Updated Jun 28, 2018

AI takes on Hollywood's tedious tasks

An AI-generated graphical representation of a movie script. Image: Rivet.ai

A new company wants to help people make movies by outsourcing the grunt work — scheduling, budgeting, script analysis — to AI. Starting from a human-written script, its algorithms can draft a budget and a shooting schedule, and even look for plot holes.

Why it matters: Debajyoti Ray, the founder of Rivet.ai, says that AI tools can cut down on uncertainty and allow production companies to take bigger risks rather than re-making the same superhero movie dozens of times.

Rivet.ai spun out of End Cue, the production company behind a trippy, nonsensical AI-written short film called Sunspring. Ray, whose background is in natural language processing, said his philosophy changed after Sunspring: his new company is focused mostly on analyzing human writing rather than trying to emulate it.

How it works:

  • In a few minutes, Rivet.ai's software can process a movie script and extract key elements from each scene: the characters involved, the location it takes place in, the props required, and the types of shots they call for. "This is a very laborious process" for humans, Ray said.
  • The software can then work out a shooting schedule that takes the availability of locations, props, cast and crew into account, plus weather forecasts.
  • Informed by the schedule, the platform can draw up a budget based on compensation, location and prop costs.

Beyond administrative help, Rivet.ai is offering AI-powered advice for writers, too — a more difficult proposition.

  • The service can plot the script on a graph that shows continuity between scenes, charting the frequency and tone of various characters' interactions to call out holes in the narrative or extraneous segments. If a scene needs to be removed, the graph can show all the earlier and later ones that will be affected by the altered storyline.
  • Most ambitiously, Ray says that the system, trained on scripts available in the public domain, can nudge less experienced writers — corporate PR arms, for example — toward tried-and-true plotlines and structures that are "known to perform better."

But, but, but: Algorithms that pigeonhole stories based on familiar archetypes and estimated performance run the risk of outputting variations of the same script over and over. Other AI-in-film startups like ScriptBook and Pilot help predict scripts' commercial success, automating processes that until recently relied to some extent on human intuition.

Ray argues that rather than sending new films down well-worn lucrative ruts, more data will free up producers to pick up interesting scripts that might not immediately seem commercially promising.

The big picture: Instead of trying to make an AI screenwriter — a task for which technology is not yet suited — Rivet.ai's software aims squarely at administrative work. "Nobody went into filmmaking to do script analysis," says Ray. For now, the creative aspects of filmmaking are still out of reach of automation, though AI-assisted decision-making on things like budgeting can have knock-on effects for an entire project.

Go deeper: The New York Times reports on a startup called Arraiy that uses AI to automate tedious CGI tasks.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases surpass 200,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Positive cases of the coronavirus passed 213,000 on Wednesday — nearly twice as many as Italy — as more state governors issued stay-at-home orders for Americans to curb infection.

The state of play: Trump administration officials are anonymously sounding the alarm that America's emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment is running dangerously low, the Washington Post reports.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

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