Synthetic Media in Video Production: From Red Herring to Mainstream

person made of digital graphics

By Fergus Dyer-Smith CEO and Founder at Wooshii

Like any new technology, synthetic media has received a lot of negative press over the last few years and has been seen as somewhat of a red herring due to some using it to spread disinformation.

But as a result of technological advancements, AI is now enabling companies to digitally create and use avatars, voices and backdrop scenes for video with ease. And with pandemic restrictions making conventional filming risky, the benefits of using synthetic media in industries such as video production, have been magnified.

The Recent Rise of Synthetic Media

Since the start of the pandemic, travel restrictions resulted in video production teams and film crews being unable to shoot or travel to site locations, leaving significant challenges for the industry to overcome.

The gap between how much media content companies wanted to produce and what they were able to do and afford was significant. Many production houses were able to  bridge this gap through the adoption of synthetic media.

It is likely to change the face of how clients and production companies think and view their video capabilities in the future.

As many countries look to adopt a hybrid work culture and restrictions on travel continue in some countries, production companies need to be continuously looking for ways to stay competitive by advancing their services and paving the way in the industry.

Going Mainstream in Video Production

We are going to see rapidly improving options within synthetic media tools and I believe there will be better content as a result.

It begins with improved quality avatars or digital humans. And beyond this, there will be more diverse features available that cover race and gender and in-built human elements such as voices and facial expressions.

In the past, limitations in technology have meant that video was still primarily used for mass communication, with personalisation, translation and creation of interactive video content being prohibitively expensive. But being able to scale tailored content across multiple geographies is an important requirement for many brands to reach diverse audiences and markets.

Through the process of AI dubbing or using avatars, it will enable production companies to create a single video in multiple languages, without degrading the quality. We are already seeing this being put into practice with startups such as Deepdub using AI to dub actors in other languages while preserving their original voice.

An increased number of digital scenes will also become available, alongside more camera angles and types. It’s opening up the possibility of far less homogenised content. The ability to personalise videos through synthetic media tools will help brands to capture the consumer’s attention, making them stand out in the deluge of online content.

Looking ahead, we will see synthetic media becoming a mainstream practice amongst the industry as rapidly improving options become available on the market. The consequence of these technological advancements is that we will start to see certain types of content (initial disposable content) starting to adopt this as a production format of choice — such as news, product demos, training videos and beyond.

There Are Risks. So Is It Worth It?

Synthetic media could be seen as a threat by many production companies but I see it as a huge opportunity. Whilst the skill and craft of sending our crews out to film on the ground may be less required, modern production business will need to look at all the tools at their disposal and how they can help advance their customer’s use of video.

The benefits synthetic media can offer, such as replacing the physical processes of filming with a digital one, cutting down the time and cost to achieve a finalised product, as well as scaling output, could change the face of how we  think about a production company.

Synthetic media is full of promise and potential but there is still some way to go.

Unfortunately, there are risks involved when using this media, especially with deepfakes now being commonplace online. But this is nothing new in our industry.

Take Photoshop, which has provided all sorts of photographic capabilities that could cause the spread of disinformation. However, we have learnt to understand how to read what we see with a critical eye and this should be the case when consumers view videos created through synthetic media.

Let’s face it, more and more we are all craving fresh, rich content.

The pandemic has heightened this demand to consume online and synthetic media is opening up new opportunities for the creative industry to capitalise on it. Homogenised content could be a thing of the past and importantly, at scale.

In some cases, I think we could quickly see synthetic media be seen as a preferred format over real footage. Let’s see which way the lens will turn.