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Artificial Intelligence is a daily firehose of OMGs at this point – SORA’s generative AI filmmaking teases, ElevenLab’s voice generators, HeyGen’s crazy-good avatars that apparently can walk and talk now.

We could show you ways to get AI’s help for many turns of an hourglass. In fact, in the time it took to write this paragraph (not using AI we swear), Claude wrote this joke about us, reluctantly…

No wonder most normal people just stay out of the daily torrent, for fear of drowning. Some people think we’re all just dancing on our own graves

AI is here to stay, of course. We love imagining ourselves as whiskey drinking porcupines or action heroes.

But we also cling to one of our few remaining strengths over AI: a healthy sense of skepticism about the pragmatism of it all. This recent Harvard Business Review article worth a read captures our wait-and-see sensibilities: “…what’s missing are convincing, real-world, real-life use cases. Are people really using these tools? Have they found ways for generative AI to help them lighten their workloads, increase their productivity, think through problems in new ways?”

Still, we at Mills James also feel constant nagging FOMO, so we want to stay on top of as much as we can without getting swept away. We want to be the people who discover the killer apps, not get run over by them.

So, we’ve decided to use this space to occasionally jump into the AI torrent and share the good, bad, and “gonna be ugly” AI innovations in our particular world: video and event production in all of its forms: commercial production, marketing, training, corporate communication, corporate events, brand activations, etc.

Over a year ago, we created a Basecamp Company Chat to share production innovations that seem intriguing. We’ve tested dozens of solutions since then. We’ve also developed an informal guiding framework to help us evaluate AI. Our lens:

  • Which AI tools can truly help our clients achieve key communication or business goals  – to inspire, educate, convince, sell, fundraise, grow revenue, increase profits, etc.
  • How can AI elevate our creative  – for better storytelling, deeper emotional resonance, more compelling imagery, etc.
  • How can AI improve the production journey itself – to make it go faster, be less expensive, manage risk, be more fun

Every time we review a new AI tool, we’ll give it one of three ratings:

  • Sweet – Smart use of AI, with very few unintended consequences
  • Nah As Of Now – the AI is either way off, too uncanny valley, brings nothing to the party, or too much ethical danger lies ahead in our opinion
  • Hmm – A more nuanced conclusion. We see potential today (‘getting there’) but it might elicit a lot of ‘ewws’ at first or won’t come without unintended consequences. We’ll need to be super careful, working through it all together as smart humans.

First up, Avatars.

Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we’re going straight to Hmm.

We actually created our own Mills James avatar – called Malatar – by essentially cloning our Marketing Manager, Mallory. We combined our people’s talents for production value with an emerging AI Avatar creation service called HeyGen. Check it out:

Once you make your Avatar as described in the videos above, you can crank out communication initiatives much more quickly than filming the real human over and over. Just upload your script and the Avatar will read it, whether we’re talking training efforts, ongoing internal communication, multi-language enterprise communication, whatever you want to test.

On paper, Avatars are undoubtedly a powerful way to increase your content output overnight in a surprisingly engaging way. Effortlessly create personalized messages in various languages, for example.

But at what cost. It’s pretty good and getting better every day. But…does Malatar feel kinda eerie? Just fake enough that you’re now convinced companies will replace all humans with robots week after next?


Mills James COO Scott Lanum expressed his thoughts: “There is naturally a great deal of concern surrounding adoption of Avatars in the production world: filming a human once and never needing to hire (or pay) them again, or misusing images for nefarious purposes like portraying a person in a situation that did not occur. Most of this will be sorted out with AI authenticators and ethical guardrails, but the fear will remain for some time”.

A related controversy: the recent Under Armour ad that used AI to create poses from previously shot footage of a famous athlete, leading to much handwringing.

One issue will go away soon: that uncanny valley ickiness is temporary, mark our words, because avatars are getting more and more realistic, with much better lip synch almost every day. Heck, our next iteration of Malatar will walk and talk.

We want to hear from you. How does the Avatar make you feel? Do you see any good uses for avatars in your world, where the benefits of increased content generation outweigh the costs? Fill out a brief survey here

We’re excited to be on the journey to explore all that generative AI may have to offer. Stay tuned as we learn more.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t heard already, film mogul Tyler Perry recently paused his $880 million studio expansion because of Sora From OpenAi — ‘It’s shocking to me’.

All photos used in this article were generated by AI, via the prompts below:

  1. OMG Firehose: A captivating dystopian cityscape at night, with towering skyscrapers that pierce the inky black sky. Neon lights of various shapes and colors illuminate the city, casting a vibrant yet eerie glow on the streets. In the foreground, a person is seen holding a firehose, from which streams the phrases ‘OMG’ and ‘WTF’. The words cascade down the buildings, walls, and ground, creating a graffiti-like effect. The atmosphere is tense, with citizens appearing anxious and on edge in the background. A sense of chaos and urgency permeates the scene, making it a mesmerizing and thought-provoking image.
  2. Dancing on graves: A captivating dystopian cityscape at night, with towering skyscrapers and neon lights, reflecting a futuristic and dark vibe, with people everywhere dancing on graves. The overall atmosphere conveys a sense of chaos and urgency, with citizens appearing anxious in the background.
  3. Porcupine: A comical and surreal photograph of a porcupine donning a fedora and glasses, refinedly seated at a bar. It confidently holds a whisky glass with an ice cube, appearing as though it’s about to take a sip. The porcupine’s expression is jovial and he’s toasting the camera. The bar is stylish and dimly lit, with a few other patrons in the background, adding to the lively atmosphere., photo