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advices needed- recording dialogues in torrential rain scenes


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I'm preparing for a film with lots of emotional scenes set in the pouring rain, with sometimes characters talking under umbrellas, some other scenes in raincoats, and in some scenes the characters just getting drenched in the rain. One horrible thing in common for these raining scenes is that they're all filled with heavy and emotional dialogues. What's worse is that the protagonist is an amateurish kid, which means that ADR is the very last resort and will be almost impossible to get it right.

I won't risk my Cmit-5U for the humidity, so I'm thinking of using 416 or CS-3e as my boom mic in a Rycote windshield and Remote Audio rain cover. However, the rain drops will be created by several water trucks, so the noise of the pumping motor can ruin the sound from the shotguns. Therefore, I think there's no way I drop the lavs at all. I don't have real waterproof lavs and Tx. The best I can do is to run either B6s or 6061s into SMQVs which will be wrapped in plastic wrap or unlubricated condoms and be secured in Viviana extreme waist straps. With all the aforementioned preparation, I'm still worried to death, even it's still 1 month before the shooting. Will the sound be anywhere close to useable? Will my gears be ruined? How can I reduce the noise of rain dropping onto the umbrella? How is the noise of the raincoat gonna ruin the lav sound, even I've already asked the wardrobe to choose thick Oxford fabric rather than those noisy light plastic one? How much pumping water noise is Izotope Rx able to reduce in the post? 

So much uncertainty makes me so nervous. And I find I really need some help before breaking down.
Can anyone with similar experience share some tips with me? Really really appreciate any advice. 

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Aquapaks for the transmitters.  Worth it for $100 / tx ... you'll buy yourself a lot of peace of mind.  B6s should be water resistant enough to survive ... maybe have a LND conversation about spare lavs beforehand.  Make sure insurance covers you if production doesn't, but they should.

For umbrellas, I would see if I could arrange it so they don't spray *on* the umbrellas (or raincoats) during close-ups, since the camera won't care if they are in use or not.  Camera may want to see rain in the foreground & background, but in a closeup, they won't care if rain that is falling *on* the umbrellas, so you just need to convince them it's possible to set up the rain that way.  Maybe you set up a flag over the umbrellas if SFX insists on sprinkling the umbrellas.  That's a pre-production conversation to have with camera, SFX, and the director (preferably with an A/B recording so you can demonstrate how much of a difference it will make.  It also only works for static shots, but with rain machines, they are probably limited for movement anyway.  If the camera is wide enough to see the umbrellas in use, chances are it's too far to see sync, and you can ask for wild tracks.

Most of all, it's about expectation management with both the director & post.  You'll have lots of splatter noise, which post should be expecting and making use of, and which may help mask the pump noise if your boom op does a good job with directionality; CS3e is a good choice here.

Mats on the ground can help dampen splatter in close-up scenarios, though often the water pools on the mats after a few seconds (raising them to allow for drainage can help).  Maybe ask for an assistant if you expect to be doing a lot of this.

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I think a conversation with director and production about expectensions will be a good one. For me it's not about equipment choice, but dealing with VFX department. Example: Let them shooting their wide shots with full rain, but in close-ups can shut down some trucks and the pressure of rain. Be as far as possible away from set. Wild lines as others said.

 

For equipment, unlubricated condoms is a good choice with 6061, SMQV and Viviana Straps. The post-production will face a problem with the boom; when the mic will move, but nothing you can do about this. Double-boom will be needed IMHO for on-camera & off-camera dialogue to have continuity.

 

Best luck!

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Look up what Simon Hayes has said about his work on Les Misérables (Simon Hayes won an Oscar, BFTA, and CAS Award for the work he did on Les Misérables! Zero ADR, done in very difficult conditions. I'm in awe of the amazing work Simon did! Just incredible).

 

A few quick points I remember from it:

 

He had every actor with two lav mics. After each take (?? Or maybe it was after each setup, although I think I remember it was after each take) he'd have a Sound Utility come into remove the lavs, put on fresh lavs, while the previous lavs got dried out between shots. This was so that if a drop of water hit a lav head, he'd still have a clean lav to record from. 

 

Above each Boom Op he had another boom op swinging a very small covering rectangular to protect the Boom Mic, just big enough to keep the rain away from the mic itself but not so big that it is unduly obstructing the rain from falling down to be seen into the scene. (as you couldn't attach this "umbrella" to the main boom pole itself, would make it too heavy! Plus it isn't fully 100% isolated from the mic itself, and some rain vibrations might still carry on through to the mic)

 

He worked together with the rain SFX department (& the camera dept too) prior to shooting starting, to make sure the rain drops where big enough but not "too big".  Because the bigger the rain drops are then the louder they are when they hit the ground!! But if you make the rain be too fine a mist falling down, you won't be able to see it on camera. Thus a balance needs to be set between the extremes of those two competing demands. You want to make the size of the rain drops be made smaller and smaller until you've reached the point they're no longer visible on screen, then bring it up back up slightly. That way you've got the perfect balance, the quietest rain for sound that is still visible rain on screen for the camera image as well.  

