IBM Watson recruited to conjure up creepy movie trailer

2 Sep 2016

Morgan image via 20th Century Fox

To create a promo trailer for the upcoming sci-fi horror film, Morgan, 20th Century Fox recruited from an unlikely source – IBM’s supercomputer, Watson. And it ended up being very creepy indeed.

When it comes to AI, machine learning and supercomputers, IBM Watson is by far the most familiar to mass audiences, having been in the public eye for a number of years now.

While its eventual goal is to change how global healthcare systems operate or to make advanced business decisions, Watson’s latest endeavour saw it entering the realm of Hollywood to help 20th Century Fox Studios make a movie trailer.

Future Human

Making it ‘frightening and suspenseful’

The decision to use Watson seems like a clever PR tool from 20th Century Fox, who felt it would be the perfect way to promote Morgan, a film in which AI is an overarching theme.

The film itself centres around Morgan, a genetically-altered human who possesses abilities that far exceed those of the average human. Given her starring role in a Hollywood film, it should come as no surprise that she escapes and wreaks havoc on all those who come across her.

In a blog post written by members of the Watson development team, Fox had challenged Watson to create a trailer that could be considered “frightening and suspenseful”, which required Watson to learn what it means to be scary.

Still needed some human help

To do this, its machine learning abilities were tested. Watson watched trailers of 100 horror movies, broken into moments that were analysed in terms of visual, audio and shot composition to get a sense of what a horror trailer looks like.

Once it was up to speed on all things horror, Watson was then presented with the full, 90-minute Morgan and created a roughly one minute-ten second trailer.

However, somewhat counteracting the idea that this was a fully independent AI effort, a filmmaker was brought in to create the finished product. Watson selected the scenes that would play during the trailer, but filmmaker Zef Cota “supervised the creative aspect of [the process]”.

And yet, this process still brought the typical trailer production time down from what could have been weeks – following the usual manual, labour-intensive process – to a mere 24 hours.

You can check out Watson’s creation below, if you fancy a creepy start to your weekend.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic