After The Rain was a project that spanned over 11 years because of its production complexity. For 10 of those years it sat on the shelf as just an idea and an incomplete script. But in 2010 after purchasing After Effects CS5 (an upgrade from AE 6.0) I decided to take a deeper look at what the visual effects the program can do and landed on several tutorials that sparked that old idea back to life. So I went back to the drawing board to rewrite a script with a more profound meaning, but more importantly one that can fit within our budget.
From day 1 I knew that the biggest challenge was to film the scenes over a few days with consistent rain, and was also well aware that natural rain is not always visible on screen. So I had to find a way to add rain digitally to a realistic environment without ever having used any CGI particle systems before. However, I made it an important point to shoot the scenes in actual rain, and add the appropriate amount controlled digitally in the post production. CGI elements will only look good if they are placed in their natural environments, I’ve seen way too often rain added to a dry scene with a horrible outcome.
How did I create the rain?
For most of the rain in the movie, I actually used a particle effect already in available in After Effects, the CC Particle World. The most difficult part was figuring out the intensity and getting the right angle for every shot, besides that the tool is fairy easy to use, there are several tutorials online that explain this fairly well, I find that VideoCopilot.net has some of the best After Effects tutorials and are very well documented, watch the first part of Lightning Strike to learn how to create realistic rain easily. Making the particles look like rain was the simple part, I just colorized the particles from shades of blue to grey, with opacity between 20 and 80 percent, and blending mode either screen or add. Finally adding a blur to the rain is what makes it seem realistic and avoids imperfections, the blurriness of the particles varied between shots, I usually tried to match the depth of field of each shot using several layers of rain with varying speeds and focuses.
Then there was the slow motion and rain drop close up shots. This is where the fun all began, where a lot more patience and RAM were needed! For this part we had to get external, but very powerful and costly plugins to generate the 3D particle systems, like Trapcode Particular and Trapcode 3D Form. I took a chance getting into this because I had no previous experience in 3D, and a pretty advanced level is needed to use these professional plugins. But I was dedicated and really wanted a couple of cool rain shots for the film, especially for the last scene where we see the first raindrop fall on the main character’s face from his point of view after opening his eyes. I read many tutorials for the Trapcode Particular, but my favourite one, and perhaps the one I owe ‘After The Rain’ to, is ae tuts ‘Create a Breathtakingly Awesome Rain Scene‘ tutorial.
The rain was the reason the film took so long in post production, with rain scenes in more than 80% of the movie, each shot needed to be carefully crafted, but well worth it in the end since the film revolved around the rain.
We had several different ideas for the opening sequence, our original plan up to 2 days before filming was to start from the main character’s point of view looking at the rainy sky, and as we pan down the camera rotates around the character to reveal him. We were not happy with the fluidity of the shot, mainly because we did not have the right equipment for it. So we had to think for a plan B, which I believe turned out to be the perfect way to reveal our character Ed, from his P.O.V. we pan from the sky straight down to reveal his reflection on a car stopped at a red light. While this made things slightly easier while filming, it was a completely different story for the post production. I had to start by removing our own reflections, camera and crew, which proved to be a difficult thing to do on a moving, wet vehicle, followed by adding different reflections on several different parts of the car like the window, plastic and curved door. To add to complications, the car drives away and the reflection distorts accordingly. This was all done with layers over layers with masking and distortion mesh, which turned out to be a fun experiment.
Getting hit by a car
Perhaps the most common question I got from the movie, ‘How did you do the crash scene?’. This is one scene that I absolutely wanted in the film since the first draft in 2001, especially the shot from inside the car where he hits the windshield. This was the pivoting point of the film and we needed a bang! I knew it would be a though one pull off without a budget nor a professional stuntman, but I had an idea in mind and just prayed that it would work. The side view was quite simple, using the old superimposing multiple shots trick, you can find countless tutorials online for this, but in my opinion none seem realistic. To take it that extra step, I close cut the man frame by frame stumbling over the hood into the windshield, a time consuming method, with satisfying results.
For the inside the car shot, I needed to think outside the box. How can I hit somebody with a car without really hitting them? I came up with the idea to shoot the scene in reverse, meaning that the actor starts leaning on the windshield and the car drives off in reverse to make the actor stumble off the car, when reversed, it seems as if the car advances into the actor and rolls onto the windshield. Due to constraints we only had a few minutes to shoot this scene, not the best scenario for a complicated shot. The shots we captured were not perfect, but with a few adjustments in post and we finally came off with a satisfying shot.
It’s a very tricky shot and you need to really think the shot through before shooting, you also need to remind your actor to ‘act’ in reverse, which is not the easiest thing to achieve while rolling off a moving car! Make sure your actor is up to it and has some agility, Our actor Franco did an amazing job, but did come off with a few bruises. I had to play around with frame dropping and speed since reversing the shot alone did not feel like a natural motion. It takes many trials and errors to get this right, so patience is the key.
The demon scene was also something that was in the script since the very beginning, I wanted a scene that would make people jump off their seat early on in the movie. This was the first visual test I did on After The Rain back in 2001 (back then called A Rainy Day) when I was still writing the first draft of the script. When I got back to doing research in 2010 for the film, I stumbled on a wonderful tutorial on Video Copilot that was exactly the effects I was looking for, I took this as sign that the movie needed to be done.
I won’t say this scene was easy, but it was definitely lots of fun! Following Andrew Kramer’s Demon Warp Face tutorial on Video Copilot along with the actor Stephen really made things much easier for the face transformation. However creating the glows and auras took me weeks of fine tuning.
Learn from mistakes
We had to shoot the film on such a tight timeline with a very minimal amount of crew, meaning that each member had several jobs. This made planning a shooting date easier, but led us to oversee many little avoidable mistakes. Mistakes that added countless hours to the post production process, digitally removing cast reflections off the cars or windows, fixing continuity content, adding and removing characters to the scenes, and removing any unwanted background activity. I am embarrassed about these mistakes, that’s why I tried my best to cover them up, but thought it would be a good point to bring up for any filmmaker to always plan to the littlest detail.
If you have any other questions on the production of the film or any any special effects or softwares I have used, leave a comment below or send me an email, I would be more than happy to answer.
Original article: aftertherain.moscamedia.com/visual-effects-breakdown