 

Other general points I'll make myself (on top of the good points already made by @The Documentary Sound Guy, @VASI, & @Matthias Richter😞

 

Secondhand Lectrosonics MM400 are very affordable on eBay, perhaps get at least one or two? (or even the older MM200?)

 

Aquapac belts is what I used before I had any waterproof transmitters: https://www.trewaudio.com/product/aquapac-158/ 

 

But the Aquapac is a little more bulky, but together with unlubricated condoms you should have three different approaches to have you covered: use an MM400/MM200 as your main first resort, make sure you allocated your limited number of MM400/200 to which ever costumes have the trickiest deal hiding the lav packs. Use then the Aquapacs for the scenes when you need more lav coverage than you've got available with your stock of MM400/MM200 transmitters, then as last resort if caught by surprise needing even more use the unlubricated condoms (and use in them your cheapest transmitters, such as an old UM200! If the production doesn't have the budget for you to afford to buy/rent Lectro WM, then you shouldn't be putting your own SQMV transmitters in the firing line)

 

Have on set a CEDAR DNS2 (or if you own a Sound Devices 8 Series, get the plugin), that way you can get a rough feel for yourself how well noise reduction in post might be able to get it to sound. You'll gain a lot of confidence and sense of relief if you can make it sound sweet in your own mix with a bit of light NR! As you'll know if you can do that, then surely hopefully post can only do even better. Fingers crossed. 

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For the close up I would try to negotiate with sfx in pre prod that they find another solution for rain that does not involve water pump engine (also they must make sure their pipes do not have small holes like I had once, or leaks, it makes a hell of a noise!)

The characters drenched in water are the only ones  I would be worry for the lav because even the B6 can have some water blocking the caps. I never had that problem but I read that some use it head down to avoid that. So the advise above to have 2 lav is relevant and I would use 2 B6 and one of them  head down.

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Wow! Thank you all for so many helpful tips! Some of them I've never heard of; some of them I've been thinking doing but wasn't sure and what you shared has given me so much confidence to try. 

I've ordered an Aquapak. It does look quite bulky on the pic. I'm not sure if the costume will always agree on that. But it's good to have in the arsenal, so if the director insists the talent to be soaked in a closer shot, I can put it on and rest assured that the Tx is well protected.

A flag over the umbrella in static shots is a brilliant idea. Definitely will try it when it doesn't block the light. Is the flag you're talking about the velvet-like flag the lighting crew uses, right, @The Documentary Sound Guy?
And thank you so much, @IronFilm, for bringing up Simon Hayes' talk. I just watched it. So inspiring! I'd like to paste the link here for people interested. From around 8:58 -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbGpxsFDM74 
Unfortunately, although MM400 or MM200 is quite affordable, it's still beyond the budget and it's unlikely the production will cover it. It's a shame.

@VASI & @Fred Salles, thank you for bringing up the very crucial point for having great sound for film production - collaboration with other dept.! Rarely is the sound issue a technical issue of the sound dept. alone.
And @Matthias Richter, your only advice is such an important reminder. It's easy to forget recording every possible rehearsal, when the mind is getting bogged down by noise from nowhere and technical issues on set. For these raining scenes, I can see the recording from the rehearsals can be life savers. 
Again, I feel so grateful. Thank you all!

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When doing rain work I always mount my lavs with the head facing down, and if I can use some silicone tape of similar on the back edge of the mount to try and keep as much water away from the mic head as possible.

 

For booms, the Cinella Kelly is very effective at stopping the noise from rain hitting the zeplin. You will need a layer inside to stop the actual water.  The best fabric I've found for this is actually a green/gray cut to size air filter from home Depot.  I'll try to dig up a photo of one of my boom rigs with this.  Looks ugly, but sounds great.

 

For rain falling, have as much open cell foam, preferably with large openings and 1-2" thick.  Use the Kelly as a reference for this, but have a roll or two on the truck.  For shot that don't see the top of the umbrella, you can lay a layer of this directly on it, or lay it on a flag or other rain cover that's above talent to get rid of the "unnatural" sound of rain on plastic.  The same foam can be used on the ground around talent to deaden the splashing when it's out of frame.

 

This is a good time to remember that qualifying sound is very relative, meaning you don't have to get a pristine dialog track, you just have to get the signal to noise ratio high enough that post can smooth and mask the background noise into something pleasant.  This usually means tackling the water immediately around talent, but letting the rest of it fall.

 

As others have said, try and get sfx to rent / run as much hose as possible.  Those water trucks can get really loud once they start pumping!

