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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.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.