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Ko - production in Busan
  • JongHyen Jin, the VFX Supervisor of ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS
  • by KIM Su-bin /  Jan 30, 2018
  • “If we continue to make fantasy films, the quality of VFX will only improve”

    When the news of the cinematic adaptation of popular web comic ‘Along With the Gods’ started to circulate, many people were excited for it, but also worried at the same time. As the story is set in the afterlife and hell, it was questionable how its world of unfamiliar environments and sceneries would be created. After taking quite some time in production, Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds was finally unveiled last December. After selling 13 million tickets at the box office, it’s still going strong. Despite everyone’s concern, the visuals of the afterlife have become the film’s strongest point as well as the talk of the town. The mesmerizing and intense backgrounds were created by Dexter Studios’ talented VFX artists. JongHyen Jin, the VFX supervisor of the film, shared how he and his team created the extensive environments and visuals that were projected onto the silver screen.

    Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds was the first film produced through Dexter Studios’ one-stop system. How do you feel?

    From planning, investment, production, to post-production, everything was completed within Dexter Studios’ system. Our internal camera crew ‘Dexter Workshop’ shot the film, and the colorization was done by our team, ‘Dexter DI’. We even did the sound internally. Previously, most of our DI and sound were outsourced. Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds is especially meaningful since there aren’t many cases where every step of a film was executed internally.

    What did you focus on while working on the film’s VFX?

    About 80 to 90 percent of every scene was filled with VFX. Making the backgrounds look as natural as possible was our priority. 

    Fire, water, steel, ice, mirror, gravity, and sand are the seven hells, each with its own concept. They are an important part of the film, and the paths to each hell reflected the concept respectively. Designing the images must have been a lot of work.

    It’s like a road movie as they go to each of the seven hells, so I tried to keep each location’s characteristics in mind while working. When they were on their way to the hell of fire, I thought of creating a lava plateau, while for ice, I thought of gorges in polar regions.

    What kind of references did you use?

    For some of the scenes, we had to shoot abroad. ‘Dexter Workshop’ and our team planned together and went to Iceland and New Zealand, as well as Mongolia. After getting a lot of resources, it was easier to put the images together with VFX. I also referred to films like Prometheus and Sanctum

    Were there any specific scenes you had trouble expressing? 

    The hell of betrayal and the mirror that reflected both the sky and the earth were quite difficult to make. We referenced the textures from Bolivia’s salt flats. The scene had to show a vast plane under the scorching sun. It was hard to produce similar textures since the shot was taken indoors. The salt flats do not have anything else in their view. Other hells had ample visuals to look at, but this scene had only the characters to focus on. That’s why it was more difficult to produce. I think the space will appear again in the sequel, so we’re looking for ways to create it without all the difficulties we had in the first film.

    The blade forest and the filial impiety hell came out satisfying. The blade forest had many aspects that made it difficult for us to express through VFX. We had many natural objects in the shot. With so much data on us, it wasn’t easy to control. However, we developed software that was able to resolve this problem, and the work went smoothly. As for the filial impiety hell, it was made with the data we accumulated from Mongolia, and the textures came out very nicely. 

    It’s rare for Korean films to be released in a series, while a fantasy film series is even more rare.

    There were Korean fantasy films before, but they never received good reviews. I thought hard about why they weren’t successful. I came to the conclusion that we must focus on natural objects that are familiar to people. Instead of introducing a completely different world in Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds, I altered spaces that exist on earth to express them as the seven hells. That was my focus throughout the project.

    How did you first get into VFX work?

    I was interested in drawing. I studied multimedia, then majored in computer graphics. It was never my goal to work in film. I just found graphic work interesting, and when I went deeper into that field, I ended up in the film industry. The first film I worked on was Once in a Summer. Compared to the work I do now, it was a very simple job. Then, I started looking for VFX jobs with creatures or monsters, and found my career path.

    Developing your skills must be key in VFX work.

    Dexter Studios provides endless training. Lighting, rendering, and animation are the areas new recruits are assigned to by the leaders so that they can become specialized. Personally, I think you can only improve if you keep on working. If I only took small jobs like before, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I always challenged myself, and after Mr. Go, I received large projects from China where I tried many new things. That’s how I built my skills and was able to settle down. 

    Are there any particular films from your filmography that are memorable to you?

    Director Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain. I wasn’t the main VFX supervisor, but I worked with a very experienced VFX director. There was a scene which a tiger ran across a snowy field while chasing and attacking the protagonist. The tiger creature I made received positive criticism. Some even asked how we filmed a tiger. Since then, I have received many orders from China. 

    What does this film mean to you?

    When I was working on Mr. Go, I thought I would never get to work on another Korean film of such scale. However, I was lucky to be able to work on Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. I believe that this film is only the beginning. Like I said, you can only improve over time. There were some areas I wasn’t satisfied with, but if we continue to make films with extensive VFX, the quality of the films will only improve.
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