“It’s important to understand that technology always augments humans, and the story of Hollywood has been marred by moments like this before,” Cristóbal Valenzuela, CEO of AI video company Runway, said at the Yahoo Finance Invest conference on Tuesday.
Runway, which develops generative AI tools focused on film and image, is valued at a reported $1.5 billion. It has the backing of big-name investors, including Alphabet’s Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Nvidia (NVDA), and Salesforce (CRM) Ventures.
In June, the company raised $141 million in a Series C round. Its technology is built for creatives, including advertisers, photographers, and – of course – filmmakers.
History suggests that advancements in technology won’t ultimately put humans in Tinseltown out of work, said Valenzuela. He points to the evolution of movie music as a key example. In the silent film era, orchestras played in movie theaters. When movies with sound emerged, famously called “talkies,” those orchestras went out of fashion — but an entire industry surrounding movie music and soundtracks began to build.
“It’s not about replacing the industry, but about augmenting processes and changing them,” said Valenzuela. “So, I think the key factor now, and how I spend most of my time these days specifically in Hollywood, is helping transition into that.”
Much of the fear – and excitement – surrounding AI links back to how fast the technology is advancing, as popularity of ChatGPT has spurred a boom in generative AI in the past year. The rapid rate of development has been especially true in AI-generated video. If you were to compare it to the early days of photography, Runway’s AI models “were in the 1900s just two years ago, and now we’re entering the 1980s of the camera revolution,” said Valenzuela.
Unease surrounding AI goes beyond Hollywood. As the U.S. heads into an election year, AI-powered video is widely considered to be a growing and alarming misinformation risk.
Valenzeula said that the technology to do this, CGI, has been in place for years. His view is that AI leaders should ensure the output of their AI models are used appropriately, while bad actors or videos should be restricted. However, fears about fake videos should not result in constraints on technological advancements, he added.
Ultimately, the concerns and possibilities around AI video – and AI overall – seem to be in flux, it’s because we’re fundamentally still in very early days. That especially applies to Runway’s AI models and the company overall, said Valenzuela.
“It’s still year zero… A great piece of software won’t necessarily make you a great company,” he said. “It’s the people who make the software and the models themselves that create a really great company.”