Directed by Mikael Salomon
Visual Effects Supervisor: Ed Jones

Visual Effects Produced by:

FX Supervisor: Brad Kuehn

FX Superivor: Robert Skotak

Review by Todd Vaziri

Studio-delayed since the spring of 1997, HARD RAIN (aka THE FLOOD) was finally released, with noted cinematographer Mikael Salomon at the helm. Christian Slater stars as an unlucky armored car driver, stuck in a flood, and chased by bad guys led by Morgan Freeman.

The film's digital effects were provided by Cinesite, while the film's miniature sequences were produced by 4 Ward, one of Hollywood's finest miniature houses. HARD RAIN's effects, though not as abundant as one might think for a picture of this magnitude, are consistent with the nature of the film itself; enjoyable yet not overly realistic.

The film's opening shot is also the longest effects shot of the movie, and quite possibly the longest single shot in recent memory. The helicopter shot begins

"The film's opening shot is also the longest effects shot of the movie, and quite possibly the longest single shot in recent memory."

travelling backward over a near-flooded dam, flies over flood-ridden farmers trying to rescue their cows, to huge expanses of land covered in milky-brown water. The camera continues its trek over the doomed town, as the camera cruises down the main street of downtown, ending with a closeup of the sheriff, played by Randy Quaid. The shot is a huge combination of CG water, miniatures, clever compositing tricks, and live-action photography. Flood waters realistically lap against the shorelines, rainwater convincingly hits the pools, and there is no noticeable sliding of elements within these shots. The barn and silo did seem to produce sharper than real reflections in the water, but the dam/water miniature held up pretty well even in tight framings. The shot very much resembles television news footage, taken from a news chopper, of flood-ravaged countrysides.

Sky replacements and rain were handled with Cinesite's usual compositing and tracking excellence. A conversation between sheriff Quaid and his deputies featured an extensive amount of color correction and sky removals, adding the dark, nasty, rain-filled clouds above. Even during complicated camera moves, the sky shots looked pretty real, although some matte edges seemed unusually soft at times.

The miniature dam was used a great deal throughout HARD RAIN, and holds up remarkably well. One of the big kisses of death for miniatures is water; the eye clearly detects miniature water, especially rapidly moving water, due to the large clumps of water and large highlights on those clumps. To combat this, the filmmakers created an enormous, 1/3 scale dam that measured 100' long, and in nearly every shot featuring the dam, the water holds up. It would have been nice, though, to have been given some visual cues as to the dam's true size.

Cinesite added touches throughout the film, including augmenting and creating parts of a church within the flood-ravaged town. A couple of shots looked a bit suspicious, though, since the same camera angle was used for four or five church shots, and they were all locked-down shots, as well. Other than that, the subtle alterations to the church are undetectable.

The film's visual effects ramp up near the end of the movie as the dam, of course, bursts. The destruction of the dam is pretty cool, although the water sometimes loses its scale. Although the early shots featured the miniature water, later shots were accomplished with CG water, completed by Cinesite, which looks extremely convincing. The choice of camera angles was a bit suspect, however--for one shot, the camera was placed directly in the path of the oncoming water, a location no real camera would ever be placed in a full size situation. Oncoming water was nicely composited into many street shots. A couple of very neat underwater shots depict a house breaking apart at the foundation, being blown away in the oncoming current.

The last shot of Morgan Freeman zipping away in his motorboat, one that I will not discuss in detail, is probably the film's worst effect--a shot that should have most certainly been cut from the film.

HARD RAIN proved to be a successful sophomore effort by director Salomon, who crafted some engaging and exciting action sequences. He has a long history with effects films (BACKDRAFT, THE ABYSS) and has the enormous potential to be a terrific action director. The contribtutions of Cinesite and 4 Ward to HARD RAIN reflect the firms' reputations as being among the finest digital and miniature houses, respectively, in Hollywood.

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