Due to the scale of this build, we spread this set build out over 6 weeks. Our first week was pallet acquisition, the next 2 were pallet deconstruction, the next week was framing, the fourth week was covering our pieces with the pallets, and lastly we transported, hung, and lit the scenic pieces.
We used 70 2x4s, 20 sheets of 7/8″ OSB, 140 pallets, 50′ of Aluminum window screening, and over 15,000 screws, nails, and brads. Amazingly our set portion of the budget was only about $1000. We built the set in parts, 2 main wall sections (20′ x 11′), 5 smaller panels (4’x8′), 2 small panels (2’x 4′, and 6 deck surrounds (3- 1’x 8′, 3- 2’x8′)
Our complete set and lighting budget was $2500.
Easily the most time consuming part of our set build was disassemble the pallets. We collected and dis-assembled 140 pallets. Over 5000 nails got pulled in the process of dis-assembly. Although most nails pulled through the planks when removing them, we did learn near the end that bending the nails does work most of the time.
We found very quickly that pulling planks off then puling nails was going to take forever. So we resorted to cutting off the 2 sides of the pallets. We lost about 4 inches per side but only had to pull a third of the amount of nails. Way worth it!
Next, we built the frame. We built the outer frame to our desired dimensions first, then built the cross to our desired dimensions inside of that, then lastly added the needed bracing and studs. Once framed, we built the second large panel directly on top of the first, using it as our guide. We attached OSB to the frame using screw guns, so that we would have a nailing surface for the planks.
We also had the fore thought to paint the edges of our scenic black. This allowed us to miss a small section or have a gap near the end without it being noticeable to the congregation.
Planking (not the awkward photo pose) was probably the best part of the build. I mean seriously, you get to shoot things with a gun of nails. It was pretty fun stuff.
We developed process to get the depth, color variation, and randomness. First lay down a base layer. We used full pieces that varied in size shape in color, we tried to make sure few similar pieces touched. At this point, we didn’t worry about filling any gaps. This layer went fastest. Because we didn’t have to cut anything, we just grabbed pieces and nailed. On the large scenic structure, we chalked lines every 2 foot to ensure consistency . We used these lines to adjust and stay level as we went up.
In our next layer we overlapped over the gaps we had left in the first. We also cut to size the pieces we needed to fill the ends, large gaps, and anything we didn’t cover with the first planks.
Lastly, we added a few planks to vary the dimension and give it some uniqueness through out the set.
We found some of the coolest looking pallets ended up being the ones we got from construction sites. Most of them had Oklahoma red mud on them and gave some nice color. As you can see below, they really stick out and give it an interesting flavor (tasting is not advised).
In the void where the cross was, we used crumpled aluminum screening to create an indented and reflective surface. We lit it with 12 cheap American DJ leds per side. We used staples to attach the screening to the back of the frame. It gave us a nice 4″ depth separation from the planks.
Another thing we did to add some additional visual interest was to mount some mac 101s on the front of the scenic. I didn’t want to block much of the light that was washing the surface of the boards though so we built custom mounts.
The hope was to make the stand offs look rustic, kinda like rusty pipes. The 101s added a nice lower layer of lighting that I could use for scenic light, back light, and aerials.
Apart from the large crosses, we built 5- 4’x8′ flats to full under our screens.
We also built some risers for the keys and drums that were covered with pallet wood to complete the look.
The most challenging of the parts for this set was moving it and hanging it. All of which happened in one day.
The first was transporting the massive 20′ x 11′ set pieces from our offsite set garage to the Auditorium. Simply moving the set pieces was a feat. Once finished they weighed over 600 lbs a piece. We used furniture dollies and brute force to get them around.
Our other significantly difficult task was to hang them. Once in the room and onstage, we lifted the crosses one at a time with 2- 1/2 ton chain motors per side.
For the 4′ x 8′ sections, we bungied the flats to upside-down road cases. For the wide center section we made some small legs that were weighted on the back too.
One of the simpler, yet impactful elements to our design was a piano shell covered in chalk graffiti for our opening songs. We ended up getting two pianos for free from craigslist. We gutted them and painted them with chalkboard paint. One of the artists at the church was kind enough to share his skills and chalk them up.
The piano acted as a really nice feature point on the stage. Two extra leds made it really stick out.
For the most part we used fixtures we already had. We rented 20 Colorblast for Easter weekend, but found that our normal 16 that we own lit the set ok by themselves. As a true lighting guy, I thought it NEEDED the 20, but few people noticed when I had to return them.
We loved this set and ended up using it for a bit more than 2 months.