The president of Japan’s anime television network AT-X, Keisuke Iwata, spoke out in a special event at Tokyo’s Digital Hollywood University about the fast approaching technological improvements of artificial intelligence in programming the animation of anime.
As a producer for many hit anime such as Pokémon, Prince of Tennis, and Shaman King, Iwata said he believes there is a trend in developing animation software that may one day eliminate the very tedious work of professional animators.
3D CG animation elements have been implemented and integrated into popular anime series and movies since the early 2000s, and this trend of relying more and more of the hard labor of animation with software progams that learn basic algorithms of abstract model data is only paving the way for more dependency on such programs to expedite production schedules and other animation improvements.
Anyone who has followed RWBY’s late creator Monty Oum’s journey to animation guru stardom can certainly appreciate how much the improvements of animation software can help self-starting lone or small group creator studios focus more towards their creativity and not on sleepless nights working hundreds of hours animating before they can get the job done.
But what does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of professional animators who have dedicated their lives to their painstaking craft? Are they simply going to be removed from the moving picture industry? Human creativity is key in many steps and processes of producing anime. However, it’s also a known fact that animators in Japan for example tend to be overworked and often lead to burning out early in their careers with an average yearly pay of less than $10,000 for their first few productions.
So perhaps instead of comparing if the complete replacement of them by AI technology would be more tragic than keeping them in what seems like a slave labor of love arrangement, perhaps a need for artists to evolve with technology would be the better scenario where their creativity will no longer be dragged down by extremely arduous tasks of traditional animation.
Huge leaders in the Tech industry such as Microsoft partnered up with the Dutch Bank ING on what could be remembered as a milestone in the digital art community because of what they were able to accomplish in The Next Rembrandt AI project. A computer program that analyzed 346 of Rembrandt’s paintings and successfully replicated the 17th-century painter’s style of art in digital form.
Iwata explained that the advancement of AI programming may in fact also be capable of more than just monotonous and repetitive tasks with a learning ability to also be creative on its own.
“AI is already starting to encroach on the area of creation. It seems AI will be able to support things like character design, storyboards, art design, backgrounds, sound production, and color setting. Unlike AI, humans have a ‘function that can forget’ and can continue to evolve with use of the brain. If [you] continue to discipline your brain, you should be able to demonstrate creativity (that won’t lose to AI).”