The Value of Testing Before Your Shoot

If you get the chance, you should always test new techniques before you get on set.

Along with my trusty producer Jack, I’ve been prepping over the past few weeks for a client’s shoot. It’s a cinematic scene set on a rainy night in a seedy and sparsely populated clubbing district.

That’s a tough combination. Despite the simplicity of the scene, we have two major factors that we hadn’t faced before: rain for the entirety of the shoot and completely occupying public sidewalk. (Though to be honest, with careful planning and coordination with the city, we took care of the sidewalk issue pretty easily.)

Sure, we have the normal variety of challenges to overcome. That’s normal for every shoot. A ton of tiny things that need to be confirmed, communicating with a number of people, and making sure you stay within budget while satisfying your client, to name a few.

However, when you begin introducing complete unknowns into that mix, it is cause for concern.

Should you stress out too much about it? No. But here’s the key:

You need to eliminate as many unknowns as possible for your shoot. You need to turn those unknowns into known factors.

Don’t guess and hope for the best. Well, you could do that, but I don’t recommend it. When you are on set, unexpected things will always happen. The more you can predict those potential issues, the smoother your shoot will be. Here, we put that principle into practice and test our rain rig prior to the shoot:

Go and test out unknown factors

I understand that this isn’t always possible. Some things aren’t easily tested. Others you may simply have no time for. If your unknown is an actor, arrange a table read. If your unknown is a camera, see if you can get it for a few hours beforehand to make sure you aren’t surprised. If, like in our case, it is a special effect or visual element you haven’t done before, test it out.

It is especially important to test out an unknown if it is crucial to the success of the shoot.

In our case, the rain is a vital part of the atmosphere and story of our client’s project. I couldn’t leave it to chance. So we grabbed the rain rig and set it up in Jack’s backyard. We set up a light. We set up a camera, and we tested multiple focal lengths, adjusting things as necessary to learn how we could get the best result.

I hope you enjoy our video, which covers our experience testing a rain rig for the first time and what our experience taught us.

A few things we discovered

1. Yes, the rain rig actually works.

2. How much area the rig covered with ‘rain’.

3. What lighting and background made the ‘rain’ most visible.

As usual, I hope you find value in this information and the video, and feel free to let me know your thoughts by sending us a message or commenting below. Break a leg!