Stage Designs

Strung Out

Craig Hatley from NewLife Church in Locust, North Carolina brings us this awesome rendition of String Theory.

They modified it considerably to fit their stage (about 20′ x 35′). They were also able to reduce the cost to around $120. Part of that money-saving technique was, instead of buying eye hooks, they used 1/2″ spaced wire mesh (used for small animal cages) and cut it into long strips that were attached to the 2″x2″ boards using roofing nails. Then they painted the frames black, secured them in place, and started weaving. They used approximately 1.2 miles of white nylon masonry string and it took about 40 man hours (2 people x 20 hours) to complete it from start to finish.

The coolest thing is that this church runs 250-300 people. They aren’t huge. Smaller churches can do stuff like this too!

Hint: Be sure to be consistent in your string paths and definitely pay attention to the details because it will make a huge difference in the final outcome of this design.

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30 responses to “Strung Out”

  1. Brandon says:

    This is really cool. Well done!

  2. steve says:

    Great job! The photo insert is also helpfull with wire on 2X4. Did you first construct string top to bottom vertical then twist to shape, or have the finished shape in mind when building?

    • Craig Hatley says:

      We built the frame in place first and then pulled the string (corner to corner). There is a fair amount of tension on the strings, so it would probably be very difficult to pull them and then try to twist and put in place afterwards.

  3. Joel says:

    Woah. very VERY cool!

  4. Ryan Spencer says:

    What lighting are you using to color the string? It looks like at least some moves to put a gobo in them. How does it look with the front lighting up with people on the stage?

    Very sweet look.

    • Craig Hatley says:

      I have a total of 6 Par 38 equivilant LED lights at floor level on the stage to light the strings (3 on each side of the stage). There are two on the floor at each of the two outside corners (aiming towards the middle of the stage) and one behind the strings on each side aimed nearly straight up into the point where the strings crisscross (slightly towards the rear of the stage to hide its face). The two at the corners are basically sitting side-by-side slightly forward of the outside corner of the strings aimed towards the opposite corner of that respective side of the strings (basically shining across the front face of the strings). One of them is aimed parallel to the floor and the other is aimed along the light line of the first light (I had to do this because my fixtures have a relatively tight throw pattern and just one light didn’t cover all of the string face on the lower portion of the design).

      I also have 4 Par 64 LED lights shining directly down from above the stage (the four blue light beams in the second picture) which are used to add general stage color to the design. Two of them are aimed more towards the center/drum riser, but the outer two helped to light up the upper portion of the string design on each side.

      As far as the gobo effects, we also have four Chauvet Q-Spot 260 LED fixtures mounted directly over the stage and three of them were used to achieve our pre-service look as shown in the first photo (one for each string design and then a third one to provide a backwall gobo behind the drums). One of the cool things about shooting a gobo image on the strings is that you get double use for the same light because the strings reflect the image and it also shines through the strings to project the same image on the floor/wall.

      In terms of front lighting, you have to be careful not to flood the strings with direct light so that you get the full impact of the LED color. In our case, we have traditional Par 64s configured with red and light blue gels and some Ellipsoidals loaded with pink gels. I typically use the red gel pars in conjunction with red on the strings and use the light blue pars to provide soft front face lighting for the musicians with most any color on the strings. The Ellipsoidal is focused to minimize it striking the strings and it provides basic skin tone lighting.

      One very cool lighting effect that I have used regularly with this set is shown in the second picture where I don’t use any front lighting whatsoever. I take two of the movers with white light and backlight the worship leader. Technically they are hitting him from the sides, so you wind up with an awesome worshipful lighting effect that silhouettes him. In addition I will typically use the other two movers to do a white light gobo/prism effect down onto the musicians on each side (also shown in the second photo).

      To summarize, 6 Par 38 LEDs, 4 Par 64 LEDs, and 4 Chauvet QSpot 260 LED movers for the looks that you see in the photos. I should also mention that we use haze to provide more wow factor for the movers, etc.

      Sorry for such a long post, but let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. Chris Rathbone says:

    This looks amazing. How did you construct your frame. I can’t tell from the pictures. I assume it would have to be pretty strong to support the tension of the strings.

  6. Craig Hatley says:

    Each frame basically consisted of four pieces of 2″x2″ (two at the top and two at the bottom). We have a wooden stage floor so both bottom pieces were nailed directly into the floor using 12 penny (12d) nails which were 3 1/4 inches long. We nailed them in at opposite angles from the expected string tension (basically angling the nails from the front of the stage to the rear of the stage).

    We have permanently installed light trusses near each side backwall of the stage, so we attached the upper pieces of the frame directly to the trusses via heavy-duty 1/2″ wide cable ties. In addition, the bottom of the upper-upper piece was stuck down into the truss and wedged in place for additional strength.

  7. Amber says:

    Perhaps this is straight forward and that is why people haven’t asked the question…But what is the weaving process/pattern?

    • Craig Hatley says:

      We basically used the following rules to define our weaving process/pattern:

      – Start at one corner on the bottom frame and go to the opposite corner on the top frame (working your way across the frames).

      – Start/End each string path on the bottom frames (see photo above).

      – The basic pattern is to go into one square of the wire mesh, skip an entire square, then come back through the next square (beyond the skipped one). When tension is applied, this will cause the strings to pinch against the outside edges of the center posts for the skipped square creating the proper spacing (see photo above).

      – Start/End new string pulls by tying to the center posts of the wire mesh for what would be the ‘skipped square’ from the previous step (see photo above).

      – In addition to these patterns, we also chose to take the string that was going up to the back side of the existing strings and then returning in front of the existing strings which basically helped to add depth and dimension.

      You will notice in the string detail photo above that we started with the left end of this frame by tying to the first center post, weaved several times (specifically up, down, up, down, up, down), and then tied off on the left center post of what would have been our next skipped square. We then tied on a new string to the right center post of that same square and started the process over again. You may also notice that we were able to get three full up/down loops with the first string, but only two with the next one (per the photo). This was because we would basically pull a single run until it became problematic due to tension, tangling, etc, so some runs were definitely longer than others (I think our max was 10 full up/down loops, but most pulls were much less).

      One tip that I will mention is that we took small pieces of duct tape and put it on the end of each new string that we started weaving with so it would be quicker/easier to push the string through the sometimes tiny openings between the wire mesh and the wooden frame.

      I hope this helps, but please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  8. jan hansen says:

    We are planning on using this design for our Christmas series this year beginning December 11th. I am purchasing supplies this week and was wondering: what happens at the point where the frame pieces join/change angle? The 2×2 pieces. What did you use to fix that angle and what degree of angle did you choose on the bottom and also on the top pieces.

    • Craig Hatley says:

      At the point where the frame pieces are joined, we basically just let one frame piece go behind the other one (they are not technically joined together). Then you basically just weave far enough on the rear frame piece so that you have the appearance of a continuous pattern (in other words, just weave it close enough to the junction to make it look right to your eyes). As far as ‘fixing the angle’, we basically just improvised with what we had available. For example, since our stage floor is wood, we simply nailed both lower frame pieces to the floor at the angle that we wanted. The upper frame pieces were attached to existing light trusses that are mounted near the back wall of our stage (both frame pieces were attached to it separately as well). In regards to the angles, we didn’t really choose a specific angle for the top or the bottom, but rather just temporarily held the frame pieces in place and then tried to imagine how that shape would look with the string on it (and then duplicated the design on the other side of the stage once we found the look we were shooting for). If I had to guess, the angles are probably around 135-145 degrees. Also, it may be difficult to tell in the photos, but we also had a Z axis element on the top frames because the lower top frame piece is moving from the rear of the stage towards the front (probably a 2 foot difference from the join point to the end of the lower piece).

      Please let me know if you have any questions and I would love to see some photos of your final design.

      • jan hansen says:

        OK! Thanks for that information. We start building tomorrow!! One more question at this point, can you tell me the measurements of your 2 x 2 pieces? Also, the distance between the bottom frame (nailed to the floor) and the top pieces where the string is looped through the mesh? Thanks!

        • Craig Hatley says:

          I am excited to hear that you guys start building tomorrow (we will actually be tearing ours down this week to work on our Christmas set). Don’t forget that it takes a little time to do this one (we had about 40 man hours in it), but it looks great when you finish.

