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"Our understanding of what characters are has been shaped by the media formats that gave rise to them. As the media undergo an unprecedented revolution, what will characters turn into?"
An interview with Caroline Attia
Character Topic: The impact of AI on characters.
In this issue:
Just in time for the London Olympics Characters Engage had the opportunity to speak to the French Animation Director and Illustrator Caroline Attia about her work on the global McDonalds Olympics tie in campaign "Champions of Play".
CE: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what do you do?
CA: I am a freelance animation filmmaker and illustrator. I graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris in 2004 and spent a semester at SVA (School of Visual Arts in NYC) in 2004. Since then I have navigated my way between illustration and animation. In animation, I mostly work on my own on smaller projects such as music videos, commissioned short films and TV commercials. I am currently working as a designer on several TV series projects, one of which is at the pilot stage, while another one has received several writing grants. In illustration most of my work is commercial and my principal focus is character design. It is what I love most, and the thing I always look forward to.
CE: How did you become involved with the global McDonalds “Champions of Play” program, which is designed around the 2012 London Olympics?
CA: For my illustration work I am represented by "Mendola Art" in the US and I got involved with this project through them. The agency "The Marketing Store" in Chicago contacted "Mendola Art" when they saw my work. I had had a really great relationship with my agents for a year and a half before we started on this job and my work had generally been well received in the USA. Being chosen for this project was really cool though!
CE: What did you do for “Champions of Play”? What is your work used for?
CA: In the beginning, I created illustrated backgrounds to complement photos of children taken by Mitch Tobias. This first part of the project was used on concertina Happy Meal leaflets for the UK, which were intended to inspire children to be more active with toys and normal everyday objects. Then a second, shortened version of the leaflet was produced for the global market. The third part of the project were illustrations for online games versions of olympic sports.
CE: What is the purpose of “Champions of Play”? What are the different aspects of the program, such as the print and interactive campaigns intended to do, and how does the artwork you designed for the Happy Meals tie into this?
CA: The purpose of "Champions of Play" is to promote children's wellness. It is targeted at 6-14 year olds and focuses on physical activity, showcasing different ways to be physically active, in a playful manner. The artwork I created provides fun backgrounds for photographs of children at play. There are two types of illustrations... watercolor backgrounds and simple vector illustrations of props that are meant to be played with.
This work was used on the Happy Meal boxes, as well.
CE: What else are you working on at the moment? Is there something our readers can look out for?
CA: I am currently developing several TV series projects. I am working with the team from "Kawanimation" on a pilot episode of a project called "Dany the sneeze" and I am also developing the visual bible for a project called "America Nativa".
CE: Thank you Caroline Attia. Please check out Caroline's website for more of her wonderful work:
... and the "Champions of Play" website:
An interview with Caroline Attia
Right at the beginning of this discussion in our Linkedin group, a number of group members asked what "AI" means. The European character designer who had asked the question said, "it means "Artificial Intelligence". Sorry, I wasn't thinking about all the members for whom English is a second language. The abbreviations are of course different in all of those languages".
In response to the question a Motion Graphic/3D Contractor said that to him an AI character felt less like a product and more like something designed to provoke a response.
He also said that it should be noted that when we talk about the use of AI in characters, we are talking about game characters. He thought that game characters were quite different from other characters. While non game related characters usually follow a linear storyline, game characters are designed to work within a game environment, and may or may not contribute to the narrative. Even when the most important character in a game dies, for example, the game can still continue.
An IP Developer responded by saying that when you experience AI in a game character, especially in a highly active game with clearly set action parameters, AI can work well, simply because of the limitations. Take away the limitations, though, and real-time interaction becomes a real two way conversation. At that point our current concept of what a character is and how it works, in terms of engaging an audience, may have to change.
He went on to say that behavioural sciences might have a role to play in such a scenario, because the way engagement works would need to be developed all over again. After all, linear narratives and even real-time interaction in games are highly limited. After thousands of years of narrative development, over 500 years of printing technology, and over a hundred years of moving image technology we know a thing or two about creating engaging characters for such media formats. But real-time interaction and especially goal-less real-time exchanges are quite a different ball game.
The character designer who had asked the original question, added that another issue would be actual Artificial Intelligence, as in programs that are capable of actual learning. Characters, he said, could end up with genuine character arcs, or to put it more simply, they might undergo real character changes.
In such a scenario it would become very difficult, if not impossible, to control a character as a product. An interactive character that changes for everyone who engages with it, becomes an individual, or rather a series of identical looking indivuals, rather than the set characters we know today. This would probably trigger a profound change of view in us, and he added that such characters might end up being thought of as digital friends or companions, instead of how we see them now.
At that point, the Motion Graphic/3D Contractor said that as far as he knows, there are no AI driven characters that are capable of interacting with anyone outside of their game of origin at this point in time.
In response, the character designer then posted this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPIbGnBQcJY and added that It is precisely in situations when characters such as "Milo" of "Project Natal" are not directly tied to a game, as we understand games today, that the original question becomes important. "Milo", he said, was a character that was simply designed to interact with people the way people interact with each other.
But what do you think? Will the current advances in AI change the way we think about characters? Why not join our discussion... here.