Stage Rain

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
I've been looking over this site for the best way to make rain, and have only found small projects like rain outside a window. For my school's production of Jekyll and Hyde, we have a 40' wide by 3' deep catwalk permanently on stage. During Jekyll's "The Way Back" we want it to rain on him as he paces the catwalk. I just wanted to bounce some ideas off everyone out there.

I was thinking to rake the catwalk deck towards upstage, maybe a 2" rake.( 8' in the air, but there's a railing, naturally.) We make a rain pipe to hang above the catwalk, and when the water falls, it rolls down the rake into a gutter installed onto the back of the catawalk. this runs to a hose off stage left to a sink we have in a closet just off stage. Of course the plywood deck would have to be waterproofed.

It wouldn't be a closed circulating system, but we have some random water pipes on the stage that are never used for anything (maybe for fire crews?) They have valves at hand level and would be prefect to run a hose up to the rain pipe (maybe with the help of a pump, if the head is too high for the water pressure)

Comments?
 

Footer

Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Location
Saratoga Springs, NY
Well, I got done working with a fairly large rental set from singing in the rain about 6 months ago that has toured and been through the "ringer" a few times, so... ya... played this game. First, you will need nozzles on your rain system, simply drilling holes in PVC will not work. Also, you want to have multiple pipes, no more then about 10' long each being fed by a hose. If you make it longer, you will get drop off. We ran 2 5hp electric pumps for the show, fed by a very large agricultural tank. We of course put down a huge rubber mat under the entire rain deck for the show, and the rain deck had a built in trap with a sump pump. We never recirculated the water, it was too risky to pick up dust/dirt that could easily plug the nozzles. I would recommend getting the beefiest pump you can afford, simply lifting this huge amount of water to your batten will be hard enough. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
 

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Thanks for the advice. Let me see if i get this straight:
Water goes from tank to a pump, through the pump to the different pipes? Is there a separate output from the tank for every pipe?

what if the holes where situated on the top of the pipe? The water fill the pipe to the top and would drip around the circumference to supply a steady rainfall. In my mind this would avoid fall off. and where were the pumps situated in the system?

and i can fasten the pipes directly to the supporting I beams in the ceiling.
 
Last edited:

Footer

Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Location
Saratoga Springs, NY
It went.... tank to pump to 4 valves that fed each hose to batten. We had two battens, one pump for each. I would give the inverted thing a try, could not hurt. We put our tank USL because it was easy to get to the pumps and things. If you have a fly space, I know some people who have taken the tank to the grid or a nearby rail and done gravity fed systems, you only have to pump the water up once then let it fall down. As far as the inverted thing, give it a try!
 

jwl868

Active Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
footer4321

Just out of curiosity, why couldn't you use the potable water supply line at the venue?

The only reason I ask is that I would expect the potable water supply to be at a decent pressure (50 to 75 psig) and I would expect 5 to 10 gpm. Or was there a flow rate issue for your production?

(Seems to me that a direct connection to a water supply would be a simpler arrangement.)


bobgaggle - you may need to do some trial and error testing (like in a garage or outdoors) - primarily to figure out how much water you need and how it looks and/or if you can make it work with the available potable water supply pressure. In the big scheme of things, the pressure drop through the nozzles to get the desired effect may be as significant as the pressure to lift the water, if you are using a pump.

If you put the nozzles pointing up, you should consider what might happen if someone turns a valve the wrong way or too far, shooting a stream of water much higher than planned.



Joe
 

Footer

Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Location
Saratoga Springs, NY
footer4321
Just out of curiosity, why couldn't you use the potable water supply line at the venue?
The only reason I ask is that I would expect the potable water supply to be at a decent pressure (50 to 75 psig) and I would expect 5 to 10 gpm. Or was there a flow rate issue for your production?
(Seems to me that a direct connection to a water supply would be a simpler arrangement.)
bobgaggle - you may need to do some trial and error testing (like in a garage or outdoors) - primarily to figure out how much water you need and how it looks and/or if you can make it work with the available potable water supply pressure. In the big scheme of things, the pressure drop through the nozzles to get the desired effect may be as significant as the pressure to lift the water, if you are using a pump.
If you put the nozzles pointing up, you should consider what might happen if someone turns a valve the wrong way or too far, shooting a stream of water much higher than planned.
Joe
City water supply where we were were not enough to get the volume of water we needed when we needed it. We were downtown in a good sized city, constant pressure simply did not exist. Also, keep in mind if you want an entire stage to be covered by rain, its going to take a large volume of water, way more then usually runs to any stage unless you hook up to the fire suppression system (which you should NEVER do).
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Location
Seattle, WA
I saw rain done on a set by a local pro theater recently. They wanted very drippy looking rain, not a steady downpour. They used a bunch of garden pond pvc line coiled back and forth in a random pattern about 3 feet wide. Then they hung little strings of all different lengths... perhaps some sort of tassel or fringe material from the fabric store. They drilled holes in the top. The water clings to the strings making a very interesting random drip pattern. It looked great. Not what you want for a down pour (you need nozzles there)... but great of a drippy dreary day.

They had hot 2 hot water tanks located "up there" somewhere... something most of us don't have the ability to do due to the weight but not difficult for them due to the way the building is designed (Two theater's stacked one top of each other) They filled the tanks before the show, warmed it up, then just used gravity and a small garden pump to pressurize the system.

