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HARD RAIN

About the Production
"Hard Rain" is one of the most extraordinary technical achievements in film history

"Hard Rain" is one of the most extraordinary technical achievements in film history. To reproduce the flood that ravages the town of Huntingburg, the producers built a replica of Huntingburg in a huge aircraft hangar in Palmdale, California.

This enormous facility, once used to build B-1 bombers, was converted into a set with 50 wooden buildings replicating downtown Huntingburg, placed in a tank two football fields long, one football field wide and five feet deep. When filled to its five-foot working depth, the tank held nearly five million gallons of water! Behind the tank was a backdrop 72-feet high and some 2,000-feet long -- the largest backing ever made -- designed to merge visually with the back edge of the tank and thus provide the illusion of vast spaces and a distant horizon.

Producer Mark Gordon says, "We knew the only way to do this picture was in a controlled situation, because water in its natural environment is completely uncontrollable. Using this facility kept costs from skyrocketing and limited the amount of location work needed in Huntingburg."

Production designer Michael Riva commented, "We measured the entire town, and basically built it from scratch on stage. Not all of it, because our stage wasn't quite that large, but we built almost 600-feet of it. I think it's the largest indoor set every built," adds Riva. To create the illusion of an even larger area, the set designers used "forced perspective." Buildings were carefully arranged for each camera shot, with those in the background positioned closer together. The effect is to fool the camera and the eye. Says Riva, "We managed to compress about four city blocks onto our stage."

The five-foot depth of water in the tank was carefully chosen to balance realism and safety -- the water was just deep enough that actors could flounder and struggle convincingly, but shallow enough for them to know that there was safe footing below for them to stand. The tank remained filled for the entire duration of shooting at Palmdale, requiring a host of special measures to provide safety and realism. Everything in the tank had to be waterproof, and everything, including electrical gear, had to be able to operate safely in a constantly wet environment. Special bridges and platforms were built for cameras and equipment, to avoid the delays and problems of working from boats. Buildings and other set features were mounted on wire mesh to hold them in place and prevent them from floating.

Although the tank had a fixed depth of five feet, the film called for constantly rising floodwaters, which gradually submerge the town to an ultimate depth of sixteen feet. To create this effect, filming was divided into several stages. At the end of each stage, every structure on the set was hoisted into the air. The lower portions of the structures were cut away before they were lowered back into the pool, so that they would appear to sit deeper in the water. Thus, in the course of the single night's dramatic events, we see the floodwaters rising relentlessly in the streets of Huntingburg; first knee-deep, then lapping at windows, then rising to the second-floor level and beyond.

Continual rain added to the realistic atmosphere of a disastrous Midwestern flood and made for additional challenges for the film's designers.

"Rain is difficult to film realistically," explains effects coordinator John Frazier, using the familiar example of televised football games played in rain. "On the field, it doesn't ever appear t

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