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Avatars, AI and authenticity - driving the revolution in marketing video production

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher May 15, 2024
Summary:
AI's having a big impact on the video production process, argues Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia.

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The speed at which things are changing with video is nothing short of amazing with AI democratizing video production and helping in ways it couldn't a few years ago. Yes, AI avatars are one example, and we'll talk about those, but other capabilities are helping companies increase video production, particularly around editing.

Consider editing a video by editing the transcription. Wistia, a video marketing platform, provides this capability. CEO Chris Savage says the firm has seen a 4x increase in the number of edits on videos produced on the Wistia platform. Without this capability, editing videos is a manual process, and the effort required to keep the audio and video in sync when you are slicing and dicing to clean them up is challenging. But if creators can simply select a portion of text in a transcript, delete it, and have the video modified immediately, that’s a time saver.

AI can help isolate voices and enhance them, making them richer and more accessible to hear. It can also help with translations so that a video you created in one language can now be available in many others, enabling you to reach a wider audience. Savage says:

A lot of the things that I look at is like the combination of these things. It's like giving you the tool to make your voice sound good, giving you the tool to help you edit it, giving you the music that sounds right, giving you smart overlays and captions, then starting to do translations for you. Suddenly, you can make a video that before might have had an audience of 500 people or 5000 people, and now you can get it to a much larger audience, and the quality is a lot higher.

Companies look to platforms like Wistia to support their video production needs. The biggest fear Savage hears about is reluctance to be on camera. People worry about their appearance and whether it will help or hurt their brand. There's also a fear of public speaking. These fears have always been there, Savage said, but now we're at a place where it's easier to edit videos and ease those concerns. He's seeing many more early adopters, testing and trying to figure out what works for them and their brand:

Part of what we have to do is pay really close attention to what's happening with AI today. And if we can find small places we can put in the product that can really save you time or help you do something you couldn't do otherwise, we should do it. You shouldn't have to worry about it. Think about it.

On AI avatars

AI avatars are the newest craze. Savage finds them both unbelievably exciting and a little scary. It's easy to find players in this space. The options are wide open, from video creation with avatars (Vidyard, Veed.io) to creating avatars you can insert into other content assets (e.g., hourone.ai, D-ID.com).

Reid Hoffman created an avatar of himself called Reid AI. He used hourone.ai for the avatar, elevenlabs.ai for his voice, and trained a custom chatbot built on GPT-4 on all the content he has produced over the last 20 years. Watching the video is really interesting because the avatar is very life-like (Hoffman had a conversation with it). Hoffman is an example of how far we can take AI avatars. Most brands aren't going this deep yet.

What we’re seeing more today is the creation of sales and marketing videos using custom AI avatars. Vidyard recently announced its AI Avatar capabilities, which enable salespeople to create personalized sales videos. D-ID integrates with Canva, allowing you to add custom AI avatars to Canva assets. In both examples, you can use a stock avatar or your own person (Vidyard requires you to create a two-minute training video; D-ID can work with an image of you). You also provide a script and select a voice or use your voice.

As more of these AI avatars are out there, people will start to question whether what they are seeing is real or not. They'll also have to decide if it matters that it's not a real person. Savage believes that as we start to see a proliferation of AI avatars, we’ll also see a shift to value even more the things a human can do:

We're at the very, very beginning of this, and so a lot of people are going to use this to their advantage in terms of scaling communication. But I think that the outcome is going to be as this happens more, as we see basically more deep fakes of famous individuals and stuff, I think that society is going to have to shift, and people are going to have to get used to it and start asking this question. And I think it's going to ultimately get us to a place where trust with another human being matters more than I ever did.

Savage also doesn't think people will use AI avatars to present important things. That's where humans will play a key role.

It's also important to consider what rights an employee or person used in a video has when AI is used. Companies need explicit permission to clone a person's voice or use their likeness, even if it's just cleaning up a video by modifying their voice or likeness, such as editing a video transcript or using an AI avatar for other videos.

Employees also need to understand whether employers have the right to modify their likeness when they leave the company. Savage said that dialog needs to happen upfront. Wistia recommends having a video (talent) release form that makes everything clear.

Authenticity

COVID taught us that casual, authentic videos are the norm, according to Savage, with the result that people are creating some genuinely authentic videos. We'll also see more creators working with brands to bring authentic voices to the brand, he predicts, and brands that learn how to work with creators to help them build trust are going to find success.

You can go too far, though, he said, especially when using AI avatars and placing yourself in crazy locations (e.g., space or on a boat in Venice) or spamming out AI videos to audiences (brands will do this). There are places where people may be more accepting of these things, says Savage, but it may come down to whether a big decision is being made (such as a significant financial decision), and people want to know they can trust the business.

Creating the right video strategy

Savage’s advice on how to create the right video strategyy starts with figuring out how to demystify production with AI. Wistia’s new editor gives many people the power to be editors, he pitches, and if they feel confident with the editing process, it starts to change how they want to shoot videos.

It also impacts how you repurpose video content, including making it available in more languages. And it means looking for ways to add video and audio content to help people who learn and understand in different ways. The key is to have options, he concludes:

I think another thing that's going to happen is basically the floor of the quality of videos is going to go up. It's going to be easier for the average person to make a video that they're proud of. I think it's going to take cultural time for people to get used to the AI avatar thing. I think that's going to take longer to actually proliferate, but I think that the tools to aid in production are going to happen very, very rapidly.

My take

I used D-ID’s software to create an AI avatar in Canva. It was very easy to do and the result was decent (the image I provided wasn’t great so I’m not sharing it). It was an experiment and not something I’m planning to use. But I do work with clients who are experimenting with custom avatars in their marketing videos and the results are impressive. Depending on the software you use, you can still tell it’s an AI avatar, but there are instances (including the example with Reid Hoffman) that show the strides being made in this area.

That being said, I agree with Savage that the biggest value brands will get from AI today and in the near future is video production. It’s easier than ever to create high-quality videos and edit them quickly. Wistia is one platform helping brands many all their video needs, but there are also others out there (including some I mentioned previously). All it takes is a quick Google search.

The point is, there is no excuse not to have video as part of your sales and marketing strategy. If you aren’t already experimenting with and developing a video strategy, you could be missing a huge opportunity to reach a wider audience and to give your existing audience and customers more options to learn about and from you.

At the same time, think carefully about how you will advance with AI avatars and the impact those could have on your brand.

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