Recently, Berry Good released their comeback MV for “Oh! Oh!”. With a monotonous desaturated color palette, and awkward CG light and shadow effects, the MV is vaguely reminiscent of escape-the-room phone games. Beginning with an animation introducing an eerie mausoleum setting, several scenes follow that suggest a surreal horror theme. Paired with the bright tropical house sound and lyrics about the exhilarating feeling of falling in love, the horror concept of the MV is inappropriate. Moreover, the MV also makes many conflicting and seemingly random set choices including a pastel bedroom, a museum exhibit, and a red, tiered contraption with stuffed animals.

Both the concept and execution of “Oh! Oh!” may be flawed, but the MV’s incorporation of some fantasy elements corresponds with a trend in mid-tier girl group MVs. In comebacks within the past year, many such groups have produced fantasy music videos. One production company behind the bulk of these MVs is Sunnyvisual, which filmed “Wag-zak” by Lovelyz and “The Fifth Season (SSFWL)” by Oh My Girl. The other major company, Vikings League, recently filmed “Sunrise” by GFriend and “La La Love” by WJSN. To incorporate surreal elements and create this otherworldly mood, they both use effective set design and film techniques, such as tilted camera angles, blurring effects, high camera angles and slow motion.

Being able to engage the viewer in a fabricated world is the appeal of fantasy MVs. In addition to the main choreography shots, there are many supplementary shots of the artists interacting with the setting. In WJSN’s “La La Love”, these fleeting moments are shot with shallow depth from a tilted angle. This dutch angle is commonly used to make the viewer feel disoriented, adding to the transcendent quality of the MV. Gaussian blur on the edges of the frame also adds to the disoriented feeling. Shooting with a shallow depth of field gives a sense of intimacy, as it places the viewer within arm’s length of the scene. Shooting through objects is another decision that breaks the barrier between the viewer and the fantasy world.

Other factors that create mood are exemplified in Oh My Girl’s “The Fifth Season (SSFWL)”. It zooms in from a long shot to medium shots and close-ups, matching the magnificent atmospheric qualities of the song. Extreme long shots from a high angle show the landscape setting of snow and grass fields. Slow motion adds a hazy feeling, matched by the rack focus which blurs the background scenery and adds emphasis to close-up shots of the face. With dance scenes shot from a slight low angle, the members become ethereal beings, larger than life.

These music videos place real people in unreal circumstances. As a result, the way in which the fantasy setting is incorporated has to be tasteful and balanced depending on the concept. Too little incorporation detracts from the purpose, and too much overwhelms the viewer.

Oh My Girl’s set design has varied greatly in the past from real landscapes to rented rooms. However, their recent MVs for “The Fifth Season (SSFWL)”, “Remember Me”, “Secret Garden”, and subunit Oh My Girl Banhana’s “Banana Allergy Monkey” all share similar set designs. There are some large box sets for indoor settings, but most of the sets are limited to a few props of minimal variance in color. Rather than creating the illusion of an elaborate fantasy world, these props hint at the intended setting.

The typical background is made using a green screen, usually depicting colored skies and landscapes. A few moving CGI elements such as swirling petals and fireworks decorate the scene. Simplicity is key; the limited color palette of each scene is pleasing to the eye and mirrors the refreshing quality of Oh My Girl’s music. These simple sets fit Oh My Girl’s concept, which is more dreamy and imaginative, capturing the essence of children’s book illustrations. The real members and real props stand out from the CGI background like a fun pop-up book.

On the other hand, WJSN have been following their namesake cosmic girls concept, in which each member represents a different zodiac sign, playing on an astronomy theme. There is a good deal of world-building in each of their MVs through elaborate sets and CGI editing. Mostly, large sets fill most of the background and many different props are used. Compared to Oh My Girl, the members are also more actively involved with their props and settings. The sets are later enhanced with lots of CGI because WJSN’s MV concepts explicitly involve the paranormal. From lighting effects to glowing butterflies to growing roses, the MVs are full of small CGI details.

Most of these girl groups debuted around 2014-2016 with the then-popular innocent concept involving school uniforms, natural lighting, and pastel colors. Part of the reason some of these girl groups did not break free from the mid-tier level of popularity is that they lacked a unique visual concept. This may be why many of these groups have rebranded in this manner. The fantasy concept is appealing because it has infinite possibilities and increases the memorability of different releases.

As girl groups age, fans seek change and developments in concept. This is the reason groups such as A Pink and Twice have experimented with darker girl crush concepts recently. However, this is also a gamble, as the change in concept may not resonate well with a group’s fanbase; this is most likely because it changes the perception of a group’s personality. Fantasy is a safer development, because it aligns with the effervescent quality of innocent concepts. Some girl groups, such as Oh My Girl and WJSN, have perfected this concept with their music video styles. Others, however, are still wandering in the slush of experimentation.

(YouTube [1][2]. Images via Asia Bridge Entertainment, Starship Entertainment, WM Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment, Yuehua Entertainment.)