 

One thing that has happened to me before is seeing the mic once the actor gets wet.  When the wardrobe is fresh it's all hidden, but when the shirt gets clingy and soaked, everything underneath starts showing through.  Work with wardrobe in prep to try and get sweaters (thick wool sweaters!!) Or something to help.  If it has to be a t-shirt, try routing the wire over the shoulder and using seams and the collar to mount the mic upside down without it becoming visible.

 

Lastly, most tapes won't stick after things are wet, so try your best to get a good tack when it's dry. 

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13 hours ago, jimmycat said:

But it's good to have in the arsenal, so if the director insists the talent to be soaked in a closer shot, I can put it on and rest assured that the Tx is well protected.

If it is a tight shot then hopefully a lav isn't needed at all! Just boom it. 

13 hours ago, jimmycat said:

Unfortunately, although MM400 or MM200 is quite affordable, it's still beyond the budget and it's unlikely the production will cover it. It's a shame.

Perhaps buy it (secondhand) with the plan to then resell it after the shoot? Then it really isn't costing you much at all, if anything, to use it for several weeks. 

13 hours ago, jimmycat said:

And thank you so much, @IronFilm, for bringing up Simon Hayes' talk. I just watched it. So inspiring! I'd like to paste the link here for people interested. From around 8:58 -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbGpxsFDM74 

Glad you enjoyed it! Simon Hayes drops such gems of knowledge. 

 

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First the whine: why would you put an emotional dialog driven scene in pouring rain?! I’d flail a little and say something about production having to plan for ADR and really letting the actors train and have the time to do that properly. The expectations they put on you, seemingly not knowing this requires all the crew to actually help you, are sky high. Not fair…
 

After whining, I would try to come up with solutions to get the best sound I can, using all the tricks above. The one method I’d probably propose first and foremost is to have the close up shots be free from rain ON the actor, but maybe have a trickle in just front of the lens and maybe behind the actor on to some mats, or even better, grass beds. I’d probably use a CMIT anyway, but a DPA4017 or the ones you mention will be fine as well. But never mind the drops; the pumps and all the other gear will be more obtrusive at that point. 
 

Back to the whine: production won’t save anything by not budgeting for ADR. You can’t change the laws of physics and noise. If you write like that, you have to factor in the effort it requires to get that sound. 
 

So in a sense, this is not on you. This is on production to accommodate you and your ability to capture the sound. You can consult them and advise them on how to achieve the best sounding scene, but no matter how you chose to do it, it’s gonna cost them a lot of money and effort, whether it’s in ADR or on set. They need to know this. 
 

They could even give you the right tools to do ADR on set, that would keep the actors in the mood, still wet, but everything’s quiet. You’d need a playback system and phones. That’s kind of it.
 

I really hope you get what you want and not having to take the piss for it later. :) have fun!

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9 hours ago, Wandering Ear said:

For booms, the Cinella Kelly is very effective at stopping the noise from rain hitting the zeplin. You will need a layer inside to stop the actual water.  The best fabric I've found for this is actually a green/gray cut to size air filter from home Depot. 


yes, I do the exact same thing, although I actually found a white material that’s normally being used for loudspeakers. I thought that probably sounds better than a filter! 
(just a joke, it’s virtually the same material). 
I use this on Cinela rigs and stereo Rycote sets, but for a regular Rycote kit, the Remote Audio Rainman works really well. 

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4 hours ago, Constantin said:


yes, I do the exact same thing, although I actually found a white material that’s normally being used for loudspeakers. I thought that probably sounds better than a filter! 
(just a joke, it’s virtually the same material). 
I use this on Cinela rigs and stereo Rycote sets, but for a regular Rycote kit, the Remote Audio Rainman works really well. 

Hahaha. 

I would love to find a roll of the fabric.  I'm sure it's readily available, but it has to be the right density.  I have found this air filter material let's almost no water through even after prolonged exposure.  When I've used the rainman in the past I found the water soaked through quite quickly and didn't provide enough water protection for me.

I also find my self shooting in all day rain, not just from water trucks, so I keep a full crate in my van with multiple filter that I can change out as needed.

 

I also keep a dry bag to cover the boom in between takes.

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@IronFilm Regarding to MM400C, is its 2.5mm TRS connector a special waterproof design or just a regular 2.5mm connector with screw lock? I checked Countryman's site, it seems a 3.3k resistor is required when rewiring the B6 for MM400C? Is any 3.3k resistor small enough to install? The M152/WP seems the easiest option in terms of wiring, but I've never listened to its quality. Do you think it'd be good enough for characters shouting in the rain?

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It is a bit of a unique connection with an o-ring to create a tight waterproof seal. 

 

Another thought about lavs: how about those new Shure lavs? They're meant to have a special coating to make them be water repellant, would help get rid of water that does hit the mic. 

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