About MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA
From internationally acclaimed filmmaker Dan Sickles and DPOP Studios, comes MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA, a cinematic innovation that employs groundbreaking AI tools to re-envision the radical 1929 film Man With a Movie Camera, directed by Dziga Vertov. MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA is an homage to – and interrogation of – Vertov's cinematic masterpiece and is the first feature-length film series to use a single long-form prompt, which will generate 480 unique iterations of Vertov’s original film to be revealed on SuperRare throughout 2024.
“In 2018, as a thought experiment, I drafted a shot-for-shot description of the film Man With a Movie Camera with the intention of making an adaptation for the modern era.
In 2021, as AI generative tools became more available, I began to experiment with the idea that it might be possible to generate a feature-length film using AI that reflected the original.
In 2023, along with a team of creative-technologists, we’ve discovered how to do just that.”
– Dan Sickles
MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA is the first artistic initiative of its kind to embrace several new open-source principles. The series is created in collaboration with Stability AI's open-source models (Dreamstudio, ClipDrop and Stable Audio), implementing decentralized storage through the Filecoin network of independent storage providers and IPFS (InterPlanetary File System). It also relies on Giza Technology’s zero-knowledge proof cryptography to authenticate the provenance of AI operations. Together with Mirage Gallery AI, DPOP is designing a viewing platform for the series as it is revealed throughout 2024.
“This project serves as a model for how artistic creations can be reliably linked back to open-source models, fostering AI as an equitable public good for creative production,” says Sickles.
Each iteration of the film is generated from a prompt that describes – shot-for-shot – Vertov’s original film. The prompt is then trained on a curated visual data set to give each iteration a distinct aesthetic. Shot length and content is consistent throughout all iterations and matches the original film.
The sale for MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA goes live on SuperRare on December 18, 2023 at 12pm EST for 24 hours to allowlisted crypto wallet addresses, after which, the sale will open to the public. Each mint will be revealed individually throughout 2024.
MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA embodies both reflection and progress, a playful experimentation, then and now, inviting audiences to witness the fusion of classic cinema with future-forward technology. Mirrors of one another, each film is distinct in the collection and speaks within the larger chorus.”
– Dan Sickles
Dpop studios has partnered with several teams to realize this project in the most holistic way:
- Stability AI has given the team access to a suite of incredibly robust tools to realize this vision
- FileCoin Foundation has partnered to grant access to their decentralized file storage system to upload each iteration onto IPFS for maximal permanence
- Giza Technology is partnering with the team to authenticate and verify each AI model used for the project
- Mirage Gallery AI will be building out a special online viewing experience for audiences
Allowlist is allocated to: New Here Holders, SuperRare Pass Holders, Mirage Gallery Members, Sovrn Art Collectors, CryptoPunks.
An: Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA and what led you to reimagine the 1929 film using AI technology?
DS: In 2017 I released a film called DINA, and following that, I was looking to develop a project that was more loose and experimental to help relieve some feelings I was experiencing as a byproduct of the attention DINA was receiving [at 29 years old, Sickles was the youngest director to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival] and, of course, the inherent expectations I’d placed on myself to follow it up. I developed two film briefs in this pursuit, the first was an attempt at a sequel to the new-wave documentary REPUBLIQUE by Louis Malle, and the other was an adaptation of the 1929 masterpiece Man With a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. I shot my concept for REPUBLIQUE in 2018 – though it has yet to be released. During that same time, I studied Man With a Movie Camera so intensely that I created a shot-for-shot description of the film and held onto it in hopes that one day I could take that script and realize the idea.
Flash forward to 2023, two years into the development of NEW HERE [Sickles’ cryptoculture film currently in post-production], and I’ve become deeply familiar with various AI creative tools through my relationships with other AI-collaborative artists like Robbie Barrat and Claire Silver. In learning more about the process of working with AI, it struck me that my shot-for-shot description of Man With a Movie Camera might function as a long-form prompt to be used by generative AI, and that’s when the concept for MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA truly took hold.
