Sharron Elkabas Feature Interview: How AI Will Be Used in the Talent Industry

April 28 20:02 2023

Artificial intelligence has been all over the headlines recently, and for good reason – AI-powered tools like DALL-E and ChatGPT are making astonishing leaps forward that would have seemed like the stuff of tech daydreams only years before. These kinds of generative AI technologies – so-called because they’re used to generate something new, like images, audio or text – have captured the public’s imagination and attracted significant investment, with businesses of all kinds beginning to develop ideas on how this kind of technology can be integrated into what they do, making their customers lives easier and boosting the all-important bottom line. 

As we ready ourselves for an all-out AI revolution, artificial intelligence is gradually gaining a foothold in almost every corner of our economy, and the worlds of entertainment, media and advertising are no exception. AI-powered tech is poised to completely transform the way business is done in the talent industry, as celebrities become able to license their digital likeness to brand campaigns and partnerships through the use of AI-based visual effects. To find out more about this development, and hear about how AI is going to revolutionize the talent industry, we spoke with Sharron Elkabas, the CEO of global talent agency MN2S.

What initially drew your interest into the field of AI?

MN2S has consistently been ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new technologies. We were one of the first music distributors to embrace the digital revolution, and that was a decision that has paid off for us in the long run. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve always kept an ear to the ground for technological advancements. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is something that’s been bubbling up in the background for many years, though it’s only recently broken into the zeitgeist through tools like DALL-E and ChatGPT. When I first realized how this new generation of tech could be integrated into our own business model, I was hooked and I had to find out more.

How have you seen AI integrated into the talent industry so far?

It’s still early days, but we’re seeing rapid developments. AI is already being used to produce digital doubles of celebrities, actors and musicians, in order for their likeness to be used in digital content. This can have an almost endless variety of applications in the future, but what we’re seeing now is a move towards talent licensing their image to be replicated digitally in entertainment and media through the use of visual AI technology. 

How will AI change the talent business in the years to come?

This could have a seismic impact on the talent industry. Previously, a typical brand partnership process might involve a brand contacting an agency, who in turn contacts the talent and arranges an in-person visit that sees them participating in some form of photoshoot or content creation activity for the brand. 

In the future, this process could be transformed entirely by the use of AI: all the brand would need to do is contact the talent’s agency and license the use of their digital double in order to incorporate the talent in their campaign materials through digital means. This process could happen remotely in the space of a day or two, and means the talent will no longer need to be present, saving time and travel expenses for the brand, and of course saving time and making life easier for the talent too.

AI is something of a catch-all term that can encompass many different services and platforms. Can you explain what kind of AI you’re talking about specifically? 

What we’re talking about here is generative AI. Tools like DALL-E are trained on vast datasets of images in order to understand what things look like, and as a result, they can take any text input and transform that into an image at the other end. In a similar way, the AI tech we’re talking about can be trained on thousands of images of an individual, in order to create a digital double that can then be inserted into digital campaigns through the use of advanced visual FX. Often a body double will be used, and the talent’s face will be mapped on to the face of the double through visual effects processing.

How will this change things from your perspective as a talent agent?

The entire process will become ten times more efficient. This will make life easier for agencies and save on a variety of costs, too. Often the most difficult aspect of any brand partnership is figuring out the logistics and scheduling: getting the right people to the right place at the right time. AI will streamline this process completely. For example, where my team may have had to arrange the travel of a group of five from New York to LA for a weekend shoot, now we would simply have to email over a few contracts and authorize the use of a digital double remotely, then let the tech guys do their thing.

How will this affect the experience of the talent you’re working with?

It’s going to be hugely beneficial for talent. They’ll be able to license their doubles to as many campaigns or brands as they would like, and they’ll no longer be limited by schedules or logistics in how much work they can take on. Filming a new series in Iceland but they need to take part in a campaign in Texas? No problem. Received three offers for the same weekend but can’t be in three places simultaneously? No problem – digital doubles can solve that problem. It’s going to change the game completely.

This kind of technology can open up new possibilities for talent that would never otherwise have been possible. Digital doubles can be made to speak in any language, even ones that the talent don’t know themselves – this means they can easily take part in global campaigns that require the use of a different language, something that would have required weeks of training if they were to learn the lines themselves. Talent can even take part in campaigns that feature a younger or older version of themselves, as the digital double can be tweaked to appear as any age as required.

Can the talent’s voice be licensed, as well as their image?

It certainly can be. It’s possible to create AI models of any voice, so that new audio can be generated using that voice. Using this technology, talent could contribute a voice-over to an advertisement or even voice a character in a film without having to record a single word. 

Could all of this mean that deceased talent could continue to be part of campaigns after their death?

Yes, exactly. This could become a way of providing a continued revenue stream for the talent’s family or estate for years to come.

Deepfakes have received some bad press in the past. Could you speak to some of the ethical challenges of working with this kind of technology?

In the past, some critics have been concerned about the unauthorized use of deepfake technology. However, it’s key to understand that the technology we’re talking about here actually goes a way towards solving this problem, by providing a way of properly licensing and utilizing deepfakes (or digital doubles, as we prefer to call them) in a way that’s fully authorized, entirely above board and actually benefits the talent.

Where do you see this technology progressing in the future?

The possibilities are almost endless. Looking beyond the world of talent, there’s huge potential for this kind of technology in the music world – we could see artists licensing a digital double of their singing voice to feature on other artists’ songs without ever recording a single note, or even having their digital double appear in music videos. At the rate this kind of technology is developing, the sky’s the limit, and if you can imagine something, it can probably be done.

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Company Name: MN2S
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Country: United States

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