For K-Pop fans, a typical music video offers around three to five minutes of excitement—binge streaming aside. For music video producers, however, these short clips are an intense, weeks-long affair. In an episode of YouTube‘s new documentary series, K-Pop Evolution, the crew went behind the scenes of EVERGLOW‘s “Dun Dun” music video to explain the full production process—from initial storyboarding to post-production editing.
Kim Sung Wook is the director of GDW, the production company behind music videos by BTS, Red Velvet, BIG BANG, SHINee, and more. After years in the music video creation business following a career as a professional snowboarder, Kim has gotten the production process down to a precise formula. However, that doesn’t mean making a music video is easy.
According to the director, each music video can take around two weeks of pre-production and several 12-hour days of shooting. Anywhere from 50 to over 100 crew members may be on set at any one time, and a tiny mistake can cost hours of delays.
Curious about how everything comes together? Here’s a rundown of all the core steps involved in the process.
Storyboarding is the process of drawing illustrations of how a music video will progress, shot by shot. At GDW, the director (Kim Sung Wook himself) handles the storyboarding design process.
Kim explained that idol groups these days have their own world-building which needs to be taken into account when planning out a music video. When drawing the storyboard, Kim imagines everything from the angle of the camera to the rhythm of the shot. He needs to plan out how the camera and artists will move, the speed of each shot, the mood of the atmosphere, and so on. He explained that every element is based on the bars of the song to ensure a clear result at the end.
I draw storyboards imagining all of this, so it’s as important as the final outcome.
— Kim Sung Wook
On top of that, the director needs to think about transitions. Kim Sung Wook cares about transitions a lot and says it’s important to make them impactful and relevant to the mood. Whenever the music composition changes or there’s a formation change in the choreography, he tries to add a transition into the storyboard.
Once the storyboard is complete, it’s delivered to the rest of the music video crew who use it to do their own jobs.
Next up, it’s time for production design: taking the storyboards and the concept, then turning them into a visual story with the right sets, styling, and overall aesthetics. Production designer Park Jin Sil worked on EVERGLOW’s “Dun Dun” music video.
Park made sure to clarify that production design isn’t just about creating backgrounds. It’s important for the production designers to also make the overall aesthetics “fun and exciting.” On top of that, the production design needs to embody a narrative that fans can interpret, right down to the smallest details.
In the past, we just focused on making it look pretty, but now we put meaning into all the little details. We make the fans understand and empathize with the story even more.
— Park Jin Sil
Alongside incorporating the story into the production design, Park Jin Sil says the team also takes the idols’ personalities into account. Ultimately, they always think about how fans will perceive the end product—which piles on the pressure and workload.
According to lighting designer Yoon Seung Nam, lighting K-Pop music videos brings a unique challenge. “Asian facial features are flatter,” he explained, “So we can’t use the same lighting as Westerners.” To amplify idols’ unique visuals, Yoon says he has to design lighting setups that make their faces very bright from the front angles.
On top of that, it’s the lighting designer’s job to emphasize each member’s own unique characteristics, which often involves setting up different lighting for each member. Everything from brightness to color details must be thoroughly considered to create a beautiful end product.
Director Kim Sung Wook says that one of the biggest differences and most important factors between K-Pop music videos and international music videos is “the level of performance“—a fact every fan can agree with.
According to EVERGLOW’s “Dun Dun” choreographer, Kim Ji Hye, the members spent around a month practicing choreography for that particular song. That month included several workdays of over 12 hours in length, and Kim revealed that sometimes the members stay up all night practicing into the morning.
EVERGLOW’s lead dancer Onda also explained that making the music video’s performance look great isn’t just about getting the movements right. Despite being “very quiet and introverted” in her personal life, Onda says she tries to give her everything while performing by focusing her gaze and gathering all her feelings and emotions into her eyes. Even something as minor as a facial expression can affect the final product.
Of course, music video performance isn’t all down to the idols themselves. The production team has a lot of work to do too. “The same dance can look way cooler with proper camera movements,” notes Kim Ji Hye, which is why the cinematographer must study the dances hard.
In fact, GDW’s cinematographer Nam Hyun Woo revealed that he usually watches a group’s choreography up to 50 times before filming it. He explained that he tries to memorize the moves as much as possible, stating, “The most important job for a cinematographer is following the flow of the artists.”
Because choreography is so important to K-Pop, I have to carefully follow the rotating dance formations to capture their essential movements. I’ve been working hard to make music videos that fans can follow.
— Nam Hyun Woo
So, how exactly does all that cinematography work? Nam Hyun Woo explained some of the ways they use different types of cameras and shots to create the best music video experience. For example, he first uses a jimmy jib to get a wide shot. A jimmy jib is a type of camera system that operates on a crane. This allows them to get every member in the frame, zooming in and out to improve the look.
Next, he uses a Mōvi camera for impact shots. Dubbed “most advanced camera movement system ever created“, this powerful piece of equipment is used to get “extravagant shots“—wide to tight close-ups, for example.
Finally, hand-held cameras are used to give a rougher feel. “For stronger, more impressive shots,” Nam explained.
Not every K-Pop music video makes use of visual effects, but many do. “The concept of the space has to reflect the world-building,” explained Kim Sung Wook, “[So] some parts have to be computer-generated.”
For example, GDW’s VFX artist Yeo Dong Hoo used green screens in “Dun Dun” to make it look like the EVERGLOW members were teleporting. This type of effect can take a long time to shoot because each member needs to be shot on a separate layer.
As crazy as it sounds, even the vibe on set has an effect on the final product. “The thing to remember is the mood on set has to be pleasant,” says director Kim. Both idols and crew members are already on edge because of the expensive and time-constrained nature of a music video shoot.
Some people might yell. Some people can’t stay focused.
— Kim Sung Wook
To ensure everyone can do their job correctly, Kim Sung Wook says they try to make a fun environment. Of course, it can’t all be about fun, which is why he says it can take a long time to get the atmosphere just right.
Last but not least, once the director yells “Cut!” for the final time on set, it’s time for editing and post-production. If a music video includes a lot of compositing, editors must key out green screens and create realistic yet exciting computer-generated backgrounds.
On top of that, scenes need to be cut and stitched together with seamless transitions. And, no matter how well the production design and lighting teams did their job, editing also includes extensive color-correction.
The images of idols are important to the viewers, explained GDW’s Head of Creative, Andy Kim. As such, he says that face close-ups and eye shots are particularly important. The team does their best to magnify the effects by adding extra visuals like glow and editing colors. Only once every second of footage has been perfected in editing is the music video ready for public viewing.
See how everything came together in the full “Dun Dun” music video here: