Director Diogo Kalil Teamed Up With an A.I. to Depict a Journey Out of Homelessness
Diogo Kalil has experimented with artificial intelligence to create animation, including music videos for friends, since 2016. But the São Paulo-based director hadn't had an opportunity to apply A.I. to a commercial project. So, when BBDO Dublin approached him about animating "Unfair City," a film for the Irish homeless charity Dublin Simon Community, using A.I. image generators, he immediately said yes.
"I thought it was a good opportunity to work on something that helps people and at the same time be learning the process of a new technology," Kalil tells Muse.
Created in conjunction with the LOBO creative studio, "Unfair City" tells the true story of Justin Cannon. We learn that he dreamed of becoming a boxer when he was young. But he fell in with the wrong crowd, wound up living on the streets far from home, then finally got sober and back on his feet with help from DSC.
It's a sensitive journey, and sharing it through animation afforded Cannon, who used his real name, some privacy, Kalil says.
At the outset of the pro-bono project, BBDO provided Kalil with a detailed brief. "They had the story, and then it was more about how to get there," Kalil says, noting that the agency wanted him to employ a painterly, watercolor-style of animation that felt "more humanized, even if it's a little contradictory to use artificial intelligence to building something that has some kind of emotional touch."
An audio interview with Cannon serves as the film's narration. "They put the audio on a timeline, and I followed it," says Kalil, who used Cannon's musings as a script just like he would if he was creating traditional animation, breaking down the lines and conceiving ways to illustrate the thoughts and actions.
Kalil then engaged A.I. generator Midjourney, with voice prompts guiding the program through image creation and animation technique.
"As the image generates, it becomes more sharp and has more definition," Kalil says.
Kalil sent the images to BBDO for feedback, then made any necessary tweaks to refine. For example, the agency looked at an ambulance generated by Midjourney and pointed out that it needed to look like an Irish ambulance. "And then I needed to go back and try to make the prompt to bring back the image they wanted," Kalil says.
Overall, it was a pretty smooth process, though Kalil reports that Midjourney sometimes had difficulty creating images with more than one subject. He encountered that issue when he tried to devise a scene featuring both an ambulance and a nurse with wings. "It's layers of information that you need to put on the prompt," Kalil says.
Also, in the opening scene, which features a portrait of Cannon, Kalil wanted a cat walking on a piece of furniture in the background. But the machine didn't quite get that Kalil needed Cannon to appear in a still portrait, while the cat was in motion. "This scene was a little bit of a challenge to have what we wanted. So, we needed to give up the cat," Kalil says. (Later in the film, we see Cannon cuddle the cat.)
Once the images were created, and everyone was satisfied with how they looked, they were animated using the motion-graphics software After Effects. "Using that traditional software, we tried to emulate a camera. We go zooming in, or zooming out of an image and find another image," Kalil says. He used another A.I. generator, Disco Diffusion, to finesse the final look and feel of the film.
"I believe the technology is a true revolution," Kalil says when asked about the efficacy of the A.I. tools used to make "Unfair City" over the course of two months. "It automates a lot of processes and is something that is good to experiment with to understand how far it can get us."
Kalil isn't worried about AI technology replacing human artists. "To me, it's important to have the artist’s eye, even if it is something generated by technology," he says.
Creative Agency: BBDO Dublin
Executive Creative Director: Shane O’Brien
Creative Director/Concept: Robert Boyle
Strategy Director/Concept: Adriano Eliezer
Art Director/Concept: Vinicius Bustamante
Copywriter: Donal Gaughran
Creative Director/Copywriter: Eoin Conlon
Head of Innovation: Ed Leamy
Head of Account Management: Katie Cunningham Senior Account Manager: Emma Blaney
Head of Production: Jess Derby
Agency Producer: Hannah Lambert
Multimedia Producer: Ali Kearney
Connections Strategy: Alex Boucher
Head of Strategy: Paul Fisher
Chief Executive: Neal Davies
PR Agency: Harte Media
Communications Specialist: Garret Harte
Associate Director: Catherine Monaghan
Client: Dublin Simon Community
Chief Executive Officer: Catherine Kenny
Communications & Marketing Manager: Caoimhe O'Connell
Head of Fundraising and Communications: Aisling Harmey
Senior Marketing Executive: Louise Murphy
Senior Communications Executive: Frances Macken
Marketing & Communications Executive: Omoyele Rahman
Production Studio: LOBO
Director: Diogo Kalil
Executive Producer: Loic Francois Marie Dubois, Michael Stanish
Account Manager: Su Constantine
Head of production: Marcelo Barbosa, Clara Morelli
Post Production: Bruna Boretto
AI Illustration: Diogo Kalil with MidJourney
Animation: Igor Lopes
Music Composition: HEYHEYMYMY
Music Director: Mairena Julius
Sound Effects and Mix by HEYHEYMYMY
Final Sound: Scimitar
Final Sound Mix: Dean Jones, Jordan Mullen, Alex Derby @ Scimitar