Before and after: How Toronto’s MARZ uses AI to make motion picture magic
While much of internet is still buzzing about the wonders of ChatGPT, a Toronto-based technology and visual effects company is making its own splash in Hollywood using artificial intelligence.
The goal is to help content creators produce effects, such as making an actor look younger, 300 times faster than it currently takes.
“We’re on the bleeding edge of technology and I think it’s only getting started,” says Jonathan Bronfman, co-founder of MARZ, which is short for Martians, Aliens, Robots and Zombies.
The company started in a Queen Street basement four years ago and has grown to employ more than 270 workers.
They primarily make visual effects (VFX) for movies and TV series on streaming platforms, and the AI software they have developed has been used for scenes in hit shows including Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and the film “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
“The software is now so simple to use, and it’s so fast and automated, that we don’t see it being restricted to Hollywood,” says MARZ CEO Matt Panousis.
Images from MARZ show the impact of AI effects. The image on the left is before the effects have been added.
By making some simple adjustments to a still image of an actor’s face, the AI can age or de-age that face with convincing results.
It can also fix a wig or prosthetic that is out of place without an artist having to correct each individual frame.
Panousis says such changes to a scene can take a traditional visual effects artist up to five days to complete. But the system developed by MARZ, called Vanity AI, is designed to allow them to do it in minutes and cost much less.
“We think people are going to be thrilled with the results,” says Bronfman.
Effects are applied using AI technology.
There’s been a surge in demand for visual effects as the streaming wars continue to heat up and the number of productions expands.
“I read an industry report the other day that stated that there’s probably three times as much VFX needed in the world than there are artists to solve that problem,” says Panousis.
Disney has already turned to artificial intelligence to help create a decades-younger looking Harrison Ford in the upcoming Indiana Jones sequel “Dial of Destiny.”
The movie trailer has generated plenty of excitement because of how real it looks.
Panousis sees a future where independent films can include visual effects that they never could previously, thanks to the speed and affordability of the technology. He notes when it comes to AI its capacity to produce effects is nearly limitless.
“It’s just a means to telling better stories,” says Panousis. “That’s what we’re really excited about.”
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