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Shooting (parked) car interior at night with drops on the windows

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I'm shooting a night time scene with 2 characters talking inside a car.

The car is parked, the windows are wet from a recent rain (but it's not raining anymore).


I'm looking for tips and advices for enhancing the water drops.


Here is a screen grab from tests I've shot on a 5D a couple of days ago in a studio (we're gonna shoot on location for the actual shoot, with a RED One) with the kind of lighting atmosphere I'm planning to do.




No one was really in charge of the rain drops for this test, so we just splashed water on the window before shooting.


My first question is about the best solution for spraying water on the windows.

I was actually thinking of using a water sprayer filled with a mix of water and glycerine (like we usually use for sweat on faces).

Any other idea or advices for the best mix to put in the tank ?


My second question is about lighting those drops.

I know that you don't actually light raindrops as they are transparent, you just need them to register an image as they act like a lens.

I don't want to have a very lit background (probably a bit darker than the test shot) to keep the drops brighter than the background itself.

My idea was to shine light on a large muslim sheet (or a kino 1 bank) placed low behind the car, so it doesn't affect my lighting and contrast inside the car and create a white line on the top of the drops so they exist on this dark background.

I guess they will probably also register the lights I use for lighting the characters.

Am I on the right track ?


I'd love to also add some colour bokeh with a small fixture far away in the background.

What kind of source would you use for that ?


The director wants to place the car close from a (white :blink: ) house wall, I'm pushing to place it further so we have more depth in the back and we can isolate the 2 characters in the image.


Any advice or comment on my ideas are more than welcome ;)



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If you want the water to read, you have to back light it.. this could be motivated as a street light, and play as a light in the car as well. Yes, Glycerin will work, from a spritzer bottle.

How you back light them is up to you, but you just need to get a light behind them .

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I also agree with you two about backlighting :)

My idea was to backlight the drops with the muslim or kino... something out of the image hidden below the car door.

But that's when i'm starting to question the idea because I feel that the source being out of frame will tend to make the effect disappear.


I'm looking out my window right now, I just sprayed it totally with water.

I can only see the drops that are very close (in terms of axis) from the streetlight in the background.

The drops form some kind of radius around the streetlight as you can see below, the more I look away from the light, the less obvious the drops tend to be.


Now i kneel down, so that the streetlight is hidden below the window (like I intended to do with the kino hidden behind the car door)


The radius still applies of course (kneeling down doesn't affect physics unfortunately).

The drops only appear in the bottom of the window (though the water is evenly applied on the window, like the previous picture), showing clear evidence that there is a hidden source down below, so much for subtlety :D


My conclusion from this observation : Drops act like lenses, yes... but probably a longer lens that I thought <_<

So I need motivated light sources in frame to make drops appear on a dark background.


Of course the background is pitch black in these examples.

It's not gonna be that extreme in the sequence, and any part of the background that isn't black is also going to show water drops in negative (dark drops on light background) which is okay for me too I guess.


Feel free to develop on these conclusions

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You don't need anything in frame. You just need a hard light, backed away, at the right angle to get the drops across the whole frame. This will be based on where you put your camera.


Grab a small piece of glass.. or even a CD jewel case-- spray it, grab a table lamp, and move it 'round back it off, and you'll see what I mean.

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