How Joris Bacquet used AI to imagine Infinity
With his innovative music video for Azel Phara, Bacquet manipulated the world-generating possibilities of AI to create a narrative film that is both visually spectacular and question-raising. We spoke to him about how he became one with the machines...
As the film continues, the ever-zooming journey is interrupted by flashes of code and conversation, at which point we're introduced to the protagonist and 'real' creator of the project - AI.
Cleverly showcasing the potential of using tech to develop images and hinting at the issues it could cause in the future, Bacquet's film is part social commentary, part experiment and part entertaining narrative.
We were fascinated by its development, so caught a moment with the director to find out how he learned to conjure in code.
- Director Joris Bacquet
Unlock full credits and more with a Source + shots membership.
How did the project come together?
It all started with some research I was doing on using AI as a new way to create. What intrigued me was the idea of creating images purely based on words; that’s how AI works - by compiling words, called 'prompts', and having it search databases to interpret the look.
At first, I was not convinced at all, but I persevered and, through a free collaborative piece of software called DiscoDiffusion, found my graphic language. A mix of cgi, clay, and organic; a weird but graphic look.
How did Azel Phara get involved?
Once I was happy with the results, I shared some stills on Instagram and the feedback was entirely unexpected.
Through the messages, I received a DM from Azel Phara - producer of the Infinity track - asking me: "Can you make it move?"
I thought "Wow. I'm already struggling to make cool stills, and he asked me to do animation?! Damn !"
But I took it as a challenge.
Once I found my way around animating it, I decided to do something unexpected - a narrative, 'made with AI', music video. All of the AI work I had seen so far was much more random; nicely animated sequences, but not shaped into a narrative form.
What was the process for finding the story?
I started by writing down the script, with AI at the heart of it. From day one, I decided to not only use AI as the medium, but also have it as the 'main character' of the music video.
For me, it was really interesting to ask the audience (and myself): as AI is creating all of the images on screen, who is really directing this music video? Who is the creator, me or the AI?
From there, I started to think about the AI as the creator; a smart and sentient entity who is aware of its condition and its role in making/creating the film.
How did you get the film's unique look?
I based the visuals on the mood of the track, and found retro-futuristic, fantastical worlds and environments. I then started thinking about multi-dimensional universes where the camera is searching endlessly for 'infinity' as a place, a Holy Grail.
As I got into the specific ideas of how I needed each environment to look, I started 'cheating'; giving the AI fake rendered images in an attempt to control it, and adjusting details to fit my storytelling.
In the end, I utilised the AI to fit my ideas, not allowing it to give me truly random environments, but rather using it as a tool.
How would you describe the enigmatic ending?
All of the environments are about a human searching for answers about the meaning of life, be it in nanotechnology, through the sky, at the end of the universe, hidden deep inside the abyss. Basically searching for 'infinity'.
The end implies that maybe infinity is not a place or a grail, but a machine. Maybe through developing AI, humankind is shaping its future. Time will tell if humans will still be the masters... or not. Who knows?!