Adventures in AI

Join us down the rabbit hole where our thoughts turn to pictures and movies on a screen.

⚠️Warning! This column includes potentially addictive information⚠️

Curious sorts might find themselves skipping meals and showers to play with the digital genies at our disposal today (🙋‍♀️guilty as charged).

New artificial intelligence (AI) services are as easy to use as Google: you go to a site, type in what you want to create and bam! An array of options loads at your whim. It’s far from perfect, but so close to passable.

Curious?! Let’s look at two AI automations that are so much fun and entirely free to play around with – you won’t even need a credit card (maybe not even your email). Most free trials will limit how much content you can create, but pfft. I goofed around for hours without ever downloading a single file.

TEXT-TO-IMAGE AI – unlimited use, no strings – free with google sign-in
Bing Image Creator – free but they email you a code AI Generator – free limited access (cheap to upgrade)

Get ready to be amazed and disappointed all at once! AI might be programmed to speak our language, but it has zero comprehension. The information we give it must be clear, orderly, and specific – any wiggle room, and AI gets real weird, real fast.

For example, when I asked a popular text-to-image AI for an illustration of “a diverse group of people walking dogs”, it gave me people with dog heads, dogs with human faces… extra and missing limbs. It knew enough to include leashes but it attached them all wrong. 🤣

Although none of these pics makes a suitable cover image for NW Philly Pack Walk’s Facebook page, once I stopped laughing I was still impressed. On first glance, they almost work. Right out of the gate, yet! There’s naturally a learning curve as you try out different “prompts” to get better results.

It helps to remember that AI doesn’t know what a dog looks like, or what it means to walk in a directional sense. They only understand features, patterns, and relationships at the most literal level. They need adjectives and directions; moods, functions, purpose. Slang, jargon and other uncommon terms can stump them.

When in doubt, ask another robot! ChatGPT, for instance, will create AI art prompts in a jiffy. For the Pack Walk graphic, I explained what I was trying to create, and it suggested the following text:

A photo or illustration of an inclusive group of neighbors from NW Philly walking their dogs on a sunny day in a peaceful suburban neighborhood, with well-behaved dogs on leashes, showcasing harmony and community spirit.

OK then, how’s this:

Better, right? But still not perfect — the leashes, in particular, seem problematic (as in this article’s feature image at the top of the page).

Hunting around for more tips, I checked in with Local contributor Terrence Harris, whose Youtube channel has some of the chilliest AI how-to videos you’ll ever find. He free-associates as he clicks around the latest programs, discovering new features in real time. Something about his offhand confidence inspired me to follow suit, and take my AI efforts in a whole new direction.

In one eye-opening series, he demonstrates an irresistible new AI video-creation tool that’s like magic. It doesn’t even need prompts! 🤯

TEXT-TO-VIDEO AI – free trial, 14 days / 3 videos
(full version is $45 per month, but discount codes can lower the bottom line substantially)  

Give it a script, choose a template, and this AI sorcery breaks your text down into scenes, rendered with video clips intelligently chosen from its huge database of stock movies and images. Even better: you can enter just a url, and it’ll “extract key messages” from the website to create a script *and* assemble the video in just a minute or two of processing.

Not a good video, mind you, or even one that makes much sense. But just having a storyboard is a huge time-saver. Tweaking the text and graphics from this point is a snap. There’s also a ton of soundtracks to pick from, and a bunch of AI voices for narration. Within hours, I had three videos clocking new traffic on our Youtube channel!

We put them up as part of this AI experiment, and did not expect such instant results. In the 6+ years we’ve had the channel, we’ve never had this big of a boost to our viewership and subscriptions. Have a look through our “Adventures in AI” videos @TheLocal215, where we’ll keep adding as we learn.

Here’s our very first attempt, made with the free version of (with about a third of the paid version’s video library). It’s a little long and clunky, but has been our top-viewed video for weeks. What do you think? Do you prefer local stories as videos, rather than articles? How human do you need your news? 🤔Please leave us your comments below or email to continue the conversation.

Join the Creative Community! Terrence Harris’s relaxed, free-form style of instruction might be the groove you need to get behind all AI has to offer. His free videos include helpful links and often promo codes. PRO TIP: “terrence16” gives you 20% off Pictory!

@TeeJayNews on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. One-on-one coaching available.

BONUS UPDATE — Deep Fakes in an Election Year! Check out how good AI can swap out audio that’s been reprocessed into a famous commentator’s voice:

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