Filmmaking on the moon. Image created with DALL-E. Prompt: A 16:9 image of the lunar surface, with the earth in the background. In the foreground of the image is a film set with lights, cameras and equipment. The subject of the film is a cowgirl movie, and beyond the equipment we can see a makeshift set with building facades.

NAB 2024: AWS shows what’s possible today with AI in filmmaking

In the rapidly evolving world of film production and applied AI, the integration of cutting-edge technologies is not just a trend but a game-changer. This was clearly showcased in the recent release for the faux sci-fi movie, “Cowgirls on the Moon.” Crafted using the latest advancements in cloud computing and using various generative AI tools, the project gives us a glimpse into to the future of filmmaking.

NAB Show 2024 served as the perfect platform for an insightful discussion on this extremely interesting project. Ron Ames, the producer behind Amazon Prime’s series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” and Katrina King, global strategy for content production at AWS, took the stage to share the story of how this project came about.

A rocketship idea

It all started as a joke. “Let’s do something completely out there. Something weird like ‘Cowgirls on the Moon’”, ” Katrina King explained. “We used generative AI in almost every step of the process to really just assist the artists. It was a joke, but nobody came up with a better idea, so that’s what we went with.”

They had almost no budget, a small team and an extremely short timeframe to deliver. The outcome: 54 full shots that involved virtual production, VFX, cloud rendering to power generative AI tools, live action production and compositing. “We wanted to see how hard this was going to be”, added Katrina during a panel discussion at NAB 2024. Check out the panel highlights below.

Out of this world production tools 

The two main tools used were Cuebric and Runway ML. Runway was used to generate 2D concept design and storyboards (e.g. the robotic unicorns), while Cuebric was used to turn those concepts into film-ready backgrounds for green screen and virtual production. These were finally integrated into Unreal Engine, automating various technical aspects of the production and allowing dynamic camera movements, creating a realistic sense of depth applying layer and object segmentation.

Anthropic’s Claude 3 large language model was used to brainstorm various slogans and parts of the script. “None of them were usable straight-up, but provided us with some inspiration for the hairspray”, said King. Baselight was used for color grading skin tones and various other aspects of the project. Finally AWS Deadline was used to bring everything together and render assets.

As this project demonstrates, AWS is actively exploring new applications for generative AI tools that support artists and media companies in their work, making their processes enormously more efficient. As these tools evolve, they continually uncover new use cases that simplify daily tasks, automate mundane technical processes, and free up artists to focus more on creative endeavors.

Collaboration at the speed of light

The discussion also highlighted how cloud and AI tools are opening up collaboration between teams in various locations – Vancouver, London, LA, Boston, Idaho, Switzerland, Turkey, Tucson, and the Netherlands.

“We first said, ‘We want these machines to be Linux.’ But then we changed our minds. ‘Now we want them to be Windows.’ Literally in minutes we had new machines up and running,” Ames explained, to illustrate the agility that cloud computing brings to modern filmmaking.

It’s not just a phase

It’s clear that the intersection of technology and creativity in filmmaking will continue to expand, offering more dynamic, more affordable and immersive ways to tell stories.

The tools we’re seeing pioneered at the professional end of the media industry will trickle down to prosumer and amateur creators quickly, enabling professional-grade filmmaking to be done in a fraction of the normal time and on a shoestring budget. It’s a pretty exciting time to be working in the creative industries.

Check out Cowgirls on the Moon below.

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