Anamorph’s generative technology rearranges scenes to create unlimited versions of a movie


Anamorphic, a new film and technology company, announced its launch today. The startup, founded by filmmaker Gary Hustwit and digital artist Brendan Dawes, aims to reshape the cinematic experience with its proprietary generative technology capable of creating different films every time they are shown.

Anamorphic revealed its innovative technology at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival when it debuted its first documentary, “Eno”, which follows English musician, producer and visual artist Brian Eno, who has worked with legends David Bowie, U2, Coldplay, Grace Jones, Talking Heads and many others. Its main objective is to experiment with generative music software.

“Brian seemed like the ideal candidate for [using Anamorph’s software] since he has always been an advocate for technology and how it can be used in art and music,” Hustwit told TechCrunch.

Each time “Eno” screened at Sundance, the generative media platform selected scenes from more than 500 hours of restored archival footage and interviews, as well as animated visuals and music. Anamorph’s system is capable of generating billions of potential sequences, providing a unique visual experience for each audience.

Of course, we were skeptical at first. Our biggest question was: will the order of the scenes make sense? But as Hustwit points out, the goal of the generative system is not to produce films with a “chronological arc.”

“You can still have a compelling story arc in a movie, kind of what we expect when we see a movie. [normal] documentary… even if the scenes, images, music and sequences change, we can still get an engaging and cohesive story. In this case, it helps if it’s just one person,” he notes. “Your brain is trying to make connections and understand the story. And that story changes depending on how you receive the information and how it unfolds.

It also helps that the first and last scenes of “Eno” are always the same. Additionally, some scenes are pinned to the same time slot in each version, including the scene where Eno discusses generative art.

“We thought it was probably a good scene that everyone should see,” Hustwit says.

Anamorph used HD files at Sundance, but its software can also create the film live during a screening, which the startup presented in an installation at the Venice Biennale in October 2023.

“We simply let the generative platform run wild with Eno’s entire musical catalog and all the sequences, with no rules. [The software] made a 168 hour film and not a loop. This generated an original film that did not repeat itself for 168 hours. It could have lasted longer, but the exhibition was only open for a week,” shares Hustwit.

There were only six versions shown at Sundance. Since then, the company has refined the software and added more footage, so “Eno” will continue to evolve.

Additional screenings will be shown this spring and summer in 50 cities.

Image credits: Gary Hustwit/Sundance Institute.

As you can imagine, a generative platform capable of creating different variations using hundreds of hours of footage is not built in a day or even a year. Anamorph spent five years building its software from the ground up, combining patent-pending techniques and the team’s own knowledge of storytelling. The company emphasizes that it is not trained on anyone else’s data, intellectual property or other films.

“The main challenge was creating a system that could process potentially hundreds of 4K video files, each with their own 5.1 audio tracks, in real time,” Dawes tells us. “The platform selects and sequences edited scene files, but it also creates its own purely generative scenes and transitions, dynamically creating original 5.1 video and audio assets. The platform also had to be robust in a real-world situation, it was not possible to crash it. So we did a crazy amount of testing. We can create a unique version of a film live in a theater, or we can render a ProRes file with its own 5.1 audio mix and create a DCP from that.

Dawes notably claims that the system can perform more than 52 quintillion variations. (How crazy is that?)

The only problem preventing Anamorph from bringing its system to the general public is that there are no existing streaming platforms capable of supporting this type of technology. However, the company says it wants to develop the capabilities in-house for major streamers to use.

“I think the main constraint is that current streaming networks are not equipped to dynamically generate unique video files and broadcast them to thousands of viewers so that each viewer gets their own version of a film. When we showed “Eno” at Sundance, all the major streaming companies loved it, but they also admitted that their systems couldn’t handle the technology involved… These streamers need to differentiate themselves, and I think allowing films and the shows they put out generative technology is one way to do that,” says Hustwit.

It will likely be years before streaming services adapt to the technology. In the meantime, Anamorph is sticking to live events and theatrical releases.

“What the theater industry sorely needs right now is a reason to draw people in, and if there is a uniqueness to the live cinema experience, this is a way to achieve,” adds Hustwit.

Image credits: Anamorphic

In addition to documentaries, the company is exploring other projects that could use generative platforms, including art exhibitions and even blockbuster films. Advertising agencies have also expressed interest, reveals Hustwit, with one company wanting to make 10,000 versions of a one-minute advert.

It’s hard to imagine that a TV series following an episodic structure could make sense in this type of format, especially if storylines B and C are incorporated. Contrary to The Choose Your Own Adventure movie from Netflix “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” viewers can’t decide which scenes they want to watch, or rewatch a version.

“It requires a little more active participation on the part of the viewer to notice the differences if they watch the film again and be excited to find out what wasn’t there,” says Hustwit.

Overall, this idea won’t be for everyone, but it certainly offers an entertaining and new experience that no one has seen before.

Now that Anamorph is officially launched, it is open for consultations with filmmakers, content creators, studios, streaming companies, and more. Rather than making its tools publicly available, the company wants to collaborate on projects so it can “take into account the source material and the overall goals of the story,” Hustwit says. He added that Anamorph is currently in discussions with a dozen or more companies.

Additionally, the cost of each project will vary.

“We could create a Marvel movie that changes every time it’s shown – which would be amazing – and the costs would be higher than a small video art project. But we are interested in collaborating on projects in both areas. Our main goal is to raise awareness of this new type of cinema and connect with great collaborators to help us explore this idea,” says Hustwit.


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