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How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 8

build a rain barWritten by: Ryan Walters

Part 8: How To Build A Rain Bar

Welcome to part 8 of this ten part series on how to bring a cinematic look to a small budget commercial. In this series I am sharing with you the behind the scenes process of how we at Bleeding Thorn Films make a project happen– warts and all, from script to screen. In Part 7, I covered the importance of the camera test. In Part 8 I am going to show you how to build a rain bar.

How To Build A Rain Bar

With the high amount of rainy days we have in the Northwest, you would think that creating rain would never be an issue. Unfortunately, when it comes to production, we can’t take the risk of counting on it to rain. Our opening shot called for the camera to look through a window as it rained and thundered outside. So we had to make it rain on command. Fortunately, for about $25 in parts, and 1–2 hours of your time, you can make a 4’ rain bar. Here is the parts list, and the assembly instructions to build it yourself.

parts for rain bar

Above: All the parts you need for your rain bar

The Parts: (Available at most hardware stores)

  • PVC Cement ($5.99)
  • 1” PVC Slip ($0.99)
  • ¾” x ½” PVC Bushing ($0.49)
  • ¾” Conduit Coupling ($1.85)
  • ½” Runoff Tube Side Mount ($5.99)
  • Stretch & Seal Tape ($7.28)
  • Quick Connect Male End ($2.47)

The Tools:

  • Rubber Mallet
  • Drill
  • 3/32” Drill bit

PVC Slip, Bushing, & Cement

Above: PVC Slip, Bushing, & Cement

Step 1:

Apply the PVC Cement to the walls of the PVC slip. Then insert the ¾” to ½” PVC bushing. You will need to hammer the bushing into place as it will be a tight fit.

Runoff Tube Side Mount

Above: Runoff Tube Side Mount

Step 2:

Apply PVC Cement to the open end of the Runoff Tube Side Mount. Then insert the tube into the PVC Bushing. This should be a tight fit, but it should be significantly easier then inserting the PVC bushing. (You shouldn’t need the hammer.)

Application of Stretch & Seal Tape

Above: Application of Stretch & Seal Tape

Step 3:

Cut the Stretch & Seal Tape long enough to wrap around the threaded end of the Runoff Tube Side Mount. Wrap the tape tightly around the threads of the tube, and cut off any excess. Once around the tube will be plenty. Do the same for the Quick Connect Male end.

Runoff Tube Side Mount Assembled

Above: Runoff Tube Side Mount Assembled

Step 4:

Screw the ¾” Conduit Coupling onto the Runoff Tube and then screw on the Quick Connect Male End. (The Quick Connect makes it a lot easier to attach and remove the rain bar from the hose. And it has the added benefit of being easier to spin the bar into the correct position.

Drilling Holes in the Runoff Tube

Above: Drilling Holes in the Runoff Tube

Step 5:

Using your drill and the 3/3/32” drill bit, drill evenly spaced holes about 6 – 8 inches apart. (You can always add more later if you are not happy with the “rainfall”. Now let the cement in the rain bar dry before proceeding any further.

Step 6:

Now here is the fun part- testing! Mount the Rain Bar to a C-Stand using a cardellini and attach the hose. I recommend playing with the water levels to see what effect is most desirable for you. As you can see by my first test, when the water is on at full strength and the bar is pointed down it looks nothing like rain.

Test 1 Failed

Above: Test 1 Failed (full strength and pointed down)

When I pointed the holes up, and decreased the water pressure, I got something that more closely resembled rain.

Test 2 Success (quarter strength, and pointed up)

Above: Test 2 Success (quarter strength, and pointed up)

With the rain bar built, I have just completed the last tasks for our pre-production process. I have done everything that I can possibly think of to enable us to tell this story to the best of our abilities within the project parameters. When working on a small budget commercial, I have found that there seems to be just as much creativity involved in preproduction as there is in the actual execution of the project. Regardless of the size of the project, there will always be limits that you have to work around. The skill comes in figuring out how to best tell your story within those parameters.

Stay tuned for part 9 where I’ll cover our approach to data management. And Keep an eye on our blogtwitter or Vimeo Channel to follow us on our latest storytelling adventures.

This is part 8 of a 10 part series, click the links below to view the entire series.

Part 1: Landing The Client and Creative Ideation

Part 2: Budgeting and Creating The Proposal

Part 3: How to Location Scout

Part 4: Story-boarding On A Small Budget

Part 5: How To Create a Lighting Diagram

Part 6: How To Create a Shooting Schedule and Call Sheet

Part 7: How To Conduct A Camera Test

Part 9: How To Approach Data Management On A Budget

Part 10: How To Black Out A House On A Budget

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About the Author


Born in 1980 in Seattle, Washington, Ryan has had a love and passion for the visual arts since a young child when his grandmother, an avid photographer, took him along on photo expeditions. As he grew up, his parents furthered that passion by enrolling him in various art programs and lessons. While he enjoyed painting and drawing, something was always missing - the ability to capture motion. Once introduced to the art of cinematography in high school he never looked back.Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer Since that time, Ryan has developed this passion and turned it into his career. As an award-winning cinematographer his work has allowed him the opportunity to travel worldwide in the pursuit of telling stories that are visually compelling. Ryan's distinct experience includes feature films, documentaries, commercials, and shooting for Comcast, TLC, Oxygen, and the Discovery Channel. Not only does Ryan seek to deliver cinematic images for his clients, but his commitment, organization, and professionalism means he constantly goes the extra mile to ensure that the results he delivers exceed his clients expectations.

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