Robots – scary or not so scary?

A reflection on film-making

Choice of topic

My video “Robots – scary or not so scary?” is about the way attitudes to artificial intelligence in the form of robots are changing as robot design and usefulness develops.

I first read Isaac Asimov’s collection of essays and stories, “I Robot” (Asimov, 1950) when I was ten. It opened my eyes to robots as potential companions instead of the war-mongering giants or cold-eyed alien machines I had been brought up with on television. I wanted to show that the common view of robots is evolving as artificial intelligence and robotic tools become embedded in our everyday lives.

Planning and editing

I planned the film using Microsoft “PowerPoint” as a storyboard. It helped me think through the images, camera angles and script in an organised way. Planning was essential as I toyed with several ideas and might have spent wasted hours filming content that I would never use.

Blinko and BlankoGiven that my theme was that robots are friendly, I wanted to use animation to introduce the film. I taught myself Adobe Animate CC 2018 and modified a creative commons robot character by GraphicMama into two characters – Blinko, a young robot and Blanko, his grandfather. I made my voice gently “robotic” using a Voice Plus app.

Blinko and Blanko discuss the question of why so many humans fear robots. This enabled me to build on the topic, giving examples of cute toys and time-saving robotic tools to illustrate that humans are gradually accepting robots. I used a lot of spoken word and, in effect, ‘shared the screen’ with Blinko and Blanko to emphasise that robots and humans can cohabitate and co-operate.

When choosing overlay footage, I kept in mind the film-making axiom “Can you point a camera at it?” When I mentioned an example of something like a warrior robot or robotic surgery, I chose a suitable overlay as reinforcement.

MIPSource material in creative commons was hard to find as so many robot clips and photos are  commercial. I have had a toy robot “MIP” from WowWee for some years so decided to make original footage to illustrate the point that cute robots are breaking down human prejudices against the robotic form.

My use of music was only for the introduction and credits so as not to distract from the points I was making. I chose music with mechanical/industrial undertones but that was not too harsh. I wanted to keep the energy of robots without the alien quality people mistrust.

Challenges and lessons

The first challenge was becoming comfortable with the software.

I made a short film on the demolishing of my house to get used to Corel VideoEditor.

I then spent many hours on Animate, watching tutorials and trying ideas before I got a product I could use. This practice was time-consuming but also great fun and very addictive.

The second challenge was balancing the clips I had shot with the overlay footage so there was a logical pace. Transitions helped me smooth the edges. Each clip I filmed had to be chosen and edited before it was imported to the program and edited with other content. I reworked the film many times.

timeline

I had to manage the sound levels as Blinko and Blanko recorded at a different level to my voice and the MIP soundtrack ran as an overlay. Audio-ducking made this easy.

Film-making is satisfying and absorbing. The early skills development with software is challenging but every mistake leads to a breakthrough.

Credits

Larkin, A Original animation done in Adobe Animate CC 2018 using Tooncharacters by GraphicMama Free robot vector character https://vectorcharacters.net/download?id=5064 (CC by CC0) 17 December 2013

Kaiku66 Giant robot  https://flic.kr/p/9aKSN (CC BY 2.0) 11 January 2011

Price, D Robot welder https://flic.kr/p/dA1thh (CC by NC 2.0) 10 December 2012

FabziRogers Robot woman https://flic.kr/p/kAvqbV  (CC by 2.0) 1 March 2014

Asimov, I I Robot Gnome Press 2 December 1950

WowWee MIP Robot toy www.mip.com.au 2016

PROTecnalia LWR Robot https://flic.kr/p/nuQ5pY (CC BY NC ND 2.0) 21 November 2012

Christopher Robot vacuum cleaner  https://flic.kr/p/4RTNGx (CC BY 2.0) 12 Jan 2007

The US Army Robotic Surgery  https://flic.kr/p/53VZPE  (CC BY 2.0) 9 July 2008

Music

Valesco Stay with Me https://soundcloud.com/valesco_official/stay-with-me (CC BY 2.0)  2016

Valesco All I need https://soundcloud.com/valesco_official/all-i-need  (CC BY 2.0)  2016