Equity actors and their hot water rain... what wimps!
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
I think what most people forget, when dealing with water is the mass involved. "All the world round, a Pint is a Pound." 8 Pints in a gallon, Be sure do double check all your math and load capacities, prior to lifting a rain rig into the air. A very "Lightweight" PVC system can suddenly get extremely heavy.
Having played with a lot of different rain/water systems I can tell you expirementation is the only way to find the look you want. low voltage controlled sprinkler valves, like you find at Home Despot, can be a godsend for control issues. Check with your Janitorial / maintenance staff to see if they have a pressure reading for your area of the building. There are lots of places on the web at which you can find formulas for computing flow rates, head pressure, etc. I found the existing pressure from our potable water supply was sufficient to run the 6 showerheads required by "Take Me Out" a couple of years ago. I did have to rig two hot water heaters in line to provide enought so the actors didn't suffer from , Ahem, Shrinkage.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.

tomed101

Active Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2007
Location
Brisbane. Australia
A few years ago when Singing in the Rain came to a large professional theatre nearby they had a rather sophisticated rig. Because the rain had to fall over a very large area of stage and for an extended length of time, a lot of water was required. They had the jets over 5 battens. The water would fall to stage level, drain downstage into a drain, through a filter to remove dirt and dust, into a holding tank, into a heating tank, through a pump, up to grid level, into another tank, then down onto stage again. On the preview night, somehow a pipe was broken by a stagehand and the stage was flooded a bit early.

*stop show, mop the stage and keep going*

In total, about 2000 gallons of water was in the system.
 

loki

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2007
Just remember, its not just making it rain, what ever water you put on the stage you have to get off, not to mention any electronics on stage. When we did Singing in the Rain we only used about 30lt and it still took 20+ minutes to get all the water
 
Joined
Jan 28, 2007
Location
Leesburg Virginia
I remember Black Forest Productions, we made props as part of a tech class this summer. I know your stage layout, you have a stairway up to your catwalk correct, because you can put the tank up in the loft before the catwalk entrance, and have a four foot head to pump in stead of 20 something. You can fill the tank before the show, and have it ready to go. The loft should hold the weight, but I am not sure, you would need to check with the building engineer. The gutter idea sounds good, and you can dump the water out the garage door BSL easily.
 
Last edited:

jwl868

Active Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
City water supply where we were were not enough to get the volume of water we needed when we needed it. We were downtown in a good sized city, constant pressure simply did not exist. Also, keep in mind if you want an entire stage to be covered by rain, its going to take a large volume of water, way more then usually runs to any stage unless you hook up to the fire suppression system (which you should NEVER do).
I hadn't appreciated the coverage needed for your show. And now that I think about it, other than a fire water supply line, there really isn't a good reason to provide a high-volume water supply to a stage area.

Joe
 

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Okay, thanks everyone for the tips, I talked the director down to rain in only one location, (Jekyll will be in a single follow spot, so the rest of the space won't need rain) Is there a way to figure out how much water I'll need? I'll only need 30 seconds or so with a moderate rainfall (not a torrential downpour). This is over a space not more than 4 feet wide.
 

Footer

Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Location
Saratoga Springs, NY
Okay, thanks everyone for the tips, I talked the director down to rain in only one location, (Jekyll will be in a single follow spot, so the rest of the space won't need rain) Is there a way to figure out how much water I'll need? I'll only need 30 seconds or so with a moderate rainfall (not a torrential downpour). This is over a space not more than 4 feet wide.
Well, for that, I would give a garden hose and a few downpour showerheads a try. Come up with rig on the deck, give the PVC thing a try as well. Move it up, if you have the pressure from city water, go for it, if not take a plastic trash can (55 gal) and put a 1" butterfly valve in the base and seal the crap out of it. Take that up to your grid (if you have one!) and get water up there ever night. I know city water pressure will get you that high, it just won't do it that fast.
 

Brilliant2007

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2007
Why don't you just use lighting...no clean up, no mess...and cheaper! Look at the GAM Flim/FX unit, or the...they have two different rain loops you can pick! The SX4 can also do rain. A few instruments and you could probably cover the whole stage.

BRANDON
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
Joined
Jan 11, 2007
Location
Lititz, PA
While devices like the GAM Scene Machine and the SX4 can produce a good looking effect, there is nothing like the real thing. Plus with a projected effect you have to have something to project onto, and it would look really odd if it was projected on people. Sometimes having the real thing is just better.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
Why don't you just use lighting...no clean up, no mess...and cheaper! Look at the GAM Flim/FX unit, or the...they have two different rain loops you can pick! The SX4 can also do rain. A few instruments and you could probably cover the whole stage.

BRANDON
That's a good suggestion, however..... We just got done doing House and Garden. I was all set to do the rain thing all over the stage when the director decided to go with the GAM Film/FX unit. I have to say I was extremely disappointed with the outcome. The visual wasn't all that great and the units were quite noisy, though the crinkling of the metal film strips did sound a bit like rain. They might have worked in a larger house, but in our black box, mmmmmmmm not so much

Back to the question at hand, If you are going to use traditional shower heads, they typically have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute, per head. Almost any valve you get should have a GPM rating on it for EPA standards. I'll check my computer at work in the morning, I had quite a few links to websites dealing with hydro-dynamics stored , when doing research for H&G and MetaMorphoses. < we do too many shows with water here, Hmm maybe it's a North West thing. Rain outside, rain inside>
 
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Hi, I know this is semi-off topic, but I'm student lighting designer for a high school version of the scottish play, and I'm trying to figure out a way to do a rain effect. I'm pretty sure the real thing is out, and I'm working with limited equipment...I believe all we have are source 4s and parcans, and some of them are pretty ancient at that. It would be lovely if anyone has any ideas they could share...way in over my head here, and help would be much appreciated.

Thanks! :)