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CES Ambassador Aisha Tyler on How Tech Is Changing Entertainment

Variety logo Variety 1/4/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

Aisha Tyler — actress, comedian, video-gamer, TV host, podcaster and filmmaker — has been tapped as the 2017 CES Ambassador, an honorary designation that is supposed to lend Hollywood cred to the gargantuan technology trade show.

But Tyler isn’t just a showbiz figurehead: The multihyphenate has been immersed in using tech for years to produce her own content, and she’s eager to hit the booths in Las Vegas this week to check out what new tools she might be able to employ.

“Technology has made me the artist I am, in every way,” she told Variety. “I’m going to walk the (CES) floor. I’m hoping I am going to see something super-cool — and not just a bigger, thinner television.”

In addition to her gig as a series regular on CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” Tyler voices super-spy Lana Kane on FX’s “Archer,” about to enter its eighth season, and she hosts comedy improv show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” on CW and co-hosts “The Talk” daytime talker on CBS. She’s also the one-woman band behind award-winning comedy podcast “Girl on Guy,” which she produces and engineers using only two microphones, an iPad, an iPhone and an iPod Touch.

Last summer, Tyler directed her first feature film, action-thriller “Axis.” She and her crew shot it in seven days in L.A. using three Arri Alexa Mini cameras, after raising $193,554 on Kickstarter to fund the production. “Everyone I ran (the movie) by thought it was great, but the process of getting financing is long – it’s hard to get a green light,” she said. “Nobody was offering me $10 million to make this, but I didn’t sit around thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m never going get financing.'”

The net effect for Tyler, as a content creator, is that technology has enabled her to raise money, shoot or record, edit, and self-distribute her projects independently. And that has opened up a world of new opportunities.

“As an individual artist, it just wasn’t possible before for me to do this by myself,” Tyler said. Technology is “about things that empower you to be more effective. That’s why CES is meaningful to me.”

Tyler also is an enthusiastic gamer (her all-time favorite titles are “Halo” and “Gears of War”) and has hosted Ubisoft’s press conference at the E3 trade show for the last several years. She pointed out that as video games are becoming much more cinematic with long narrative arcs, virtual-reality technology is giving filmmakers a new format to explore different narrative structures.

“I think people will still want that shared experience of watching a movie in the theater, but I do think there’ s a branch of storytelling that will be suited for VR,” she said. “With VR, you are going to have a really singular experience: maybe it’ s a movie, maybe it’s a video game, but it’s unique to you — you make the choices.”

As for personal tech, Tyler carries two mobile phones, an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy, and totes MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops. For film and podcast editing, she uses a Mac Pro tower. “I learned Avid to do my film,” she said. “But I actually cut my podcast in Final Cut. I know, that’s like going to get your groceries in a Maserati, I didn’t want to learn GarageBand.”

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