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Lighting for rain!


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#1 Michael Dean Gibbs

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:35 PM

Greetings,

I have a few questions that I need help in understanding.

I will be shooting a short, 16mm film at the end of the month and one of the scenes calls for rain for an exterior shot with an actor. I have been told that the rain drops need to be of a certain size or lit from a particular angle to best capture the image. Is this true or a fallacy?

Second, if this particular day happens to be sunny and I want to create an overcast, rainy day is it as "simple" as dropping in a grad. filter? And what should I do about the shadows on the actors face?


I would be very pleased with any advice you all could provide me.

Thanks,
mdg
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#2 Greg Gross

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 02:00 PM

I've never lit any rain from the standpoint of filmmaking. From the stand point of being a
photographer and a student cinematographer I would suggest side-lighting as a way of
showing shape and texture of the rain,droplets etc.. Of course I have no idea if you are
on a set creating rain or what lighting you have available. Personally myself I would run
tests and see what I could obtain which is not too expensive when shooting video. Of course
film tests can become costly. I was also wondering if you are using wind-blown rain Vs. just
falling rain. This is an interesting subject for filmmakers and I will be following this post. I
think David Mullen ASC will have some interesting comments if he's around and we will both
learn from what he may say. I almost forgot to comment on filters. I would try neutral density
filters and also graduate neutral density filters to see effects obtained. I believe use of a polar-
izer could be applied here also but be aware how it may effect the rain drops. Day for night may
create some interesting effects also as we see sometimes in horror films.

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#3 John Holland

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 02:36 PM

You are asking for quite a lot here the best way to show rain is back lit by the sun or lights you have to use ? when it rains its usually grey and dull , so you need to light it with big lamps. Grads ,only take hot sky down, are you producing the rain ? need a bit more info please .
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#4 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 02:57 PM

Rain needs to be backlit and you'll need a pretty big source - particularly if you've got to have a wide shot...
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#5 Daniel Smith

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:06 PM

I'd follow Conrad L. Hall out of 'Road to Perdition'. Obviously.. it depends on the story you are trying to tell, but I don't really think you can go wrong by copying his style.

Just watch the scene where Sullivan is cutting down the gangsters. If you are able to place the lights from a high position that is.
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#6 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:21 PM

Again, depending on your shot, you may have to fly silks or something overhead to cut the light on your actors. A lot of bounced softlight creates the overcast look. Backlighting the rain has been said....

A good way to make rain is to take long pieces of pvc pipe and drill holes in them at odd angles, then attach a hose to one end of it.

More info for more answers.
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#7 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:54 PM

There's a simple rule to rememeber when it comes to precip:

Rain - backlit (actually toplight works as well)
Snow - frontlit.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 04:15 PM

Rain - backlit (actually toplight works as well)
Snow - frontlit.


But even snow is translucent enough to look nice when it's backlit, sometimes. But I agree on the "rule"

Just watch the scene where Sullivan is cutting down the gangsters. If you are able to place the lights from a high position that is.


I assume you mean the one where he's deep in the dark with a machine gun doing a good ol' fashioned clean sweep. That's an excellent example of it though. It also shows a good contrast between what rain is lit and what isn't, and how they look.

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 05 March 2007 - 04:16 PM.

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#9 Michael Dean Gibbs

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 07:03 PM

Yes, John, we will be creating the rain...unless mother nature cooperates...as Chad had suggested. A friend of mine will be constructing a PVC "rainmaker".

As for dealing with a potentially sunny day, we may have to move from a LS to a MS and try and recreate as much even lighting as possible...probably using lots of bounce (no-budget restrictions), a Grad filter, and a conveniently placed camera.

Thank you gentleman for your sound advice.

mdg
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#10 Ken Minehan

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 10:42 PM

i have never tried this but it's food for thought. A very experienced gaffer explained to me the set up he used for lighting a day rain scene. he had 18ks back lighting the rain. This was a wide shot. He also said that it's a good idea to adjust the shutter angle so you can see the rain in more detail.

What do you guys think.
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#11 ryan_bennett

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:05 PM

Back light or side light. It worked for me but effectively we just lit the area then tooled once in awhile for the actors.

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#12 David Sweetman

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 01:21 AM

He also said that it's a good idea to adjust the shutter angle so you can see the rain in more detail.

A narrower shutter angle will 'freeze' the raindrops by exposing them for less time, making them more defined and detailed.

It depends on the scene but another idea, instead of back-lighting the rain is to not light the rain - James Cameron did this in Aliens, it will just give you a texture of rain across the area without seeing the drops. Also, that way you don't have to worry about which angle the rain is falling (for editing-room continuity).
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#13 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 05:28 PM

If you look at Danny Boyle's '28 Days later' there are a lot of rain shots with a reduced shutter angle (on high def)... quite effective and some would say more interesting than the movie.........
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#14 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 07:05 PM

If you look at Danny Boyle's '28 Days later' there are a lot of rain shots with a reduced shutter angle (on high def)...



Not Hi-Def, Standard PAL

But I know what'cha mean :)
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 07:39 PM

I have been told that the rain drops need to be of a certain size or lit from a particular angle to best capture the image. Is this true or a fallacy?


Rain needs to be backlit. You can make it disappear quite readily, but getting it to show up well is more difficult. It also needs to contrast with the background, usually a nice dark BG with lots of light on the rain is what you want. A good range of drop sizes from large to small will make it look more like you have rain everywhere, both near and far -- even if you only have one or two pipes running across your scene. (You may also need to hose down the BG so it glistens -- if it's dry, it might give away your secret.)

The best thing to do is experiment. All you need is a lawn sprinkler on top of a ladder in the back yard, and a friend to move a big light around. That'll give you a better feel for what the angles have to be than anything I can write on a computer.


-- J.S.
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#16 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 08:04 PM

Just watch the scene where Sullivan is cutting down the gangsters. If you are able to place the lights from a high position that is.


There are two still photos there of the rain sequence from "Road to Perdition", gives you an idea.

http://www.theasc.co...ion/index.html#
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#17 Gary McClurg

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 02:00 AM

Wow just writing some rain scenes in my new script... so thanks everyone for the tips...

Gives me some ideas to work with or to express my ideas better to my dp when we shoot...
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#18 Gary McClurg

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 04:51 PM

I was re-reading this thread today... seems if you shoot in daylight you need lots of big lights... any ideas if you don't have any big lights... in other words the poor man's way of doing things...
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#19 Michael Nash

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 05:32 PM

I was re-reading this thread today... seems if you shoot in daylight you need lots of big lights... any ideas if you don't have any big lights... in other words the poor man's way of doing things...


For tighter shots you can use smaller lights that are more intense but in a smaller area. A 1200 HMI par can be enough to pickup raindrops in a smaller area.

But then, you have to think about the look you're going for -- rain during the daytime may look unnatural if it's backlit too much. You might be better off showing lots of puddles and rain hitting the ground in your wide shots (without much backlighting), then frame your closeups against darker backgrounds so you can backlight the rain a little more subtly.
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#20 Gary McClurg

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 09:05 PM

Thanks Michael...
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