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Tom’s Hardware
Tom’s Hardware
Avram Piltch

First AI-generated rom-com is due this summer -- and the trailer puts Hallmark Channel to shame

TCLtv+ teases AI romcom.

Many actors, artists and writers are rightly worried about generative AI taking their jobs, but so far we haven't seen a major entertainment company release a feature-length film that is all or even mostly AI-generated. That's about to change. Today TCL, a company known for its connected TV sets, dropped the trailer for its first original feature: an AI-generated romantic comedy called "Next Stop Paris" and it's . . . quite something to look at.

The film is due out this summer and will air on the company's TCLtv+ free streaming app, which is available on TCL televisions with Google TV OS (the company's Roku-based TVs have a similar app called "TCL TV"). Right now, TCLtv+ offers a number of FAST (Free Add-Supported TV) channels like those you can find on other apps such as Roku TV, as well as some free, on-demand movies. Next Stop Paris will be its first piece of original content.

The 60-second trailer previews the story of two young and attractive Americans who meet on a train to Paris and fall in love. Her name is Claire; his name is never mentioned, except that he's called "the dark mysterious kind of man who never shows his vulnerability." Let's just name him DMKOM for the purposes of this article. 

The two are shown enjoying the sites in a city that's supposed to be Paris: an amusement park, a boat ride, walks through the park and a romantic dance inside a clock tower. There's some conflict as DMKOM runs away from Claire on a motorcycle, but then later in the trailer is back again to say he's never giving up on her. 

(Image credit: TCLtv+)

There's some kind of possible flashback scene where Claire is shown with a diamond ring getting married. Is she a runaway bride, a widow or a divorcee who is starting over in Paris? There's also some advice from an older woman who tells Claire that "in life's journey, sometimes the heart moves too fast, sometimes too slow, but if you time it just right, that's when love arrives." 

This sounds a lot like the plot of a Hallmark Channel movie, but without human actors and with the dial turned up to 11. If you are the kind of person who could sit in front of the tube watching Meg Ryan films all day, you can get all the same tropes and more here in just the 60-second trailer! 

While many convention movie studios have gotten criticism for using AI, TCL has decided to lean into the technology and highlight its use. The trailer boasts that this is "An AI Powered Love Story," and TCL Chief Content Officer Chris Regina touted the use of AI as a point of differentiation. Regina has an extensive background in original TV production, having served in senior roles at NBCUniversal and Netflix. 

"It is a first for a trailer and for an entertainment company," Regina told Tom's Hardware. "There is tremendous curiosity around AI. It's a marketing differentiator."

If you watch the trailer, it's hard not to notice the hallmarks of early text-to-video generation technology. Each cut is just a few seconds long, there's not a ton of movement and the looks of the main characters vary widely from scene to scene, as if dozens of different actors were used to play the same two parts. Claire is always a young, thin, white woman but the shape of her face and even her hair and eye color are different at different times. The gallery below shows some of the many faces of Claire.

(Image credit: TCLtv+)
(Image credit: TCLtv+)
(Image credit: TCLtv+)

Regina told us that Runway ML, a popular text-to-video generator, is one of the main tools his team used for the trailer. Midjourney, a very popular still image generator, also played a part. He noted that character consistency is a problem, and that TCLtv+ Studios has a team in Poland that is working with a variety of technologies to solve it.

"Character consistency is a universal challenge in AI that we are all working to solve along with film shot selection and performance," he told us, pointing out that OpenAI used characters with yellow balloons for heads in its demo "air head" video so that it didn't have to worry about showing inconsistent faces.

Likening his team's creative process to animation, Regina said that all non-visual aspects of the trailer come from human efforts. The background music was performed by a real band, the script was written by a person and the voices were recorded by real voice actors.

Regina also noted that he expects the film to be about the length of a TV episode, not a feature-length movie. But what you see in the trailer may be very different than the final product.

"The work is never finished until delivered, much like all film and TV production," he said. "With rapid technology advancement, we could easily keep shaping before the release, but we wanted to announce our AI studio and our entrance into original programming. Releasing the trailer provided a glimpse into what we've been working on."

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