How to Film Rain Sequences Like a Pro

The article “Rain, Rain! 15 Rainy Day Shooting Tips for Videographers” discusses the safety tips you need to observe and the protective gear you need to have when shooting in the rain. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the basic shooting techniques and go over the equipment you’ll need to shoot a rain sequence.

Although shooting a rain sequence might be a little intimidating for novices, if you observe the following tips, you’ll soon be able to shoot very natural-looking rain sequences, just like your how your favorite directors and videographers do it.

  1. As much as possible, avoid shooting in real rain.

As odd as it might sound, it’s actually best to avoid shooting rain sequences in real rain. If you’re shooting a documentary or recording live events for news broadcasting, then shooting in rainy weather is sometimes unavoidable. On the other hand, if you’re shooting a narrative sequence, you’ll be able to control the shooting environment more thoroughly if you simulate rain.

Why should you avoid shooting in real rain as much as possible? First, real rain is unpredictable, which can be hard for film crews working on tight schedules and directors trying to craft perfect scenes. Second, real rain does not register well on camera as there is no focus that is capable of capturing rain drops while simultaneously focusing on the actors and sets.

To illustrate, try watching the film “Braveheart”. Much of it was shot in rainy weather in Scotland and Ireland, but for many of the rain sequences, it’s very difficult to distinguish actual rain. The wardrobe, actors, and sets are often drenched, but actual raindrops are difficult to discern.

To counter this, some film crews inject a substance to make the simulated raindrops more apparent in the footage. The substance of choice is usually milk, though other substances might be used to enhance the raindrops. Proper lighting is another means of getting raindrops to register clearly during filming.

  1. Invest in equipment to simulate rain.

Creating simulated rain isn’t a challenge for professional film crews, as they’re armed with the right visual effects equipment, the budget, and the skills to make it happen. While many film students and filmmakers on a budget won’t have access to the rain rigs, rain towers, and rain bars that make these fake downpours possible, fortunately, they can create DIY rain machines that can produce comparable results.

DIY Rain Machines

Check out this helpful video by Tom Antos, which shows viewers how to create two different types of rain machines: a rain rig fashioned from a flat sprinkler hose and other materials, and a sturdier rig fashioned from PVC pipes and other materials.

Video Source: YouTube (Video by Tom Antos)

Rain Towers and Rain Bars

If you’re willing to invest in professional visual effects equipment such as rain towers and rain bars, you can rent them from companies that rent and sell special effects equipment. Rain towers cover a sizeable area, and can be hooked up to fire hydrants or large-capacity water trucks. When rain towers are outfitted with specific rain heads, they can be used to simulate effects ranging from heavy mist to torrential downpours.

Rain bars, on the other hand, can be used to create a thick curtain of falling drops, and many have an integral mist bar to complete the effect. Rain bars can be adjusted to increase or decrease the flow of the rain or the intensity of the mist, and they’re available in lengths ranging from 2 to 10 feet.

Rain Wands

If you don’t want to construct DIY rain machines or rent professional equipment, you should consider buying rain wands. Rain wands are more flexible and mobile than their bulkier counterparts, and can hook up to ¾-inch garden spigots and fire hydrants. You should invest in rain wands that can be outfitted with a variety of rain heads to create effects like heavy mist and thick rain drops. Rain wands are ideal for filming close-up scenes and can be used to complement larger simulated rain sequences.

  1. Avoid harsh sunlight and too much unnatural light.

Unless you’re shooting a music video, commercial, or some other stagey sequence, avoid shooting in harsh sunlight. The sun is rarely out in full force when it’s raining and hard sunlight will make your rain sequence look inauthentic.

You should also avoid illuminating your rain sequence with too much unnatural light. A strong beam of light will highlight each raindrop, and the raindrops will appear as a distracting texture in the final footage. On the other hand, if it’s really dark, aim a small light—such as a waterproof on-board light or a weak flashlight—from the same direction as the camera onto the scene.

  1. Record audio with the right equipment and do post-production sound editing.

Audio can be challenging to record in the rain. Rain is noisy and can be hazardous if it comes into contact with audio and other electronic equipment. As video mics and booms are useless when they’re soaked, the best option is to use a lav mic, but even then, you run the risk of picking up a lot of distracting ambient noise.

 

Image Source: Flickr (Photo by tokyoform / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 If you will use a lav mic, you may need to do a lot of ADR (automated dialog replacement) to reinsert clear dialogue into the sequence if coherent dialog cannot be salvaged from production tracks. During post-production ADR sessions, the actors watch their performances repeatedly while listening to the original production track on headphones as a guide. The actors then re-perform the dialogue to match the wording and lip movements.

Alternatively, if you’re shooting a rain sequence with a DSLR or video camera, you can record high-quality audio with the Tascam DR-70D 4-Channel Audio Recorder.

Image Source: Adorama

This audio recorder features dual built-in omnidirectional microphones and can record up to four tracks simultaneously. The Tascam DR-70D 4-Channel Audio Recorder is armed with tripod mounts on both the top and bottom of the unit. As a result, the audio recorder can be mounted on top or below your DSLR or video camera.

You can purchase a rain cover to shield your audio recorder from the rain and elements. The rain cover should have a clear plastic panel to allow you to easily monitor the recording during the filming process.

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