Taemin. The man. The myth. The legend.
Taemin’s one of those idols that’s just mesmerizing. His voice is very smooth, his dancing is very elegant. He constantly is pushing the envelope, trying new things and making his mark on the K-Pop industry forever. He is objectively an excellent performer in pretty much every way.
I love Taemin’s videos because they always go all out. The visuals are always very precise, very meticulous. Whoever directs his videos puts a lot of thought in to them, and it shows. However, there is a consistent overuse fo VFX in the videos, as opposed to practical effects. And while in many cases the videos are excellent with the extra animations, I find them overwhelming on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with a video using special effects to that degree, but it can distract from the performance. Today, I want to talk about one of Taemin’s music videos which has comparatively few special effects – most of the editing being in color grading, filters, and cuts.
I am talking about “Move”, one of Taemin’s releases way back in 2017. The video has no real story, it’s pure aesthetics. The lyrics don’t help shed light on any story either, they’re mostly about a girl who dances seductively. But that’s okay – it’s meant to showcase who Taemin is as a performer. The result is what’s mostly a performance video filmed in Hong Kong, with symbolic elements and a gentle dance beat.
There are three primary sets throughout the video – a street, a bridge at night, and a studio, which has three setups but none so elaborate that I could call them “sets”. The personality of the video comes primarily from the gritty street scenes, where there is trash, posters, and neon lights. The coloration of the street scenes is largely blue tinted, with Taemin’s lips tinted red and his skin tinted gold. Your eyes automatically gravitate towards him in any shot because of this. The bridge scene is largely tinted gold, while the studio scenes use lights to tint the environment the three primary colors to distinguish them from everything else.
This grittiness comes in direct contrast to the clothing Taemin and his backup dancers are wearing. It’s clearly designer clothes, too expensive to be “street”, but it’s trying to emulate a particular casual style. It actually reminds me of G-Dragon’s “Crooked” video, where G-Dragon sports similar sleeveless tops. However, I’d argue that Taemin’s style is more refined – not in terms of quality of clothing, but in how it’s put together.
Nevertheless, Taemin’s clothes separate him from the background. If the environment is dominated by light colors, he’s wearing black, and vice versa. His backup dancers usually wear solid black, with occasional designs. However, if they are wearing designs on their clothes, he is not. They also are all wearing jewelry, and lots of it, while Taemin usually only has a bracelet on. There is of course the scene where they’re in the studio and Taemin has a glittery mask on…I still don’t really know why he has it but I think it’s meant to just showcase his coolness.
In terms of practical effects – which I would argue are the best kind of effects – there is only one major effect. That would be rain. Rain is used throughout the video, and with good reason, too – it makes everything seem more spontaneous. Adding the extra layer of movement adds depth to the world. Suddenly, you can feel the rain on your own skin and hair. Filming in rain is really challenging so I imagine they used a rain machine, but I could be wrong. My classmates have filmed in the rain, and I’ve been on sets in the sleet. (Word of advice: don’t shoot in sleet. Everyone’s miserable.)
Shooting in the rain is not something everyone does because it’s cumbersome. It requires a lot of patience and dedication, as well as a lack of self preservation because shooting in rain can get cold and uncomfortable. The point is it’s very impressive that they shot a good chunk of the video in this setting. The video would not be complete without this touch.
Now for the fun part. The use of VFX is much lighter in Move than it is in other videos, but that’s not to say it’s completely absent. For one thing, the colors are much more intense than they would be naturally – even the outdoor shots come across as theatrical. Then much of the video has a soft, vaporwave style filter over it, while another good chunk of it has full-on TV style glitches. In those situations it feels intense.
The thing is, the video is not reliant on these effects. These are purely done for aesthetic purposes, to give a feeling of a world. They’re not necessary. One only needs to look at the solo version of the video, which features Taemin dancing with his backup dancers but cuts out all the ancillary inserts. In fact, the most important editing in the video is done through strategic cuts or transitions. On occasion, the frame will move slightly within the shot, but always on the beat. The cuts, in turn, are built around the beats and Taemin’s dance. Taemin is always the centerpiece.
There are three moments where there are lots of VFX – however, these three moments are isolated. You have the rain moving backwards, which is just an act of rewinding the video. You have the faces being blotted out, which is mostly just masking the video and putting some cool stuff underneath, and making the mask glitch out. Lastly, there’s the sequence at the end where Taemin’s body seems to fade in and out. I don’t entirely know how they did this but my guess is they keyed out one color, or a range of colors, slowed down the footage below, and added some effects to it. It seems pretty simple, but it’s a hard balance to strike.
As filmmakers, it’s our job to find the emotional core of something, and for “Move”, the core is Taemin himself. Any visual effects are just accessories so that the true gem can shine. This whole video is designed to showcase Taemin as a performer. It’s kept very simple, the camera rarely leaves him. There’s no story, because the video relies on Taemin himself to carry the mood. And that’s a good thing. When you have raw talent like that, you just have to let them do what they do best. Sometime the best directing is no directing at all. Just let the person exist, in their space, as they are.