David Fincher Compares Early Attempts at A.I. Cinematography to ‘A Low-Rent Version of Roger Deakins’

From digital photography in “Zodiac” to de-aging in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” David Fincher has always been quick to embrace new filmmaking technologies. But when it comes to the AI revolution that threatens to disrupt Hollywood, the director is taking a wait-and-see approach.

In a new interview with British GQ, Fincher shared his thoughts on the creative potential of AI. While he’s less concerned about the technology than some of his peers, he explained that he believes art needs a human touch to be truly great.

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“I think AI’s a really powerful tool,” Fincher said. “And for my money, I have not heard an AI Beatles song that compares to ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ So until somebody plays an AI song that knocks me out… maybe that’s just where we’re at now, and I may be eating my words in a year, but I think ultimately, the thing that we respond to in poetry, and writing, and songwriting, and photography, is the personal bent.”

Fincher acknowledged that serious filmmakers are beginning to experiment with AI cinematography, but said that algorithms seeking to replicate the work of Oscar-winning cinematographers like Roger Deakins fail to live up to the real thing.

“I have friends who are photographic geniuses playing with AI,” he said. “And you look at it, and it always looks like sort of a low-rent version of Roger Deakins. And I understand what AI is pulling from in order to make this.”

Fincher didn’t entirely rule out the possibility that AI could be used to make interesting art. But for the moment, the “Se7en” director believes that the most effective use of the technology is on projects that make no attempt to mask the artificiality of the medium.

“But I’ve also seen short films that are made by people who embrace what is ineffective and plastic about AI, and have made short films that are really moving, touching, and interesting, but it’s obviously AI,” he said. “Until the point of time that somebody shows me something that I go ‘Oh my god, that breaks my heart,’ and then they say, ‘Oh, well, as it turns out, this was somebody talking into a microphone, and this is the film that came out,’ I’m not that worried about it.”

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