Heal Your Inner Child
January 2024

Unleashing Creativity: A Conversation with Director Patrick T Gehlen on "Cross a Line" Music Video

Music Video Frame, Woman, Singer

Kaiber had the opportunity to chat with Patrick T Gehlen, the director behind musician Wolfgang Webb’s latest music video, "Cross a Line," a project intricately woven with the magic of Kaiber. Patrick, an animator and artist based in Los Angeles, shared insights into his creative journey and the impact of AI on his artistic process.

Meet Patrick T Gehlen:

Residing in Los Angeles with his wife, Kimberly, and their four cats, Patrick has been a Visualization Lead & Supervisor at The Third Floor, Inc. since 2008. His extensive portfolio boasts projects like Doctor Strange, Antman & The Wasp, The Mandalorian, and Game of Thrones, for which he won an Emmy in 2019. Beyond his VFX career, Patrick has created award-winning short films such as "Requiem for a Crab" and "Astronaut Spaceman," along with the animated short series "Fatty Littlehead - Space Ranger" (fun fact: Wolfgang did the music for the Fatty Littlehead theme song)

Q1: How did you discover Kaiber?

A: I first learned about Kaiber from Theoretically Media, a YouTube channel run by Tim. It was among the first AI art-themed channels I began to follow last year. (Note from editor: We are big fans of Tim over at Kaiber too.)

Q2: Where do you draw inspiration from when crafting your prompts?

A: For me, it’s all about serving the story. When crafting prompts for "Cross a Line," I envisioned the heroine as an ethereal, mystical version of herself. I'd prompt Kaiber with phrases like "Beautiful woman made of stars and magic explores enchanted forest filled with swirling energy." The results consistently led the narrative in interesting directions.

Q3: How does AI change the way you tell stories?

A: My first love when I got involved in computer animation was short form storytelling. I still love it. It’s one of my favorite forms of creative expression. But as someone who works full time in the VFX industry, it’s hard to find time to work on personal projects without taking substantial chunks of time off work.  In 2020 I took almost six months off to finish my first live action short film (well, I made things hard on myself and couldn’t resist have a CG main character), called "Requiem for a Crab".  

And then I took another two months off for an animated music video about the climate crisis called "Astronaut Spaceman." But taking that kind of time off work is not a very repeatable scenario.  For this reason, I hadn’t made a new short in the past few years. Yet, when I started exploring some of the new AI creative tools to emerge, I realized that tools such as Kaiber might help me unlock my voice again and allow me to get back to my love of short format storytelling without having to sacrifice my livelihood.

Using Kaiber and some of these other tools, I was able to realize Cross a Line from conception to completion in only three and a half months, primarily working on it during nights and weekends.  This is a project that before AI would have taken a team of artists and many months to complete.

So, to finally answer your question, AI is allowing me to produce creative work at a much larger and bolder scale than I could have possibly accomplished before. I feel it’s really unlocked my passion for artistic exploration and creation again in a way I haven’t felt for some time.

Q4: How does Kaiber fit into your creative process/help you?

A: Kaiber was instrumental in creating Cross a Line. I was able to take a three day live action shoot with an incredibly talented actress, my friend Gabriella Biziou, and use Kaiber to take her character on a wild journey through her inner self. Once I edited the footage, I would transform it using Kaiber, at which point it became a new collaboration between the AI and myself.  I would sometimes get something that I envisioned, and other times it would take me down a completely new path.  While that level of mystery and chaos may not be ideal for production work, where consistency is everything, it’s absolutely perfect for this form of storytelling.

Q5: Can you share some behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the music video? How did it come to be?

A: I’ve been blessed with many amazingly talented and artistic friends. Around the time I was first exploring what I might do using AI as a tool in my toolkit (hard to believe that was only six months ago), I learned that my dear friend, Wolfgang Webb, a crazy talented Canadian musician was going to be releasing his first solo album. I asked if I could use one of his songs to explore these new tools I was learning, and he happily agreed.

I approached Gabriella, knowing I wanted her to be the hero, and together we crafted a story that took us through an internal, spiritual (and sometimes strange) journey of a woman reconnecting with her inner and best self.

For the non-human elements in the story, I animated in Maya, in a very similar style to the previs I do for The Third Floor.  I then took those fairly basic looking playblasts down the AI rabbit hole and came up with some really fun stuff.

Q6: Could you share an anecdote or highlight your favorite moment from the creative process behind this music video?

A: Part of the process of making the video for Cross a Line involved learning what AI currently does NOT deal with well. I learned that most of my shots of Gabriella running, or starting far from camera and getting real close became problematic. Although, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting to watch it fail..in one shot as she ran past camera, Kaiber decided to turn her arm that was trailing into a sculpture made of interconnected hands.

But my favorite such instance was one I happily kept in the video, and that is when she is skipping to meet her inner child. I had precomposed her against a fantasy/surreal dreamscape and somewhere in my prompt I mentioned the sky being “filled with stars”. I didn’t get many stars in the sky, but as she skipped past camera, her whole body dissolved into golden star dust, which I thought was pretty awesome.

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Q7: As a visualization artist, how do you foresee the future evolving with the continued advancement of AI?

A: That will be an interesting journey. I’m not honestly sure I have an answer for that. But I will say that exploring the different tools that are out there has been empowering. I saw some clips and shorts last spring that really kind of freaked me out in terms of wondering if my job was going to be obsolete sooner than later.

But having really delved into where AI is (and isn’t) has given me some peace of mind that there is a world where these new tools can really help unleash creativity for those who otherwise may have less agency to create their visions.

At the same time, I also have a strong belief that when it comes to movies, films, music videos, whatever…the devil is in the details. The magic is often in that last 5% of the creation process. And I certainly haven’t seen anything yet that makes me think that art that people will really connect with is anywhere near to being fully automated. I have to believe that talented film makers and artists using these AI tools (or not using them at all), will create much more compelling work than anyone just plugging a prompt into a window and expecting all the work to be done for them.

Q8: What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people starting out with Kaiber?

A: Kaiber is such an easy pool to dip into. I would just say go nuts.  I experimented with feeding Kaiber raw video, heavily treated video, animated footage, etc….sometimes I would take a shot through Kaiber three or four times, just to see how it built upon it’s last dream.   I didn’t always get what I wanted, but the process also really sent me down some creative roads I probably wouldn’t have gone down otherwise.

Q9: If there was one feature or advancement in AI that you could make happen today, what would it be and why?

A: I sometimes wish for an easier path to consistent characters or environments using AI, but I’m not in a huge rush to see it happen. I’m just enjoying the ride—it’s already moving so, so fast.

More about the Rest of the Team:

Wolfgang Webb: Wolfgang's debut solo album, "The Insomniacs’ Lullaby," delves into the realm of insomnia, offering a cathartic and transparent stream-of-consciousness. Despite its dark subject matter, the album navigates the depths with grace, showcasing Wolfgang's distinctive sound design and a comprehensive artistic approach.

Gabriella Gonzalez Biziou: An award-winning actress, Gabriella has brought her talents to projects like "Sorry For Your Loss" and "IRL." Co-creating and art directing "Cross the Line" marked a new and enjoyable venture for her, showcasing her passion for storytelling.

In collaboration, this team brought "Cross the Line" to life, where Kaiber's influence blended seamlessly with human creativity, resulting in a music video that transcends traditional boundaries.

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Unleashing Creativity: A Conversation with Director Pat Gehlen on new Music Video