Cheong Jai-hoon interview: ‘Squid Game’ visual effects
“This show is a fantasy space,” declares visual effects supervisor Cheong Jai-hoon about the ambitious visual style that he helped bring to life on the Netflix blockbuster “Squid Game.” “It’s not exactly real,” he says, adding that in his mind, “it looks somewhat like an amusement park.”
“The most challenging part was creating a sense of balance between what is completely new and fake and balancing it with something real,” he explains. “This is a show where we created a space that didn’t exist at all and this is this is something that we haven’t seen before, but we had to create it to an extent that it would look like a real thing.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Squid Game” was conceived by showrunner Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes, expanding the story from its original feature film format. The series stars Lee Jung-jae alongside Jung Ho-yeon, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-jun, Heo Sung-tae, recent Golden Globe winner O Yeong-su, Anupam Tripathi and Kim Joo-ryoung. It tells the story of down-on-their-luck people in dire need of money, who each receive mysterious invitations to join a dangerous life-or-death version of their childhood games in order to win a cash prize of 45.6 billion won (equivalent to about 38 million US dollars).
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Every game is a traditional Korean children’s game, like Red Light Green Light, but in this sinister “amusement park,” the consequence of losing each game is a painful death. Who will be the winner, and what is the purpose behind this game? Of the 456 participants from all walks of life who are locked into a secret location to play Game 1, only a handful are left to play Game 6. Netflix premiered all nine episodes of the dystopian South Korean thriller on September 17 of last year, after which it became a word-of-mouth sensation and the streaming giant’s most popular series launch ever, topping Netflix charts in over 80 countries.
After all of its commercial success, “Squid Game” may dominate at the Emmys this year, following its three surprise wins at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Lee won Best Drama Actor, Jung won Best Drama Actress and the series took home the stunt ensemble prize. Cheong has also garnered his share of industry attention, recently scoring for a Visual Effects Society nomination for Best Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode for the “VIPS” installment, which features the game in which contestants walk across a perilous glass bridge, many of whom crash through random glass panes to their death.
The VFX maestro says that the sequence was both his highlight and his greatest challenge on the show. “If you don’t have the right sense of scale and sense of height there, the whole drama would just collapse,” he admits. “There was a huge pressure on my shoulders. When I first watched it after the show came out, I was feeling like my heart was burning and the world is going to be watching it, so I was almost losing sleep! After the show’s release, everybody loved it so much and there was no comment about it looking fake, so I was a very relieved after seeing the reaction from the audience.”