How I made a music video using Midjourney’s Zoom out feature

Jul 8, 2023

Christopher Smallfield

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

How I made a music video using Midjourney’s Zoom out feature

Jul 8, 2023

Christopher Smallfield

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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The world of art has always been a space for creativity, expression, and innovation. Throughout history, artists have pushed boundaries, challenged conventions, and embraced new technologies to create groundbreaking works. Artificial intelligence (AI) has brought about a significant shift in the artistic landscape in recent years, sparking both fascination and concern.

One platform that has captured the attention of many artists is MidJourney, which offers new functionality that allows users to zoom out and generate images endlessly quickly. This capability has opened up a realm of possibilities for storytelling and experimentation. This new feature inspired me, and immediately, I wanted to use it to tell a story. I settled on a music video as a concept.

Using Midjourney’s Zoom out feature

I played around with creating a starting point and landed on this lizard-like alien person, and I loved his stunned expression, which gave an impression of “existential dread”. At the start, I made it up as I went along. Where could he be? I thought a spaceship was obvious, but I could make it a bit weirder.

I wanted to make it awkwardly long, so the viewer might wonder where it would end or if it would. After establishing the ship, I needed to give him a reason for being so stunned. Perhaps the ship was caught in a cosmic tear in reality, and we can travel through several planes of existence before landing in some reality-creating server room. Is AI reality a simulation? I don’t believe it is, but it’s fun to play with as a story element.

The music is a track I made for fun, and it fits with the imagery I was making in this experiment. After MidJourney, I used Adobe After Effects to edit the video together.

How AI devalues artist’s work

So how do I feel about generative AI as an artist? Regarding AI and MidJourney, I find them extremely fascinating and terrifying in equal measure. I’ve been playing with generative art for a while, but with the advent of Disco Diffusion two years ago, it became clear that things would change in the commercial and fine art world.

I didn’t anticipate exactly how fast we would go from interesting abstract painting-like images to high-fidelity images that are indistinguishable from photographs in some cases. AI is already disruptive, and I don’t see that going away. It’s likely only to get worse.

Before AI, commercial art (design, film, VFX, games, etc.) was already on the path of “more more more for less less less”. Every development created to help alleviate that is met with a desire for even more content created faster. AI generative tools are a logical, inevitable next step in answering that demand.

These tools empower artists, enabling them to create more efficiently and inexpensively. However, they also raise concerns about the commodification and devaluation of artistic craft.

The dark side of Generative AI

In a world where I wouldn’t need to make money to survive or support my family, I would use AI tools, but I would also take more time to draw, paint, play music, and create for creation’s sake. That is not the world we live in, though. AI exposes many weaknesses and pre-existing exploitation of artists by exaggerating it further and faster.

The way in which these tools were created is problematic as well. Scraping the internet, despite the legal grey area, and diffusing the works of pretty much everyone into the models without their permission is terrible. As artists, we should fight back against the companies that created and capitalised on these models for reparations.

But whether I like it or not, its continued use is inevitable. I see it used in advertisements all the time, despite no clear rulings on its legality. The upsides of commercial use are seemingly worth the risks.

How artists can use AI to enhance their work

Besides the fact that I find it incredibly fun to play with and creatively freeing in a way, I want to be prepared for its widespread use as I expect it to have implications for my career, one way or another. However, artistic training and ability will remain advantageous despite the technological advances because a large part of the work when using AI tools is curation. Separating the images that have real value versus just churning out mediocre compositions is a skill people must develop to create better work.

This all sounds negative, but there are some major upsides as well. The path from idea to tangible image is so fast, and iteration time is so low with these tools that one can flesh out a whole presentation in a day or two. That can increase the quality and also the communication of ideas.

The physical barrier to executing high-quality images is also lowered, allowing people with physical challenges that prevent them from using traditional tools now have new means to express themselves. I’ve also been in contact with people who are neurodivergent and have gained amazing communication and creation tools through AI. It has incredible potential to enhance the best that humanity has to offer.

We must use AI responsibly, with transparency

Ultimately, there is a responsible way to use AI. The most important aspect is honesty. Using it deceptively to trick people into believing an image was made in a different way or by presenting a false reality as true is a big danger. But if one thinks of it less as a tool but as more of a format that one can be candid about, it has a place in the commercial and fine art world.

In the same way, it wouldn’t make sense to submit a photograph to a painting competition, it doesn’t seem appropriate to me to present AI works as anything other than AI work.

As artists, we all need to face up to the fact that AI isn’t going away. If anything, it will become more pervasive in every field. We must continue to explore and embrace AI responsibly, with integrity and transparency. This way, we can harness its potential to enhance human creativity rather than diminish it.

About the Author

Christopher Smallfield is a Berlin-based VFX Supervisor, Artist and Author. Most recently, he worked as VFX supervisor on Loki Season 1 and She-Hulk. He has worked extensively for the last two years with AI generative art and is known as Blckbox in that community. He has recently released his first book, Mostly Human, which is the first in a series of books on the topic of AI art. You can see more of his work on his website, or follow him on Instagram.

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