything for a commercial in AI – I don’t think we’re there yet. 

J: I recently saw a super cool caustics effect (the patches of lights visible when the light shines through a glass with water) made by AI. Of course it’s not real, meaning that real caustic would look different, but it was very convincing. You look at it and you think: ‘Wow, beautiful‘.  

R: I think there are many things currently difficult to recreate in AI. I remember traditionally, water was difficult to recreate in CG; because water is something we see so often, and we know so intimately the way it interacts with our hands, the way it interacts when you pour it. It’s just something that you can’t get that precise in CG. There’s still a way to go before we can create this level of authenticity in AI too.

Agnieszka Celej: A question that comes to my mind is whether we can say that AI is successful when it becomes so real that the human eye can’t find the difference between the real and AI-generated image. Is this what we’re talking about here? Or maybe the potential of AI lies in creating something completely new, out of our reality?

R: That’s exactly the same question that is being posed in discussions about Virtual Production at the moment. Currently in VP, if you wanna build a £D shop, or a kitchen in Unreal Engine or you want to do something that’s photo-realistic; you can do that. Using VP as a new way to achieve an old style production. But the real excitement is realising you can create something that couldn’t previously have been created. That Virtual Production can take you to a whole new dimension. And the same is true of AI – is AI about creating something that traditionally we’ve created through photography, painting or silver halides? Or is AI really about creating something completely unique?

I have some worries about our artistry getting too clinical though. That’s my fear with any piece of new technology.

Continue reading