Whether you work on commercials, movies or photo shoots, you’re bound to run into one very tricky issue in production – creating a weather scene.
There are some crafty Hollywood hacks for recreating the elements: like stuffing ice into a wood chipper (Fargo much?) to imitate falling snow or using a leaf blower against talent’s hair for tornado scenes. But, the most used element on camera, rain, can also be the most difficult to film.
When your shoot calls for rain, you want those big, sexy, glamorous drops falling slightly to the left while subtle winds circle around your talent. You want it to look unrealistically beautiful, so you have to fake it.
Creating movie-style rain requires a few simple steps. Number one – don’t shoot in the rain! Not only is weather completely unpredictable and nearly impossible to schedule a shoot around, but it also doesn’t read on screen. It could be a downpour of torrential rain, but the footage only shows hazy grey streaks crying on the screen. It’s kind of pathetic.
For the camera to catch the drops, you’re going to want large, heavy disbursement. Features often make it rain by using rain trucks, but that can cause a drought in the budget. The next best thing is a rain rig, which are long pipes that stand on tall poles with attached sprinkler heads. Rain rigs are set up in the foreground and background of your shot to create a great consistent shower. Those can be a bit pricey as well. If you want Hollywood rain on a film school budget, check out this bad-ass rain rig designed by Tom Antos. Watch out for the Amateur Move: Rain that comes into the scene from more than one direction.
Once you have your rain source, you have to light it properly. Backlight. Blacklight. Backlight. Backlighting separates the rain from the background and highlights the drops as they fall to the ground. This creates layers, more dimension, and allows the droplets to really shine.
The Blustery Day
Whether you’re trying to achieve a romantic kiss under a light drizzle or the Day After Tomorrow Armageddon storm, you’re going to need some wind to sell the moment. A fan off-camera isn’t going to push the illusion of wind unless it has something to blow around. For wind to pop on screen, you want to scatter your set with debris like leaves, dirt, and some earth powder. When you add the fan, the debris will circle in the air, creating a whirling movement and a beautifully textured scene.
To finish off your stormy look, make sure to wet down the entire scene. Vehicles, roads, umbrellas, sidewalks, and your talent. In some cases, simply hosing down the set is enough to create the illusion of fresh rain. In the end, that slick, wet look really resonates on camera and delivers that rainy day feels we love to see on film. For a little extra drama, shoot at night, throw some fog in your shot, and backlight it!
These simple tricks are all it takes to turn your sunny shoot into a cinematic storm.
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