Top AI startups working with Netflix, Marvel and other Hollywood studios

  • VCs and private equity have poured millions into AI startups looking to disrupt film and TV production.
  • They use AI technology to reduce the cost and time to create special effects such as aging and film restoration.
  • Startups making waves in Hollywood AI include MARZ and Deep Voodoo, founded by the creators of “South Park.”

Generative AI has brought a range of tools with real-life applications to Hollywood – and VCs are getting in on the action.

Startups focused on filmed entertainment have raised millions in funding in recent years as investors see the potential of AI technology to dramatically change the way TV shows and movies are made.

Driving the action are tools for de-aging and other special effects work from companies like Deep Voodoo and MARZ. Other growing applications of AI include dubbing, recreating voices of bygone actors, and restoring old movies and TV series.

The number of new original series has skyrocketed in recent years to feed the growing appetite for streaming content. The pitch of these startups is that their tools can help artists who are overwhelmed by the explosion of work that comes with that growth.

Matt Panousis, COO of MARZ, said the company has an upcoming tool, Vanity AI, that cuts down to 20 minutes what took a special effects artist three days. “Anything you can do in VFX to save time and capacity will be welcomed with open arms,” ​​he said.

Investors are flocking to these companies thinking that if the new AI tools they create can meet Hollywood standards for quality and veracity, other industries will line up to use them as well.

Investments in entertainment AI startups are “blowing up big time right now,” said Michael Blank, head of consumer investment at CAA. Blank leads Connect Ventures, an investment partnership between the agency and VC firm NEA that spearheaded a recent $20 million investment in Deep Voodoo — which was previously fully funded by Park County, “South Park” creators Trey Parker, and Matt’s production company Stone.

“I think Hollywood will lead because the companies that rise to the top will be the ones that can work at the highest quality bar,” added Blank.

Certainly, Hollywood’s creative stakeholders share the broader concerns about generative AI taking over people’s jobs and stealing artists’ content. There are also concerns about the burgeoning technology being used to mislead viewers and exploit actors.

There are already AI tools that can write full scripts. Later on, people working on AI predict it will be used to create full movie characters and scores and personalize video game experiences.

“All elements of how you create content are influenced by generative AI — generating parts of faces, backgrounds,” says Thomas Graham, CEO of Metaphysic, a London-based AI startup known for its Tom Cruise deepfakes. “In 10, 15 years, it will hit every part of content creation.”

Vendors and investors told Insider that over time, AI tools will change jobs, not replace them. Scripts written by chatbots aren’t ready for primetime, at least not yet. And by lowering production costs, the argument goes, AI will ultimately create more jobs by freeing up funding for more projects.

“We’ve taken clients to experience this first hand and a number of times the response has been, there’s a movie I’ve always wanted to make that I didn’t think was possible because of the technology, and now I know that it is.” Blank said of deepfake technology.

Insider has scouted eight dynamic AI-focused companies that have raised capital in recent years, listed in alphabetical order. Here’s how they interact with – and disrupt – Hollywood.

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