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Meet the Runway video team

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Sophia Jennings
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November 7, 2022
We talk to Ian Sansavera and Bryan Fox about their nonlinear paths to working at Runway, and how AI is making their careers as editors possible for people of all different backgrounds.

Ian Sansavera and Bryan Fox are both members of the Runway video team. Not only do they produce all of our video content, but they also provide feedback on new tools and updates to the Runway experience.

With backgrounds in feature editing, YouTube, and advertising, they came to Runway passionate about creating better tools for other editors like themselves. In this interview, we talk about the nonlinear paths that led them to Runway, what tools they’re most excited about, and how Runway is making their careers as editors possible for people of all different backgrounds.

Hi Ian! Hi Bryan! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules to chat with us about video and AI, two topics we know you spend most of your days thinking about. To begin with, can you take us back to your career origins and where your initial interest in video editing started?

Ian: My friends and I started shooting and writing sketch comedy videos in my parent’s garage in high school. We had a director, and a writer, but we needed somebody to be the editor. Halfway through high school, YouTube came out. We suddenly had a place to upload all of our stupid videos. By the time we left high school, we had almost 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, which at the time was pretty insane. So we decided that we were all going to go to film school based on our early YouTube success.

I went to film school in Chicago, then moved to LA. I really wanted to cut movie trailers, but ended up getting a job with the company that shot videos for the UFC. I edited for the Spike TV website and the UFC website in the early days before the UFC blew up.

From there, I got poached by Quest Nutrition, where I was doing more traditional creative agency type work. After that, I moved onto an esports agency called Team Liquid where I was the director of post-production for six and a half years, then came Runway from there.

Bryan: I also started in high school. I took a film elective course to fulfill a credit and it turned out that I was passionate about it. I ended up becoming the guy in high school that would make the announcement videos for proms and dances.

I was lucky to go to film school at NYU and during school I took on a lot of part-time jobs and built a network. After graduating, I was able to get a range of editor and director roles both in branded and editorial capacities and now here I am at Runway. I joined full time at the beginning of the year.

You produce videos every week. Where do you find your inspiration?

Ian: I try to pull inspiration from individual creatives now, more than I used to. I’ll look on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter. People like Paul Trillo, he uses Runway, and he’s doing a great job at blending a lot of different styles together using AI tools. Karen Cheng, she's doing a lot of really amazing work with AI tools, and she uses Runway. Kevin Parry does a lot of really cool editing tricks, he also does a lot of traditional stop-motion as well. He's super, super talented.

Bryan: Yeah, there are a lot of the creators online who are good at teaching really efficient and clever ways of achieving really nice motion effects. Like Ben Marriott is somebody who I think does a very good job of teaching tricks up your sleeve to get impressive results. Even though I don't call myself an animator, I like to use his way of animating as an inspiration for my own projects, whether it’s for learning something technical or just finding inspiration.

How would you describe your taste or perspective?

Ian: The way that I approach my projects rests more on a foundation of traditional marketing and advertising. I like more of the flashy stuff and attention-grabbing stuff that's in the 30 to 60 second range. It's short, but it's impactful. It’s what 99% of the world consumes.

Even from a personal standpoint, I understand that people's attention spans are really small, and to get somebody's attention is a success. I’ll pull some stuff from music videos, traditional ads, even long-form documentary content on Netflix, like really cool title sequences and motion graphics.

I take bits and pieces of that and cram it into a shorter piece, and then I smash all these styles together.

Bryan: I like polished, sleek, simple and clean. There’s probably a question I'll ask myself at the beginning of a project. Like, what sentiment am I trying to evoke and or what hook should this video have?

It’s a blend of figuring out how I want it to look, how I want it to feel and hopefully creating something that’s clever or attention grabbing. Like Ian said, we only have so much time to attract a viewer and with some many videos everywhere, what can you do to make yours stand out? Now, there’s a lot of tools that make the translation of an idea much more fluid so now we see more and more ideas standing out.

Can you give an example of that?

Bryan: All the new AI tools are a perfect example. It used to take me a long time to composite things together. But AI is speeding that up in a way where suddenly I am able to produce things faster so I'm not as bogged down in thinking about how to do something.

What did you understand about AI before Runway?

Bryan: I wasn’t thinking too much about it until I met [Runway CEO and Co-founder] Cris, and he started demoing the product. That immediately jump-started my interest in it, because previously it would have been something that I would have been a little averse to trying, just because AI can be a little scary to think about.

Ian: Runway was the first AI product that I was legitimately impressed by. I saw how it was taking a task that would take hours, and making it take minutes instead. Runway was the first time I saw a browser-based and cloud-based AI tool; you don't have to use any of your computer specs to do this stuff, and it's doing something extremely impressive. That’s when I saw that AI is really going to change the way this goes.

