Netflix shakes up its Korean dramatic offerings with a more unique production in the form of fantasy musical series: “The Sound of Magic.” This drama tells the story of high school students Yoon Ah-Yi and Na Il-Deung—both struggling with their own hardships—and their encounter with a mysterious magician who changes their lives.
Admittedly, not the typical genre the Korean TV industry is used to, series cinematographer Jin Ho Jung was already prepared to face some obstacles. He says, “A few TV series in Korea have attempted the genre of musical drama, but they were not well-received. I think the reason was that the songs meant to deliver the characters' emotions ended up disrupting the natural flow of the show instead. We were careful not to make the same mistake in this series. When non-musical and musical performances were done in the same space, we used different lighting to change the mood.”
The colors and tones of the Netflix Original were distinct to each character and space, specifically designed to reflect their personal journeys. “For Ah-Yi's space, we used a light brown tone to capture the misfortunes that she has to live through, while Il-Deung’s was set in a cold, blue tone. The school, where these characters came together, was set in a dry, gray tone to indicate that it is devoid of emotions. Finally, I selected a greenish aurora for Ri-Eul,” explains Jung.
“In addition, when characters sang in a realistic space, we transformed it into a stage to shift the mood. When the singing and dancing in this fantastical setting was over, the look of the scene returned to what it was like previously,” Jung continues.
This intricacy was also applied to the show’s central location, the abandoned amusement park. Jung adds, “Our goal was to shift the park’s atmosphere in line with Ah-Yi's emotions. As she first stepped into the amusement park after following the 50,000-won note, the space is portrayed as dark and daunting. As Ah-Yi gradually opened up to Ri-Eul, the base color stayed but we turned on the street lights one by one to add warm amber colors, gradually shifting the tone.”
With such precise and detailed cinematography, DP Jung needed the help of a camera that could deliver exactly what he envisioned. “We compared a few options before we started filming. We wanted to use a camera with a wide range of colors and a greater dynamic range to make the scenes more vivid and decided on the ALEXA Mini LF,” reveals Jung.
“The large-format system has a shallow depth of field, creating the effects of blurred background and diffused light. This feature allowed us to achieve romantic and captivating shots, and enabled the actors to immerse themselves better in each scene.” Elaborating on why the ARRI camera’s image quality perfectly suited the project, the cinematographer continued, “the ALEXA Mini LF’s unique look, natural color tones, reduced noise, and wide latitude were great to create the dazzling feel of the series that we wanted.”
High dynamic range was also a key component that the crew utilized. “HDR enabled us to create the intended look and feel of each scene, especially with excellent shadows and highlights. We used HDR for the fireworks seen through the Ferris wheel towards the end of episode 1, and it helped us achieve the spectacular look we were going for. HDR not only helped with the bright, colorful scenes but also with the ones that had strong contrast, such as Ri-Eul’s hideout where a bright beam of light pierces through the dark room,” says Jung, armed with the ALEXA Mini LF’s exposure latitude of over 14 stops during production.
With a fascinating plot, bewitching characters, and equally magical cinematography, “The Sound of Magic” has garnered love from around the world for its uniqueness. Jung expresses his gratitude for the positive reception, “The love and support from global fans have made it possible for us to create something as experimental as this series, and I look forward to seeing more diverse shows produced in Korea.”
“The Sound of Magic” is streaming on Netflix.