Special F/X: Rain Drops Keep Fallin

You can turn any day into a rainy day with this easy effect.

Rain. One of the most uncooperative elements known to man. It seems like it’s always coming along at exactly the wrong time in life. Drenching a bride on her wedding day, forcing graduation ceremonies into tiny gyms at the last minute, spoiling weekend trips to the beach and so on. And always, it seems, right after you’ve finished washing the car. But when you do want rain, (say for that El Nino tribute video you are making) you may have to wait days, even weeks for the skies to darken and rain to fall in just the right place at just the right time with just the right intensity for your shoot. At least you used to need to do this. The truth is, simulating rain for video is really pretty simple. In fact, with a few materials, you’ll be able to start your own personal downpour within minutes of reading this article. All that you need is a spigot, a hose, a portable sprinkler head and something tall to get it all up off the ground.

What Goes Up Must Come Down
While there are several ways to simulate rain, some as simple as pouring water through a watering can or a colander held between your camcorder’s lens and your talent, most techniques do not provide the look and feel of authentic precipitation. Since rain usually falls on people (not merely between them and your camcorder), the watering can approach and others like it are poor at best. The key to creating realistic looking rain is to get water up into the air, so that it can fall back down in a natural rain-like fashion, broadcasting droplets over a large area. Here’s how you can do it.

Attach a cheap sprinkler head to a length of hose and affix the sprinkler securely to the top of a ladder, a pole, a tree, a basketball hoop, the roof of your house or wherever you can get it 10′-15′ above the ground in the area where you’ll be shooting. When you turn on the faucet, water rushes through the sprinkler head which broadcasts the water up into the air. As gravity takes over, the water droplets spread out and fall back to earth in a way that looks and sounds convincingly like genuine raindrops.

Pitter Patter, Pitter Patter
To make your rainy day more believable, mix in sound effects of rain and thunder from a sound effects CD when you are editing, or try playing them audibly near the camcorder while you are recording. To make your rain effect even more convincing, avoid shooting from an angle that shows bright blue sky in the background. You may find that shooting at dawn or dusk will help. In any case, it works best to shoot in a heavily shaded area, or through a gray lens filter to make clear skies appear dark and overcast. Stretching a black nylon stocking tightly over your lens is another way to make bright skies look more ominous. Just use a rubber band to hold the nylon in place. (By the way, this rain effect works quite nicely after dark. You’ll need to be sure that you have enough light to shoot, but you won’t need to worry about having blue skies in the background).

So why sit around waiting for Mother Nature to bring the weather you need for your next rainy day scene? Hollywood began using this effect to make rain years ago, now you can use it to create realistic looking rain on even the nicest of days.

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