Dealing with bad weather on location
If you’re a filmmaker… get a weather app. There are literally hundreds to choose from and it will become one of your most useful tools. We love Dark Sky, available for iOS and Android (and on desktop)
Just when you think you’ve got everything lined up for a successful shoot, mother nature decides she really doesn’t care about your crew, gear, or production costs. It’s all drenched in a downpour or buried in snow. From us at Animus Studios, welcome to New England!
Depending on what part of the world you’re filming in the weather can change on a dime and completely derail your shoot. There’s a reason why Hollywood has been the filming capital of the world for over a century. The weather’s consistently sunny, warm and dry. Though that dry part can pose a problem if you’re filming in the Valley next to a brush fire.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid outdoor shoots completely. Besides making a daily weather check part of your schedule, there are ways to prepare for the unexpected.
Have a backup location
Is it double the work? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet. If you’re coordinating an outdoor shoot in an area with unpredictable weather, having a backup location can save your shooting day. Sure, you’re spending a little extra money on location fees and potentially transportation. But think of this as an insurance policy to protect an even bigger investment… your entire production day. Plus, being prepared for a worst case scenario will never look bad in your client’s eyes. Coming up empty on a shooting day will.
Manage client expectations
The skies open, your crew is taking cover, drip bags are going over cameras, and your client is standing right next to you wondering how you’re going to get those epic shots you’ve been talking about… in this weather… today.
Managing client expectations starts at the very beginning of your relationship. It’s about having an honest, open dialogue of the production they’re paying for. It’s important to make sure your client understands that outdoor shoots come with some risk. Don’t present it as a problem. Instead, present creative solutions “in the event of bad weather.” They’ll be more comfortable pulling an audible if the time comes because they’re prepped for it.
There doesn’t have to be rain, snow or a natural disaster to ruin your production plans either. Certain shots can be affected by something as simple as heavy cloud cover. Yes, those sweeping drone shots of the seascape would be epic in your travel video. But who’s going to visit that seascape when you’re advertising dark, overcast clouds looming over a choppy sea? And while you’re shooting on the beach or open water, have you ever considered tidal flows? High or low tide will affect where you can position cameras and gear to get the shots you want. If outdoor elements are going to make your footage look bad, it’s going to make the video look bad too.
The weather can impact indoor shoots too
It’s a bright sunny day for your production shoot. You couldn’t ask for better weather! Unfortunately you’re filming in an office building surrounded by windows with no shades and the sun’s beaming directly into their direction.
The one time you actually want an overcast afternoon, right?
If you produce enough corporate marketing videos this happens more than you’d think. Any type of window shot can be tricky with reflections. Add sun glare into the equation and that power shot of your client looking over a bustling metropolis becomes a wicked game your crew is constantly adjusting for based on the sun’s movement. This all comes back to the importance of location scouting and thinking through the various situations that can arise.
Even if you’re filming indoors with no windows you’d be surprised how outdoors elements can still affect you.
Heavy rain can be really loud as it hammers the roof of your location. Bye, bye audio!
And there’s nothing like giving your location representative a heads up that they have leaks in their roof as your production team struggles to dry off the floor of your main set.
Location scouting. Planning. What about the weather? Keep it on the checklist. But under extreme circumstances sometimes you really only have two decisions to make.
Go with the flow (or rain, wind, snow, sun, shade, etc)
When you can’t change deadlines and don’t have a great backup plan, it’s time to resort to a tried and true tactic: go with the flow and make it work. Put on a happy face (along with gloves, a jacket, things to protect your gear) and get excited about the possibilities this weather can create. Some filming dates, like events, simply can’t be moved. As a filmmaker, you have to be ready to drive the ship even when it feels like it’s sinking. But be smart enough to pull the plug on bad decisions and manage your client’s expectations.
Don't be afraid to reschedule
This is your absolute last resort but too many times people think it’s not an option at all. You never want to lose a day of filming. It’s a budget breaker. Sure, you can always tough it out and just get the shots. But your final product may suffer not just from how the footage looks, but what kind of performances you get from your super soaked talent and crew. In some cases it may seem like a waste of money anyway.
Besides, do you really want to be that person who said carry on while a thunder and lightning storm approaches your electronic gear in a field next to a bunch of really tall metal poles? That’s not a crazy hypothetical. Before coming to Animus Studios, one of our producers actually had an executive ask them if they should take a calculated risk in that scenario.
And you’re right… that’s crazy.
You can’t predict the weather. Meteorologists get it wrong all the time. But what you can do is keep the elements of mother nature in your thought process as you’re planning your production. And if inclement weather is heading toward your shooting day don’t just hope it’ll hold out, prepare for it.
Have you downloaded that weather app yet?
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