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Namyangju Studio Complex

2005/11/30 Source

Cinema Paradise in the Forests of the Bukhangang River

There is a place that has everything it takes to make a movie, except for the script. The Namyangju Studio Complex has all the facilities and equipment needed to make a movie, from start to finish, from shooting to postproduction. With its high-tech digital equipment, expert workers, and internationally certified technical manpower, it is one of the hidden forces behind the Korean movie renaissance.

Located at San 100, Sambong-ri, Joan-myeon, Namyangju, a 40-minute drive from Seoul, a big sign announces the approach to the Namyangju Studio Complex. As you follow the quiet paved road with woods on both sides, buildings begin to appear between the mountain slopes and then the outdoor sets of the studio complex come into view. It is hard not to exclaim when you see these impressive facilities that are designed to re-create the fantasy world of the movies.

On a total land area of 1.32 million square meters, there are a 100,000-square-meter outdoor set, a 1,320- square-meter stage with six studios, a set for period pieces, a courtroom set, filmmaking support facilities, and a building for post-production facilities. As such, Namyangju Studio Complex is the mecca of filmmaking in Korea.

Construction on the complex, the largest filmmaking studio in Asia, began in 1991 and was finished in 1997. The studio was built to create the necessary infrastructure for the film industry and a center for the promotion of animation technology.

Such major Korean films as Seopyeonje, Shiri, JSA - Joint Security Area, Chwihwaseon - "Chihwaseon", Silmido, and Taegukgi were all produced with the facilities and equipment at Namyangju.

The outdoor set is completely shut off from outside noise such as airplanes and cars and from public access, providing the best possible filming conditions and making any kind of shooting possible. Any kind of movie can be made here by modifying an existing set or making a new one,.

Some famous sets have been preserved, including the sets for JSA - Joint Security Area, a hit film that depicted the pain of national division; Chwihwasun - "Chihwaseon", a Joseon Dynasty period piece about the life of painter Jang Seung-eop; and Open for Business, which re-creates a small town of the 1980s.

Among these, the JSA - Joint Security Area open set, a re-creation of the truce village of Panmunjeom, is so real that it conveys the same sense of tension as the real thing, which is a tragic reminder of the pain of national division and the ever-present possibility of war. Panmunjeom is a small place no more than 800 meters square, established by North Korea and the UN forces after the signing of the Korean War Ceasefire Agreement. Officially called the "Joint Security Area", it is a special place outside the administrative control of both South and North Korea.

The JSA - Joint Security Area set production team, recognizing that it would be impossible to film at Panmunjeom, going back and forth from South to North, visited the real location several times and after a process of detailed design work and historical investigation, they re-created the truce village.

Other sets that are popular with visitors to the Namyangju studios are the folk village that re-creates the flavor of old Korea, the traditional house, or hanok set, and the courtroom set.

The folk village is where Chwihwasun was filmed. Directed by Im Kwon-taek, one of the Korean film industry, the movie depicts the life of Joseon artist Jang Seung-eop. This open set, featuring a re-creation of Seoul's Jongno area at the end of the 19th century, covers a total area of 9,140 square meters, the largest set ever built in Korea. The buildings include 26 tile-roof houses and 31 thatch-roof houses in areas for the aristocrats and the middle classes, as well as restaurants, shops and taverns.

The hanok set, named Undang, is an actual late Joseon Dynasty house from Unni-dong in Jongno-gu, Seoul, which was moved to the Namyangju Studio Complex in 1994. It is a typical tile-roof house of the gentry, the kind that was found in Hanyang (now Seoul) and Gyeonggi-do province. The house always appears in historical movies and is also famous as a venue for baduk (Korean board game) competitions.

Namyangju also has a courtroom set. Movies often feature court scenes but real courts are difficult to rent, so the courtroom set was built as a way to reduce shooting time as well as costs, thus contributing to production efficiency.

In addition, there are six indoor studios ranging from small to big, and in these any kind of indoor set can be built. Studio 1 is a big space that can accommodate all kinds of productions, from feature films to ads and special productions. One big set or several small sets can be built under one roof to maximize efficiency of space and time.

Studios 2 and 3 are multipurpose, all-weather studios for TV and movie productions, equipped with state-ofthe-art lighting systems. Studio 5 has a water tank 1.2 meters deep and is the only place in Korea for underwater filming using miniatures and all sorts of special effects. Studios 6 and 7 are small studios used for feature films, short films and filming using miniatures.

Movie production facilities at the Namyangju Studio Complex include support facilities, a film laboratory, a sound recording studio and the lodging house Chunsa Hall.

The Film Support Center contains the Visual Experience Education Center, the props and costumes warehouse, the courtroom set, the film museum, and convenience facilities such as shops, restaurants and offices. The Film Hall contains the recording studio for dialogue, special effects and music, and facilities for various events such as seminars and film previews.

The recording studio, operated on the basis of knowhow accumulated over the past 30 years, enables both analog and multi-channel digital sound recording. The film laboratory, opened by the Korean Film Commission in 1980, has an annual capacity of 45 million feet for feature films, and 8 million feet for short films, which puts it on a par with the best facilities of its kind in the world.

The special visual effects studio, opened in May 2000, was established with the aim of promoting animated movies and digital effects based purely on Korean technology. It allows real-time production thanks to a line-up of high-tech equipment such as Inferno and Fire, production tools for 2D and 3D production, and the latest systems such as laser film recorders, digital scanners and film restoration equipment.

For members of the public, the Visual Experience Education Center provides film related training and research, and support for independent films and noncommercial works. It has the manpower and equipment to conduct education in filmmaking and develops and operates systematic programs for anyone, including teenagers and children, interested in movies, acting and animation.

For those working on films at the Namyangju Studio Complex, the Chunsa Hall offers accommodations and convenience facilities.

It is evident that the Namyangju Studio Complex has everything needed to make a movie. Indeed, it is a barometer of the status of the Korean film industry. This is why it is crowded on weekends and even on weekdays with people who want to see how and where movies are made.

Korean films are now advancing beyond the Asian film market to the international market. They are exported overseas at high prices and Korean actors and directors are winning awards in international film festivals.

The Namyangju Studio Complex and its active support is one of the things that has made the revival and increased status of the Korean film industry possible. As the mecca of Korean movie production, it will continue to be a firm pillar supporting the film industry.

Source: Pictorial Korea Oct 2005 edition.

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