Article by Herb Kimble.
Rain can be an important dramatic effect, but it’s one of the most difficult to capture on film visually. Rain adds tension, and it can help highlight the mood of a particular sequence. Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Shawshank Redemption, and a host of other classic films of almost every genre have incorporated rain into their productions to add drama and make the world more believable.
So, what’s the movie magic behind this particular trick? Read on for a few ideas on how rain works in cinema.
Basic: Rain Tower
A small water tower with a t-connect hose plugged into it can do the job of making rain, especially if you put some sort of stopper at the opening and add a fan for wind. You need a lot of water to pull this effect off properly, so expect to dump a lot very quickly. This can get pricey, so it’s a basic but costly fix. It can achieve the perfect effect in a controlled environment.
A more water friendly approach is to just add milk. A small bit of milk adds some translucence to the water and makes it show up.
Advanced: Camera Trickery
Rather than using wide, establishing shots to show rain you can try pulling in on the actor. On the right day, when the sky is cloudy, you can use much less water to get the same effect. There is also a device called a “rain curtain,” which can be combined with low lighting and fans to make rain stand out. You can also opt to shoot at lower lighting conditions, because you’ll need a lower depth of field anyway to get the shot you’re looking for.