I joined Runway in January, and I feel like almost daily, certainly weekly, there's new developments in AI and Runway is on the cutting edge of it. We're demoing all these new things, and it's just getting progressively crazier and crazier. I’m continuing to be impressed every day that I'm working here. And it's just such a different world that I was in before. It’s opened the door to this new world for people to create. And it's really interesting.

With a background in YouTube and longer features, what do you think is the biggest benefit AI brings to video artists and video editors around the world?

Ian: I mean, the obvious answer is it saves a bunch of time. We know that’s the case. But the answer that I want to give is different.

Imagine I’m just starting out as a video editor and I want a laptop, right? And I'm begging my parents for a laptop. They either give me their handed down laptop or they buy me a starter laptop from Best Buy. It's a couple hundred bucks or whatever. If I was trying to do video editing and visual effects on that laptop, it would be impossible because my computer specs are so limited to what I can actually do. Renders would take hours. It would be a really clunky process, and it would probably sway me from wanting to enter the profession in the first place.

What we're offering with Runway, is entry into extremely complex and complicated workflows where it doesn't matter what your computer specs are. You could be on a $100 laptop, $1,000 laptop, a $10,000 laptop. It doesn't matter. Everyone has access to the same tools and the same power to create. What I like about Runway is that anyone can access it. It doesn't matter how strong your computer is, you're able to create just like the guy next to you.

It just depends on your idea and how well you can execute your idea. That's the barrier to entry now. It's not how fast your laptop is or how much RAM you have.

Bryan: My answer is a little bit more big picture. AI is challenging the status quo. It’s challenging a lot of creators to think about what creativity can look like. I think confronting the topic is an important exercise. It challenges what we understand about our own process. It’s an opportunity to expand ourselves and our creativity. Of course it can be scary but invoking that discourse is invaluable.

Tell me about the video team at Runway.

Ian: The intention of the video team at Runway is to create any and all video content that we need for any and all purposes. Whether that's a marketing video to demo a new tool, or a tutorial to teach people how to use the products, or interviewing other creators as part of a podcast series, or like Runway Academy, which is a more in-depth educational course about filmmaking and editing in general.

And then it’s also about using our tools. We screen record us using our tools and give our feedback to the engineering and design team, explaining more of our workflows.

Bryan and I are on the same team, so sometimes we do work together. A lot of the time, it's siloed, because there is so much to do in a given week that we do a bit of a divide and conquer type of situation.

What Runway tool are you most excited about?

Bryan: It hasn't come out yet, but Text to Video. [laughs]

Ian: It just came out and it's called Infinite Image, and I'm really, really excited about it. The way that we packaged it for the initial release is really powerful and really cool.

The way we designed it is really uniquely interesting, and I'm excited to see how we package future updates for it, because I think it's an insanely, insanely powerful tool. It’s definitely already creating that a-ha moment for all of our users. It’s so cool. We call it AI Magic Tools because it really is magic. It’s wild.

With all of this in mind, what would you say is the future of AI and video?

Bryan: I think the answer is not necessarily what people will create, but how they will create it.

If you're a jack-of-all-trades editor, you know how to do all kinds of animation, design and editing, motion graphics, all that. Right now, it comes down to how many tools you’re fluent with and how well you can employ your technical arsenal. In the future, we might shift away from that. Really good creators will know how to maneuver datasets or tinker with systems in unique ways. Maybe, people will be able to input things that are, you know, essentially a library of their ideas and be able to push out results that don’t seem possible yet.

AI learns the same way humans learn. A human can pick up a craft and will use someone else’s style as practice until they get really good at it. Eventually, they’ll be able to craft something as well as somebody else. The difference here is that AI can do the exact same thing only it can do it infinitely faster. So if AI starts doing a lot of things for us, suddenly the mentality shifts from honing your skill to honing your vision. The craft will still be there, but it will look a lot different.

Ian: Yeah. What AI is doing for video and content creation right now is one of the most disruptive things to happen in the industry. It's so new, and it's kind of dividing. You have these old school people that are like, “oh no, the robots are going to take our jobs.” And then you have the new school people that are like, “I'm really excited about this. These tools are going to be amazing.”

I'm not a car guy, but you always have the guy who needs the newest car. And then you got the guy who's like, hey, I have my classic car, that I really appreciate. The classic car is the traditional editing style, the new car is the frontier of AI and what's possible.

And then you have the group of people in the middle, who are like, “hey, I took Tesla internal parts and I put them into a DeLorean and they're recombining the two together.”

I think you're going to have people that are using all the tools in various ways to pave a new frontier for content creation.

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