Let it Rain

Who needs haze when you have rain? Matt Groves from The Naz in Grove City, OH brings us this stage design that rains.

They were inspired by It’s Raining. Really!

They started with these questions… 1. What are they going to run the water through to make it the rain? 2. What is the water going to fall into so it doesn’t make a mess? 3. Where is the water going to go?

They ended up with 30 feet of 4″ PVC pipe (3 10′ pieces) for the “rainmaker”. They coupled the pieces together with couplers and pipe glue to make a 30′ section. Then they took a drill press and drilled 1/8″ holes every 1″ in a straight line at the “bottom” of the pipe. Then they attached 90 degree angles on the ends with a nozzle for hoses to attach to. (Note: They started with just one end and one hose which didn’t give them enough pressure to get to the other end, so they added a second one on the other end with a second hose which worked great). They tried running the water from one source and “y” it at the top to run into the pipe on both ends, but that didn’t give them enough pressure either. So they ended up getting the water from 2 different sources (water spigots).

After that, they decided to build a “trough” system for the water to fall into. Then they had to figure out the size of the trough. This took some doing. After testing this, Matt’s calculations for the width of trough ended up at 1′ wide for every 10′ the water drops. Their drop was 40′ so Matt made his trough 4′ wide. This worked out perfectly because he was able to use a full sheet of plywood for the bottom of the trough. The walls of the trough were 2′ high and were also made from plywood and 2×6’s. Matt used 2×6 instead of 2×4 because he knew he would need strength when the water started to build up in the trough, or else the side would’ve caved in. After building the frame, they draped one solid sheet of black plastic in the trough. One side started high then gradually inclined down to the other side into one of the corners. They stapled pieces of aluminum screen to the top of the trough to eliminate noise and splashing. After testing it, they ended up needing to attach a few 2×4’s on top between the 2 walls for added support. The drain they made wasn’t big enough for the amount of water that was dropped, so the water built up in the trough enough to start pulling the sides inward. But the 2×4’s on top fixed this problem.

The drain was the hardest part about the whole project. Looking back on it he would probably do it a little differently. They cut a hole in the corner where the plastic inclined to, got a small piece of 2″ PVC pipe with an end and nozzle glued to it, cut a small “x” in the plastic (don’t cut it too big, you want it to be tight against the pipe), stuck the pipe through the side of the trough wall and the plastic (where they cut the “x”), sealed it with a “rubber” PVC coupler, clamped that down onto the pipe, then caulked around the pipe. They ran the other end of the hose out their backstage door to drain. Here’s what he would’ve done differently… He attached a hose to the other end of the short 2″ PVC pipe, but the problem was the hose was too small for the amount of water that was dropped to efficiently drain it. If he had to do it again, he would just run some 2″ PVC pipe for the drain instead of a hose.

They were able to drop the water for 7 minutes straight without the water overflowing which was perfect for the length of the song “Oceans”. If you’re wanting to drop the rain any longer than that though, definitely build a bigger drain system. Also, when you light the rain, you need a lot of light on the rain. White light shows it the best, but obviously you’ll want some color too. Also, the less you have going on behind the rain (i.e. lighting, video wall, etc.), the better the rain shows up. They tested it with a video wall effect behind the rain, then tested it without. Much better without.

Quick Stage Statistics

The trough dimensions were 4′ wide, 2′ high, and 40′ long. He made the trough 5′ longer on both ends than the pipe to try and avoid splashing on the ends.

Materials used…
– 3 10′ sections of 4″ PVC pipe
– 2 4″ PVC couplers
– 2 90 degree PVC sections
– 2 fittings for the hoses to attach to the PVC
– PVC glue
– 4 100′ hoses (2 for each side of the pipe)
– shut-off valves for the hoses
– 4 1.5″ sections of unistrut, all-thread and hardware, and safety cables (to fly the pipe)
– 4 100′ pieces of rope and 4 2″ pulleys (these were used to raise the pipe in place above the stage)

– 11 sheets of 4×8 1/2″ plywood
– 11 8′ 2×6
– 7 8′ 2×4
– 1 long thick piece of black plastic
– 1′ section of 2″ PVC pipe
– 1 rubber PVC coupler
– hose connector for the PVC pipe
– 1 hose (to drain the water)
– aluminum screen
– staple gun/staples (staple the black plastic and aluminum screen to the trough)

photo_3 rain-image-1 rain-image-2 photo_1 photo_2 photo

9 responses to Let it Rain

  1. I’m curious how they addressed electrical safety with this. The uplight bars near the trough, the stage boxes, any overhead wiring, etc. It’s nice to have a deep enough stage to do something so beautiful, but wow, my spidey sense is tingling about the danger.

    Hope to hear more.

    • We were VERY careful when it came to this. This was also my main concern when we started. That’s what the aluminum screen on top of the trough was for. It allowed the water to enter the trough while restricting splashing. The width of the trough also helped. Amazingly no water hit the surrounding area around the trough. We also tested it many times before any equipment was out on stage too to make sure the area wasn’t getting wet. The picture doesn’t show it, but we also covered all of the electrical floor pockets around the trough just for extra precautionary measures with plastic and gaffer’s tape.

  2. The only other extra precaution is that code likely (technically) required a GFI outlet. I believe they are required within so many feet of water, but each state is different.

    This is a great effect. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow!

    Totally awesome. What other wonderful ideas this has now give me….

    One question, what brand and model are your bar lights?

  4. Why not use recirculating pumps? It’d need to be a pretty big pump to get the lift needed, but that would have negated the need for the drain and water build-up issues and all that. Maybe basement sump pumps would work.

  5. As a former professional audio and lighting technician, i have seen and designed some crazy stages. But this one is awesome, the only thing that i honestly despise about this is the waste of water. As believers, we are mandated to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. and as such, i think wasteing hundreds of Gallons of water every sunday for an effect is a waste of resources. That money could be put into the kingdom,rather than the effect. there are also hundreds of thousands of people world wide who suffer because of unclean water! we in north america are privileged because we have clean running infinte water. That being said, its a great idea but it could be done way better, If you put 2 commercial sump pumps on either side of the trough then run the hoses up from there they will have enough power to pump the water and you can circulate the water and have A less cost, and B less waste. Thats my 2 cents.. Again i love this idea, i think it should have been thought out a bit more, and researched better But Awesome idea!

    • Seriously? You work for audio and lighting and you’re going to complain about some wasted water? You charge churches THOUSANDS of dollars for useless equipment to create effects every day. I think I’d rethink my argument brother.

      • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I agree with you Jason. But remember, he’s a “former professional audio and lighting technician”

  6. awesome design

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