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class="style10" Photographing Rain

>Published : 8th February 2006

>Next month I am shooting a short film and the climactic scene calls for heavy rain. I have never filmed rain, although I know that it has to be backlit to show up on film. My question is, how much backlight do you need relative to our ambient light? Should it be brighter than my base exposure, or will just having it there be enough? We are filming on 5229 and the scene is a day exterior.

>We are shooting in the city, so luckily we can use the buildings to block the direct sunlight for most of the wide shots, and just walk in an overhead for the close-ups when the sun moves. Unfortunately, these tall buildings also mean that we have to manufacture all of the backlight ourselves, as the scene takes place on a sidewalk right in front of a building (so we get no help from the sun).

>I wish we would have the luxury of tests, however I'm afraid this probably won't happen due to budget reasons. Also, anyone who has any experience manufacturing rain on a tight budget, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

>Thank you.

>David Kane
Aspiring Cinematographer
Boston, MA


>There's no rule about how bright the backlight has to be for rain, just like there's no rule as to how bright a backlight has to be in general -- it's sometime you tend to adjust to taste by looking through the lens.

>But often it does not have to be bright because the rain will sort of pick-up the backlight and make it seem brighter than it does without the rain. I shot a rain sequence in a parking lot in Philadelphia last year and just exposed the backlight as if it were the key light and once the rain was turned on, it looked pretty bright -- enough for me to use an ND grad filter to try and darken the top of the frame. The rain closest to the light source will look the brightest.

>If you have your backlights in place, you can set the intensity relative to the rain by eye.

>Just note that water from hoses, etc. tends to be COLD and your actors better have some way of getting warm & dry between takes or else they will get sick.

>David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles


>David Kane writes :

class="style11">>Next month I am shooting a short film and the climactic scene calls for >heavy rain. I have never filmed rain, although I know that it has to be >backlit to show up on film.

>I had to film rain at night for a short film I produced and shot on a shoestring budget. It was a night shoot, and found if we had one bright light source backlighting the rain it would show up without any problem. However, with the rain itself, I had a few problems. It was raining the night I did the shoot, but the rain wasn't strong enough to show up on film.

>I needed to add LOTS of artificial rain. It takes A LOT of water to show up. Use a lot more than you would expect. That is the only advice I can offer. Hope this helps.

>Ian J. MacLeod
Kelowna, B.C., Canada.


>David Kane wrote :

class="style11">>...We are shooting in the city, so luckily we can use the buildings to >block the direct sunlight for most of the wide shots, and just walk in an >overhead for the close-ups when the sun moves.

>I might add that in addition to backlight you need a darkish background. If your rain is viewed against a lighter building in the bkgd. you will have to use a lot more backlight than if it will be viewed against a dark, shadowed bkgd.

>Avoid sky background.

>If it's cloudy it will still be hot tonally and wash out the rain effect. If it's blue it will look like many a typical Hollywood film shot in the 40s through 60s...you know, those heavy rain showers in the sunlight...

>Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


>If time permits, testing w/ 35mm stills, digital stills, and even video can be very useful and cost effective. You can even get immediate feedback from your monitor.

>Dom Zanghi
Camera Op./Video Prod
Philadelphia, PA