          As for your questions, each frame (one side of the stage) was made up of 4 – 2×2 frame pieces of which there were two different sizes (2 short and 2 long). I don’t have the exact measurements with me at the moment, but I think the shorter ones were probably 48″ and the longer ones were probably around 67″. There is no real secret in the exact numbers though, just be sure to cross up the short/long pieces from the top to bottom. For example, if the shorter piece is on the left at the floor, put the matching shorter piece to the right on the upper frame and vice-versa. As far as the distance from top frame to the bottom frame, I think our first pull (outer bottom to inner top) was probably 15-16 feet. Again, the distance is not really that important, just do what works for your stage.

          Be sure to keep plenty of tension on the string as you tie each section off so you will have a consistent look across the entire set of strings.

          Please let me know if you have any more questions and may God bless you guys as you build this set.

  9. jan hansen says:

    When you started the stringing process, did you tie it off first or do some stringing and adjust the tension and then tie off?

    • Craig Hatley says:

      That’s a great question . . . We basically setup a spooling station that would allow us to pull the string off of the spool easily (our spooling station consisted of a small cardboard box that the string spool could spin in as we pulled the string). We would thread through the lower starting point and weave the string as long as we could until it was too difficult to pull or was getting too tangled. Then we would tie off the end of the pull at the bottom, pull the starting point to create the right amount of tension, and then finally tie off the starting point.

      In terms of pulling, one technique that we developed which really seemed to help during the pulls was to allow all of the ‘up’ strings to lay in your left, but none of the ‘down’ strings. Then when you pull the end of the string to weave it at the top, you can grab all of the other ‘up’ strings in your left hand and pull at the same time. It basically prevents you from having more than one full round of tension on a given string which means you can ultimately make more up/down loops in a given pull before tying off.

  10. Maggie says:

    I’m still trying to figure out thr weaving. Do the strings cross in between each other?

    • Craig Hatley says:

      With our design, the strings were taken up in front of the existing strings, and then back down behind them. It basically adds a little depth to it. You could technically do it either way though, just so you continue to use the same pattern throughout the project (so that you have a consistent look).

  11. jan hansen says:

    We are at Day 4 of our String Art installation and build. I am VERY pleased with how it is looking and can’t wait til our first light session late tonight to begin to play and experiment with the lighting. We have one side done and just started stringing the other (identical) side late last night. I’m headed up to the church this morning to start stringing again and have another team coming this evening and we hope to complete side 2 by late this evening so we can start working on lighting. If I want to send you some pictures, how can I best do that?

    • Jonathan Malm says:

      Tweet them out! @churchstages

    • Jorge Lozano says:

      Hello , I´m from Mexico City, I´m pretty amazed with this stage design. I´m reading all you have wrote , and there´s one thing I´m worried about.

      My stage will be 6 meters tall (20feet) and 14mts ( 45 feet) wide. I only have 8 ours to set this up. Do you think is possible to do it . I´ve read that it took 4 days to make this installation.

      Thanks for sharing , and I´ll be very pleased with any tips for doing this.

      • Craig Hatley says:

        Jorge, the dimensions of your stage should work fine, but it did take us quite a while to thread all of the strings. If you have enough people and you pre-build as much as possible, you may be able to get it done in 8 hours, but I think that is going to be really, really pushing it. If you decide to do it, please post pictures so that we can see how it turned out. Thanks

  12. jan hansen says:

    Well, I’m not a “tweeter” yet, but I may have to get that up and running. I’ll get with one of my “techie” friends today and see if I can get that set up.

  13. Chip Paul says:

    We are building a designed stage similar to this with strings but was glad to see someone had already done it and was successful.Have a few questions that if you could answer would help us tremendously.
    What kind of knot did you tie off each beginning and end run to keep the tension? How thick was the string you used? Do you think a thicker nylon string then Masonry string would reflect more light?

    Chip Paul

    • Craig Hatley says:


      Glad to hear that you guys are doing this design. To answer your questions:

      – We used a ‘Two Half Hitches’ knot at both the beginning and the end which was fairly easy to get the proper tension with.

      – The string we used was just regular white masonry string from Lowes and it was probably 1/10th of an inch thick (just guessing).

      – Yes, a thicker string probably would reflect more light, but it may make it more challenging to work with also. We used approximately 1.2 miles of string so if it was much thicker, some of our crossing points may have been challenging to manage.

      I hope that info helps and please feel free to ask any other questions that you may have.


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