Study: Here Are The Entertainment Industry Jobs Most At Risk With AI

Generative artificial intelligence is killing jobs in Hollywood, with little relief on the horizon.

A study surveying 300 leaders across the entertainment industry reports that three-fourths of respondents indicated that AI tools supported the elimination, reduction or consolidation of jobs at their companies. Over the next three years, it estimates that nearly 204,000 positions will be adversely affected.

At the forefront of the displacement: Sound engineers, voice actors, concept artists, and employees in entry-level positions, according to the study. Visual effects and other postproduction work stands particularly vulnerable.

The Concept Art Assn. and the Animation Guild commissioned the report, which was conducted from Nov. 17 to Dec. 22 by consulting firm CVL Economics, amid concerns from members over the impact of AI on their work. Among the issues is that concept artists are increasingly being asked to “clean up” AI-generated works by studios, lowering their billed hours and the pool of available jobs, says Nicole Hendrix, founder of the advocacy group.

“We’re seeing a lot of role consolidation and reduction,” Hendrix says. “A lot of people are out of work right now.”

The report serves as a data point into the mainstream adoption of human-mimicking chatbots that can generate text, audio and even hyper-realistic images, and its effects on labor. Sam Tung, a member of the Animation Guild who serves on its AI task force, says the union will refer to the study in negotiations with studios when its contract expires in July.

“A good point of reference will be what the WGA sought and won,” he adds. “They wanted to make sure their jurisdiction was protected and whether or not members were required to use generative AI.”

Guardrails around the use of AI emerged as a sticking point in strikes by writers and actors. The Animation Guild will likely look to similarly shore up protections in its new contract, while the studios will likely insist on some AI allowances. In November, former Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said the tech will replace 90 percent of jobs on animated films.

According to the study, over two-thirds of firms in Hollywood are considered early adopters of the tech. Roughly a third of respondents surveyed predicted that AI will displace sound editors, 3D modelers, re-recording mixers and audio and video technicians within three years, while a quarter said that sound designers, compositors and graphic designers are likely to be affected.

By 2026, a third of respondents said over 20 percent of all entertainment industry jobs, or roughly 118,500 positions, will be cut, the study says.

Among the top tasks flagged as likely to be impacted by AI: Creating realistic sound design for film, TV or games; developing 3D assets; and creating realistic sounding foreign-language dubbing. The tasks least likely to be affected include writing film, TV or game scripts, as well as performing music or vocals.

The report flags visual effects work as vulnerable to displacement by AI tools. According to the study, 80 percent of early AI adopters in the industry currently use the tech in postproduction. TrueSnyc, for example, can manipulate the movement of performers’ lips to accommodate dubbing in different languages. The proliferation of such tools, the report says, is “likely to suppress demand for multilingual voice actors.”

Similar displacement will also occur in other stages of production. Whereas hair and makeup artists or younger actors may have been employed to de-age actors, studios may turn to de-aging technology like they did in Here, starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright. In a similar vein, AI tools may increasingly be used to help create images that can streamline character design and storyboarding process, lowering demand for concept artists, illustrators and animators.

According to the report, nearly 77 percent of respondents use AI image generators enabling, for example, individuals to upload landscape photos to virtual productions screens or speed up rotoscoping in postproduction. They have applications in 3D modeling, storyboarding, animation and concept art, among other things.

Concerns around the ability to exploit material generated by AI tools likely play a role in decisions around whether to cut jobs in favor of AI tools. While AI-made works are not eligible for copyright protection, material in which a human played a role in its creation might be. This provides a layer of protection for concept artists and animators.

“There’s still some apprehension around AI because of copyright issues,” Tung says. “It could be a legal morass, and a savvy legal department may not want to open that can of worms.”

According to Hendrix, concept artists in particular have seen work dry up over the past year.

Cameron Scott Davis said in a report compiled by the group that an L.A.-based advertising company abruptly stopped hiring him for ad campaigns after it adopted AI tools, which could “produce hundreds of iterations of concepts and illustrations in minutes.” He added, “Just last week I interviewed for a job at a game studio as an Art Director that admitted to not having a single concept artist on staff. ‘We just use Midjourney’ they said.”

In another testimonial, a senior concept artist for a game studio said that this employer in 2022 asked him to “fix” a series of character designs it generated using AI tools after he was initially asked to come up with original renderings.

“Later, I found out what keywords they’d been using to prompt the AI, and it was all references to existing huge IPs mixed with generic adjectives like ‘cool’ and ‘photorealistic,’” he wrote.

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