From the beachy banks of the New River yesterday to the Indian Trail surrounding Mountain Lake in southwest Virginia today, Day 10 had a decidedly different atmosphere.
Gone was the sand, scorching sun, and cool water. In it’s place was an uneven, rocky, and alien terrain that made for an excellent backdrop to several chase scenes and action sequences.
It was nice to escape the heat as the canopy of the forest and the cooler weather of the mountains offered the first day in awhile that I didn’t have to sticky myself with both bug spray and sunscreen and sweat. Because of that, I smelled better which I’m sure everyone near the camera appreciated.
The tradeoff, however, was rain. It was the first day of the shoot where I genuinely had to worry about rain throughout the day. As a result, the camera spent a majority of the time covered by some plastic sheeting and the rest of our gear was staged under a tarp.
What made things particularly difficult is nobody had cell phone reception so we couldn’t check weather reports. Plus, the thick canopy of trees made sure we couldn’t even look up to see storm clouds and estimate the weather ourselves.
Those trees also caused problems because their leaves were wet and, when the wind would blow, that water would drip and plop all over us as if it were raining.
This went on for a majority of the day before it cleared up in the afternoon. And only occasionally did we actually have true-blue rain and not just drizzle or wind-blown water droplets.
But as I said above, I had to think about rain all throughout the day and prepare to work in it.
Five Tips for Working in the Rain
Since I spent most of today being dripped on and protecting a $50,000 camera from getting wet, I wanted to share five tips for when you’re shooting exteriors and the weather forecasts precipitation:
1. Have a tarp for on top of and underneath your gear
It may seem like enough to cover your gear with a tarp, but you should also place one underneath to protect from flooding, especially if you’re in uneven terrain or wooded areas.
A single tarp on top may suffice when shooting outside in parking lots or on streets where the ground is flat, but it will only protect your gear from water coming from above. In uneven terrain, like in the forests we were filming, water pools, floods, and soaks into places that aren’t often noticeable at first and can create mud or clay.
Today we had a big tarp and a space blanket. When tidying up our gear, it fit sandwiched between both. I felt comfortable walking away from it even with the possibility of a downpour happening without notice.
2. Premake a cover for the camera if you don’t have one already
Some rental houses have rain covers for their cameras, but I’ve often just made ones myself.
It’s pretty simple to make one out of plastic sheeting available at any hardware store; head to the painting section, look for “plastic sheeting” or “drop cloth,” and get a roll that’s at least 1mm thick. It will cost you a couple of bucks and production should cover it as an expendable. If you’re really in a pinch, a trashbag or plastic shopping bags work also.
Next, size out a piece of the sheeting by placing it over your camera and cut it (leave room to wrap to the underside). With the cut piece, feed it around monitors, handles, and other accessories. Always make sure you have access to what you need (like BNC ports for monitor tap, any mounting pieces) and that you can see what you need to see (like monitors, on-camera displays, lens info). Then use either small grip clips, C-47’s, or gaff tape to attach the plastic.
I highly recommend taking time to do this in a way that makes the cover removable. That way you can bring it out of your ditty bag when needed and store it away when you don’t. That also makes it easier for lens changes and other camera adjustments.
Here is the cover I made this morning using this method for our camera on Assassinaut:
3. Prep your gear for rain before it starts pouring
The worst time to prep for rain is when it is raining.
Before you go to set, you should be aware of the chance of rain. Often this info is included on the call sheet, but checking before you leave ensures the most accurate forecast. If there is even a slight chance of rain, make sure you have the appropriate rain protection for your gear and make sure it is easy to access.
Additionally, try to keep everything in their cases or bags when you know there might be rain. I have a tendency to ditch cases and bags in the morning; leaving them behind to lighten the load I have to carry throughout the day. But when I knew it might rain today, I made sure we had our cases or bags.
Cloth bags may not be the best protection, but it’s an extra layer between the moisture and your sensitive equipment. Pelicans are pretty waterproof and you’ll be safe to let them get wet. Combined with the tarp, it felt like some good security measures.
4. Take advantage of carts and pop ups
It’s common for production to have pop-up tents and you should ask for permission to use them to stage camera gear. Carts will help keep your gear elevated off the ground where water could pool or flood and carts with multiple shelves provide protection from the top, too.
If you’re working in camera department, it shouldn’t be too hard to get some space inside the popups or on carts. After all, if the camera or accessories get wet and are destroyed, the production will come to a screeching halt. You know this, production knows this, and all you have to do is remind them – in a polite and professional way, of course.
5. Protect yourself from rain so you’re able to work in it
Having a good rain jacket and boots/shoes is the difference between making your work in rain unbearable or simply annoying. I don’t like working in the rain, but with a rain jacket on (hood up!) it’s more of a nuisance than a hindrance.
Get a jacket that’s lightweight so you don’t overheat and don’t be afraid to spend a decent amount of money. If you plan to work in this industry for any significant amount of time, you will eventually work in rain and you will be expected to work at the same level as always, so invest in not just your comfort, but equipping yourself to do your job.
As a last resort, in case you forget your rain jacket or someone on your crew does, it’s good to have disposable ponchos in your kit. They only cost a couple of bucks each and you’ll be the hero to whoever ends up needing one, including yourself.
Rain Supplies You Should Have in Your Kit
Filming in rain means being prepared for it with the right supplies. Here’s a summary of what you should have in your kit for when the skies open up:
- Plastic Sheeting/Drop Cloth
- Grip Clips/Spring Clamps
- Rain Jacket
- Disposable Ponchos
- Tarp and/or space blanket (multiples)
Day 10 Wrap Out
• We had our first major prosthetics effect on set today. I wish I could post a picture, but it falls under spoiler territory and I don’t want any aliens coming after me.
• Our 1st A.D. made a big announcement at the beginning of the day about being safe and traveling slow around all the rocks, boulders, and uneven soil we’d be filming on. Even though I did take things slowly and was diligent about watching my step, I almost rolled my ankle like 5 times today. Each time I did, I’d look back to see the 1st A.D. giving me the same face a parent has when they’re “disappointed” in their child.
• One bonus to filming in the woods is a lot of access to places to 10-1 without having to leave the set too far (though walking through random spider webs are a risk).
• We tried to use a makeshift slider today that was part of our G&E package, but it didn’t go so well. Thankfully “Magic” Mike let us use his Silent Cat slider instead, otherwise I’d be having nightmares about this noise for the rest of the week: