Whether you’ve got "Little bitty stingin' rain” or “big ol' fat rain,” the movies will have you believe everything is better in the rain. The kisses are more passionate, the redemption sweeter and the sadness more palatable. Still, whether it’s rain you made yourself out of sprinklers or actual rain from the sky, it can be difficult to film in.
1. Protect your equipment
You can buy rain bags, clip an umbrella to your tripod or invest in a wearable umbrella to remain hands-free. In a pinch, you can even make a DIY rain bag. A custom cover that covers equipment (including mics and cables) while also allowing easy access to the controls and the lens unobscured is ideal. In addition to covering your camera and gear, did you know some companies are creating water-resistant equipment? It’ll be awhile before we see a waterproof camera with 8K capabilities. On the plus side, if you’re looking for a side hustle — waterproofing electronics is where it’s at!
2. Pay attention to lighting
There are whole classes just on lighting in the rain, but here’s a really important fact: if you don’t do it well, rain on film doesn’t look sexy or redemptive. It may appear artificial or the sunlight will take viewers out of the movie. It just looks sad. And not the kind of sad you want. The kind of sad that makes you want to leave the room or theater. Two basic keys are not to shoot in the sun and to backlight the rain. If you must shoot on a sunny day, you can take a page out of Inception's dream journal and block it.
3. Plan, plan, plan
In addition to having all your gear ready, this article suggests that you conduct light studies with the camera you’ll use. Set it up at several positions at different times of day and record the results to determine when “magic hour” is most magical and the sunlight isn’t direct. That way, you know when to show up. You’ll also need to be highly in tune with the forecast and build in extra time for all the delays that come with real-world shooting. Don’t forget to make sure you have gear for crew and a place they can go to stay dry.
4. Make it rain
If you need to make it rain, you can do it on a low budget or you can bring in the heavy duty equipment. There are rain rigs (which allow you to control the distribution and flow) and rain trucks (which will cost a fortune but look incredibly authentic). There are also wet downs, which provide that "just rained" look with little time, effort, and cost. You just hose off the surface and call it good. Whatever approach you take, you can up the ante with sound design in post production. According to this article, one of the most effective ways of simulating the sound of rain will also land you a tasty snack.
Rain isn't the only inclement weather to plan for. It snows a lot in springtime in Colorado, so we still have snow on the mind here. If it’s on your mind, too, these tips for shooting in snow can save your equipment and your shot.
Inclement weather is unpredictable, moisture is the kiss of death for equipment, and your gear and your time are valuable. This may sound like the perfect storm for a disaster, but with some extra planning and creativity, you can pull this thing off swimmingly.