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by Mich KDL
If you’ve jumped on the Search: WWW (engine) bandwagon, you’re not alone. It may only be the first few weeks of this tvN Wed/Thurs drama series, but consider me hooked too!
Along with the pride of having strong women characters like Bae Ta-mi and Cha Hyeon in the forefront, and the inexplicable heartskip brought about by Park Mo-gun’s down-to-earth feels, the world that the Search: WWW team created has also caught my eye, and attention beyond the main storyline. As I delved deeper, I came to observe and learn that the feel of this ‘world’ is made up by more than just the physical locations. Let’s jump straight into the whys:
Note: This blogpost only covers episodes 1-4 of the show.
As Marion KDL said to me upon seeing the draft of this post, “It’s a wonder how K-Dramaland can still surprise.” Indeed — when it comes to locations in K-dramas, we know there’s always more to discover! And it’s always exciting to see new places featured in the dramas I watch. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to see familiar staples on our screens, and see how they’re juxtaposed in across different shows and scenes. In fact, Search: WWW features a number of them!
But, I’ve been more than impressed by just how many new locations Search: WWW has featured in these few weeks. From the old school arcade where Ta-mi and Mo-gun first met and the cafe they’d gone to after in episode 1, to the park in episode 3 that Mo-gun asked Ta-mi to answer his calls and see him when he wished, and the place in episode 4 where Ta-mi discovered that she’d jumped back onto the real time searches; this series keeps pulling out the stops to draw viewers into a uniquely crafted world — and it’s working, really well!
Multiple Locations, One Building
For most dramas I’ve seen as of late, they’ve kept mostly to one location for both the interior and exterior shots of their key office building. But in Search: WWW, we’ve been kept very much on our toes! Can you tell that both Unicon’s and Barro’s buildings are an amalgamation of multiple locations? Here’s a quick rundown of both search engine company’s buildings:
Unicon’s sterile exterior is already telling of how uptight they are behind closed doors; even though their rooftop provides a breath of fresh air and enough space for clandestine discussions.
On the other hand — beneath its sleek exterior, the Barro headquarters across the street has a bright, colorful and super fun interior to reflect their laidback culture, and lots of open areas for employees to chill and bond. While Ta-mi and Cha Hyeon’s team appears to have a very personalized office space (which interestingly, reminds us of Goblin’s home interior…), other employees at Barro seem to work in a more conventional office set-up.
Psst: While both buildings are meant to look like they’re in close proximity to each other (thanks to the magic of K-Dramaland), this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Unicon building is located in Pangyo Techno Valley in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do, while the Barro building is actually in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do — a whopping 269 km and 3 hours away! This leads me to how the team goes all out in…
Going the Distance for Locations
I’ve got to give kudos here to any production team that is ambitious enough to select filming locations that are beyond Seoul and Gyeonggi Province — not to mention those that eventually become staple locations in the series. While everything appears to be seamless in the show, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it possible!
So, it’s amazing to me that the Search: WWW team would go out of their way to select locations in places like Daegu, Daejeon and Jeonju, which would involve a lot of traveling back and forth from Seoul. To their credit, however, those locations definitely add a nice touch to their ‘world’.
Dreamy Lights and Neon Glows
Whether by coincidence or a part of the team’s visual plan, locations with neon signs and lighting have made a number of appearances thus far in Search: WWW. These include the tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) eatery and ‘dart bar’ in episode 4. Even the earlier-mentioned arcade has its own pink neon sign, giving its retro self a modern, youthful glow. The fluorescence adds an illuminating touch to the series’ color grading, which already has an occasional dreamy, whimsical feel.
This dreamy feel in certain scenes (typically those featuring Ta-mi and Mo-gun) can also be attributed to a choice technique used frequently by the directors: tilted angles fortified by distorted lights. A little distracting at times, but it also seems to artistically play up the disorientation or confusion experienced by the characters at that point. So no, don’t rub your eyes or try to wipe your screen!
Of Patterns and Symmetry
Have you noticed a ‘pattern’ in the way some locations are presented in Search: WWW? For one, the directors (Jung Ji-hyun — Mister Sunshine; and Kwon Young-il — Suits) seem to like adding textured, and somewhat structured backgrounds to layer their scenes.
This structure also continues in the medium and wide shots, displaying a certain consistency, and sometimes, evoking a sense of poetic poignance in its symmetry.
Reflections too — produced by buildings’ glass facades, or even mirrors in a restaurant — produce interesting patterns, almost akin to the kind seen in Rorschach tests. Maybe, they could even be a true ‘reflection’ of the thoughts or situation at the core of that given scene.
But, more often than not, it seems as if the directors allow some scenes to frame itself — through the clever, creative use of the environment surrounding it. Though truth be told: such a perfectly organic-looking ‘frame’ is almost always planned to a T.
And on that note about framing scenes, here’s Marion KDL with her thoughts on that topic 🙂
Framing is Everything
Indeed, framing is an important aspect in communicating a narrative without words; and for a director, it is also a display of one’s ‘signature’ style. I am impressed at how the directors of Search:WWW — who are working together for the first time — manage to do so. Apart from what Mich had mentioned before, I am fascinated with four techniques that anchor the cinematography of this drama: tilted angles, foreground perspectives, close close-ups, and empty centers.
Did you tilt your head in the first episode to follow the story, the way some people do when playing a race car computer game? I was first disoriented when the whole landscape and situation somehow tilted in front of me (a technique known as the Dutch angle or tilt), but after seeing it multiple times, it now feels organic to the narrative pace of Search: WWW. Though if inverted too many times, it could also make viewers feel rather nauseous (as I did at the end of episode 4).
Foreground perspective is another technique often seen in Search:WWW’s scenes — and I cannot remember seeing it used to this extent in any other drama.
To put the foreground into further perspective, there seems to be no fear in the use of close-ups in Search:WWW. They may be a typical feature in K-dramas, but the ones here are extremely close for comfort — and I mean, extremely close. Juxtaposed with the wide-angles, this technique helps to slow down the pace in some situations, while keeping the narrative dynamic.
But probably the most notable way of how scenes are framed in this drama, is how the center of the screen is left open. Protagonists will either do things on the right half of the screen or the left. If two people interact, they would usually still each be in their screen-half. The center of the narrative is thus ‘de-centered’ (or becomes asymmetrical) in terms of the screen’s frame. Again, this gives the whole drama a very structured feel and underscores the purposeful, and headstrong nature of all its characters.
Thanks to Marion for sharing!
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As the drama continues to air, we can’t wait to see what else we’ll get to discover in the weeks to come! Are you just as intrigued by the world and locations of Search: WWW as we are? Is there something else that contributes to making their world such a unique one? Tell us your thoughts in the comments! And be sure to keep checking back with us at KDL for more Search: WWW locations 🙂
Check out our Search: WWW drama overview here.