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Wonder Studio: this AI-powered tool might be a preview of the future of VFX

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Startup company Wonder Dynamics has unveiled “an AI tool that automatically animates, lights and composes CG characters into a live-action scene”: at least, that’s the promise behind their upcoming tool, Wonder Studio.
Here is the video presentation, followed by more information:

Wonder Studio: a bold pitch

The video presentation is, let’s face it, quite impressive. Behind the scenes, Wonder Studio can be used thanks to a web interface. This tool can automatically animate a CG character by replacing an actor/actress from a plate (in other words, a live-action shot). Furthermore, the software also handles lighting and color correction. All of this, thanks to AI.

A tool to help artists, not replace them

Even better: Wonder Studio is not a black box that will give you a video, but no way to adjust something if things go wrong. Even though Wonder Dynamics wants their product to be used by a wide audience (which is why you can use it with a simple drag and drop), the idea is to give studios and artists the tools they need to expand on the work done by the AI.
In other words, Wonder Studio will give you access to the motion capture data (including hands and face), the cleaned plate, the 3D scene. You can export CG data as FBX files, and import them in Maya, Blender, Unreal, Unity or similar DCC tools. In a nutshell, the goal is to automate some of the work done by artists, who will then use this data and spend more time refining the scene if needed. According to Wonder Dynamics, this tool could “automate 80-90% of the objective VFX work and leaves them with the subjective work”. A bold claim that we will of course have to check when the tool is released.

Wonder Studio - web interface

What about the training data?

As usual when a new AI tool is released, we must ask ourselves how the AI model was trained. In this case, Wonder Dynamics explained to Techcrunch that they did not rely on pre-existing data scrapped without asking anyone involved. In other words, Wonder Dynamics wants to stay away from the ethical and legal issues faced by other AI-powered tools.

Fundraisers and big names

Wonder Dynamics co-founders Nikola Todorovic and Tye Sheridan, managed to raise $12.5 millions de dollars in 2021 and 2022 from various investors, including Epic Games.

Wonder Studio - investors

Behind the scenes, an Advisory Board has also been set up. Yoy might note two big names: directors, producers and writers Steven Spielberg and Joe Russo.
The Russo brothers are even already using Wonder Studio for an upcoming Netflix movie featuring Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt.

Wonder Studio - advisory board - Wonder Dynamics

Is there room for VFX artists in a post-AI world? (Yes)

Wonder Studio gives us a glimpse of a future where fastidious and repetitive tasks currently done by artists could be automated.

This will of course allow more people to create realistic projects, videos and even movies at a lower cost, similarly to what happened thanks to low-cost mocap suits or Blender.

This will also free up some time inside VFX studios: resources that could then be invested somewhere else, to improve the end result.

Can we hope this might also improve the working conditions of VFX artists worldwide, with less ovetime? Unfortunately, it seems unlikely. As Doug Chiang – Vice-President & Executive Creative Director, Lucasfilm, explained us when we interviewed him a few weeks ago (starting 7’29” in the video below), 35 years of new technologies (previs, real-time rendering…) did not get rid of overtime. It therefore seems unlikely AI will have a different impact.
On the other hand, these new technologies did not make artists obsolete. With the arrival of AI tools, studios will evolve, but artists won’t disappear. Aspiring artists will still find jobs when they graduate.

00:00 – Introduction
00:15 – Design approach / Star Wars
01:59 – old elements / Andor
02:58 – Your take on AI?
04:33 – Virtual Production, StageCraft
05:54 – Future of the industry?
07:29 – Working conditions in the VFX Industry
09:39 – Avatar: The Way of Water
10:14 “No CG” marketing

Wonder Studio: how to access the closed beta

We will follow upcoming announcements regarding Wonder Studios and similar tools. You can head over to the official Wonder Dynamics website to request an access to the closed beta. You’ll also find on their website more examples of animations created using Wonder Studio.

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