Make It Rain
Just as Noah is finishing the Ark, the skies darken, the floodgates open and
the hardest rain earth has ever known falls upon the land for 40 days and 40
nights. Creating this unprecedented cinematic weather in a way that would feel
both real and supremely powerful to audiences fell to special effects supervisor
Burt Dalton, an Academy Award winner for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
"We wanted rain on a biblical scale," says Dalton. "Darren wanted it to be
bigger than anything done before, so we went to great lengths to do that. We
would set up one rain test, and he would say 'not heavy enough,' another rain
test and he'd still say 'heavier.' He wanted it so heavy that it was hard for
people to see or talk, and we accomplished that."
It started with burying a vast system of water pipes under the Arboretum's
field, where the Ark set was built. "To supply the water, we had two giant pumps
behind the Ark, with five 22,000-gallon retaining tanks supplying the pumps.
From the edge of the Ark all the way around the field we laid 3000 feet of
12-inch pipe for a main. That's a bigger water main than you have going down the
street to your house," Dalton points out.
The large main also supplied water to several immense cranes, each weighing
300 tons, that held six custom-made "rain bars" - each 100-feet long and 50-feet
wide, with varying sizes of heads. "We could manipulate each head through an
iPad," Dalton explains. "We could get huge drops, little drops or mist, based on
the shot. And when all three cranes were going, it was 5,000 gallons a minute -
or triple a normal rain scene. I would say it's record breaking in its density."
(The water was also carefully recycled so as not to waste it.)
Meanwhile, cinematographer Libatique looked for ways to photograph the scenes
in the midst of a sunny New York summer - and settled on shooting at night. "But
how do you shoot at night so it looks instead like heavy clouds? Matty came up
with a great idea," Dalton recalls. "Since we were already building massive
trusses for rain, he came up with the idea to put lights inside helium balloons
so they gave off a soft light, like a cloudy day."
The onslaught of rain soon leads to a towering, explosively destructive sea
deluge, which became the piece de resistance for visual effects supervisor Ben
Snow. "Darren really wanted something original," Snow comments. "We looked at
many classic and religious paintings of the deluge, and there's some very
inspirational work that's been done in that area. But our idea was to not repeat
what you've already seen. We wanted to have the deluge be more than just a wall
of water coming at you, and the result is exciting."
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