How did Atlas accomplish the 'rain magic' trick in Now You See Me 2?

In Now You See Me 2, Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) performs a trick - he makes the rain droplets stop mid-air. He then proceeds to make the rain drops go up (i.e. against gravity). Finally, he makes the droplets move in several different directions.

At the end of his act, he mentions that the trick was carried out using the strobe lights and rain machines installed nearby. Given this statement, is there a plausible explanation for how he accomplished the trick?

• Who you gonna call? Mythbusters! XD Commented May 1, 2017 at 4:14
• It was the strobe lights. It has that effect on water. Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 6:29
• In the movie, the effect was also shown outside the window of a train at an underground station. Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 6:50

Somehow. It works small-scale in controlled environment, it is shown in the Macao trick shop. There it is a small box.

You need a controlled frequency of drops and a synchronised strobe. You don't see the same drop lit moving upwards but the next drop a bit above the last one so it seems that it moves upwards.

I doubt it is possible to recreate it large-scale as shown in the movie.

• I missed that quick shot in the magic shop. So having an equal frequency for the drops and the lights means that the drop would appear suspended in mid-air. If the strobe is slightly faster, then the raindrops would appear to move upward. Any ideas on how the drops would move diagonally, as in the last part of the trick? Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 13:50
• @XSurgent Exactly. Moving diagonally could be achieved by moving the drops with wind machines. As their effect is not linear (as light and gravity in this situation basically are) I don't think the effect would be possible in the desired or shown quality.
– his
Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 21:01

The effect is called "Levitating Water". There are a lot of YouTube videos showing it in a smaller format. I'm actually pretty sure there's no way to do it like he did it in the movie, because as soon as you touch the water, the illusion breaks and you can see the water "falling".

• You might want to elaborate a little how it actually works. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 15:21
• He might have been able to do the effect as seen in the movie since the rain was manufactured. A few minutes after the trick we see that the rain is created by sprinklers and isn't just natural rain. Therefore, he may have had control over the droplets, and the strobe that was lighting them could have been tuned to the correct frequency to make the effect look very convincing. (Though it was definitely CGI in the movie!) Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 16:53
• Doesn't change the fact that the rain 'hits' the people and this would break the illusion! Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 18:02

I wanted to add an official answer of what the phenomenon is called. On the Today show, David Copperfield who served as a consultant for the movie actually explains what the reverse rain effect is based on. The trick is based on the Wagon-wheel effect or also referred to as the stroboscopic effect.

Essentially what happens is by playing around with lighting you can make it seem like something has a slower frame rate than it actually is. For rain, what you are seeing is the strobing lighting the rain in the correct intervals to make it seem like they are staying still, going up, etc. Atlast also reveals this at the very end where he shows there are UV lights lined up on the floor along with the rain machines that are producing the rain.

David Copperfield reveals the secret to ‘Now You See Me 2’ water illusion

In the movie, if you go to the to around 45 minutes in, after the twins Merritt and Chase are talking, you'll see Wilder stumbles upon the device which is known as a strobe fountain that illustrates the trick (and I guess this scene was also to foreshadow the magic and give an explanation for the inspiration).

A drink company performed this as an actual illusion for a recent television commercial. They drove a sofisticated drip machine with very large strobes and a camera on a robot arm. The field looks to be about 10 feet cubed.

They could not retain static drops inside the drop field, the falling distance seems much to far. The drops hit terminal velocity at slightly different heights from one frame to the next.

So I'm afraid it was all CG, with some actual wet actors.