An: What challenges did you and your team face in the process of creating a feature-length film series using AI, and how did you overcome them?
DS: This project is a feat of engineering. It has required a team of creative technologists [including award-winning filmmaker Bruce Thierry Cheung] to help realize this vision while rising above technical limitations. My initial focus was to make the prompt sing in a way that honors the essence of the original film – developing language that could produce dynamic results was a challenge.
The series of 480 iterations will be revealed over the course of 2024, so part of the project is that we’ve built in a system where we’re continuously refining our process as iterations are released – intentionally, continuously confronting obstacles to realize the project to its fullest extent.
An: How do you see this project contributing to the evolution of filmmaking and storytelling techniques?
DS: For me, dreaming up new stories has always gone hand-in-hand with imagining the practicalities of producing them, which can hinder an imagination. Growing up, if I wanted to create an epic gladiatorial spectacle set in outer space, I knew I had to simultaneously consider the logistics of producing such a story. With new tools for low-lift creative realization and collaboration dropping weekly, creatives are freer now from the burden of considering the enormous costs as they endeavor to create ambitious stories. This has implications for lowering costs of production, though on a deeper level I believe AI can also push the boundaries of how we imagine. What these tools enable us to produce will be the focus of our collective consciousness for generations.
The fact that I’m able to generate 480 feature-length films from a single prompt, each with its own unique aesthetic, is speaking to that possibility. I suspect the trend toward personalization and fine-tuning media to fit the needs and wants of an audience will continue, hyper-powered by AI creative tools.
An: How do you think we can make AI an equitable public good for creative production?
DS: Making AI-collaborative tools accessible, affordable, user friendly, and available in multiple languages is a start. Then there are the ethical aspects of creative AI, which go wide. Ensuring that AI isn’t used to plagiarize, infringe on artist rights, or propagate harmful stereotypes are all central to my efforts within the industry as a creative who works with AI.
An: The project embraces open-source principles. How do open-source principles contribute to the creation and distribution of MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA, and why was it important for you?
DS: Open-source principles contribute significantly to both the production and distribution of the MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA film series. Open-source principles foster innovation and democratize process, so that contributors from anywhere might learn from and expand upon the workflow.
Using blockchain to authenticate each iteration, partnering with Filecoin Foundation to upload each one to IPFS, and working with Giza Technology to authenticate and validate our models, is a cumulative effort to utilize blockchain technology deeply and natively, in a way that provides a clear, verifiable record of the project’s process.
An: Can you discuss the Minting and Reveal for the 480 iterations?
- The Mechanics for this reveal are unique and will take shape throughout 2024.
DS: We chose to reveal batches of iterations monthly throughout the year. I wanted to release the project in a way that gave it space to continue to grow in parallel with new AI creative tools being developed. In that way, MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA charts the evolution of this technology in real time, which is another thing I don’t often get to do in the traditional film space, release a project as I keep iterating on it.
An: How did you curate the visual data set to give each iteration a distinct aesthetic?
DS: That is the process! It’s taken months to build the various models used in this project. Our models are trained on all different data sets. Some are trained on stills from films released before Vertov’s time (films he may have seen himself), some data sets are trained on media that has impacted me. Part of testing so many different models for MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA is to experiment with how wide we can stretch the original source material while retaining its essence.
An: What is your prediction for the development of AI in 2024, and how will the progress of technology be reflected through the unveiling of the film copies throughout the next year?
DS: We chose to release this project over the next year so that it may also embody a moment in time that feels particularly…exponential. I suspect the first iterations of MAN WITH AI MOVIE CAMERA will move differently from the last iterations. I’m thrilled to be witness to and part of this process, as it’s impossible to release a traditional film in this way! The monthly reveals will mark the progress of a new set of creative technological tools as they themselves evolve.
I suspect 2024 will be more revelatory than 2023 in terms of AI development. Our culture and our politics are still in the process of making AI its own, while realizing how we want to engage with it, and I believe we will learn more about our affinity for this new alien intelligence in the coming year.