Eurovision 2017 is almost upon us. This year’s extravaganza has been mired in controversy, with Russia having pulled out of the show, and the European Broadcasting Union worried that the show wouldn’t be ready in time. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case, and the show has already begun. With two semi-finals down, the semi-final on May 13 is all that’s left. To celebrate 24 hours to go, find out all the work that goes into making this technical marvel and world-famous event a success.

A Few Bumps In The Road

There are many estimates as to how many people watch Eurovision, but a recent figure suggested that it could be up to 600 million. That would easily make the Eurovision Song Contest one of the most watched non-sporting events.

Despite the popularity, Eurovision has never been without its controversy. This year the show has been hit with several setbacks, predominantly due to its location. Having won Eurovision 2016, Ukraine were invited to host the show this time around – although given it was involved in an armed-conflict with Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, there were always concerns as to how well the show would go.

There were some heavy bumps in the road leading up to Eurovision 2017, with Russia forced to pull out of the contest after its performer was banned from entering Ukraine. The European Broadcasting Union’s executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Jon Ola Sand, was also concerned that Ukraine wouldn’t be able to pull it off in time for the chosen dates.

Thankfully, despite the controversy, Ukraine is already poised to put on one of the most memorable Eurovision Song Contests in recent years. That’s largely thanks to the technical prowess of the production team, which is utilising some exciting new AV and lighting equipment to ensure it’s one that viewers will never forget.

Lighting Up The Night

Eurovision Song Contests are always a feast for the eyes, and that’s largely due to the lighting design. This year is no different, with lighting designer Jerry Appelt pulling out all the stops to light up the night.

An astonishing 1,816 lighting fixtures were used in the production of the 2017 contest, with many of these coming from Litecom and PRG – both of which have been on-site since production began in the middle of March.

Amongst all the products provided for the show, Elation’s name came up quite a number of times. That’s because the US lighting manufacturer has 850 of its fixtures in use in Kiev; some of which have only just debuted at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt.

One of the Elation products being used at the show, is the Platinum 1200 Wash. These lights use the Osram LED range to provide an extremely bright and versatile lighting solution.

Elsewhere at the show Eurovision 2017 is using some of the brand new Clay Paky Scenius spotlights, which are powered by the new 1400W Osram discharge lamp. This model provides a much higher light output than previous generations which were equipped with 1500W lamps. These spotlights also offer 8°-48° zoom, a focus tracking system and 6500 K output colour temperature.

Lighting was a mammoth task, but thankfully much of it was in place by mid-April. In fact, rehearsals began around this time, with each delegation having specific needs for their set.

The kit utilised for the lighting system is as follows:

  • 68x PRG Best Boy HP2
  • 160x CP Scenius Unico
  • 56x PRG Best Boy Wash Blade
  • 55x PRG Best Boy Wash
  • 130x PRG Icon Edge
  • 132x Elation Platinum FLX
  • 70x Elation Platinum Seven
  • 142x Elation Platinum 1200 Wash
  • 20x GLP A4 Bar 20
  • 23x GLP JDC-1
  • 88x Ayrton Magic Panel FX
  • 60x SGM Q7 RGB
  • 36x SGM Q7 W
  • 36x SGM P2
  • 110x Elation Sixbar 1000 RGBAWUV
  • 37x Robe BMFL Wash/Beam
  • 52x Martin MAC2000 Wash XB
  • 24x Expolite TourLED CM42
  • 351x Elation Paladin
  • 78x ETC S4 CE LED Series2 Dayhlight HD 15°-30° Zoom
  • 4x PRG Ground Control Follow LongThrow
  • 14x PRG Ground Control Follow BadBoy
  • 8x LitePanel MiniPlus daylight, wireless control
  • 6x RingLite DMX-control
  • 12x Arri Broadcaster DMX
  • 48x Fresnel 500W/650W
  • 20x Fresnel 1000W
  • 6x MDG ATMe, DMX-controlled + extra Fan
  • 4x Fog Smoke Factory CaptainD

Given the complex array of devices in place, FOH needed an effective way at controlling all of it. After all, the lighting team is using nearly 89000 Parameters and 9856 Fixtures, and it’s one of the largest systems to ever be driven in one session. To simplify control, the team utilised the following gear:

  • 1 GrandMA2 Light as a System Desk on the Front of House
  • 1 GrandMA2 Light as a System Desk inside of The Arena
  • 1 GrandMA2 light as a Tigger Console at the Sound Department (running out of Session)
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Keylights Markus Ruhnke
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Keylight Thorsten “ICKE” Berger
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize as Backup for Keylight
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Main operator Raphael Demonthy
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize as Backup for Showlight
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Audience lights Raphael Grebenstein
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Video Operator Sebastian Huwig
  • 1 GrandMA2 Fullsize Video Backup
  • 1 GrandMA2 Light Nick Hansen Delegation Specials
  • 4 GrandMA2 Fader Wings For Special Faders (Using from Jerry Appelt)
  • 2 OnPC Fader Wings with a Running OnPc sending DMX in to Control Camera Lights (Using from Jerry Appelt)
  • 3 Grand MA3D running for the visualisation
  • 20 NPU/Network Processing Unit active in the Session
  • 9  NPU/Network Processing Backup out of the Session but plugged in the Network
  • 28 Nodes (8port Nodes)

 

A Visual Feast For The Eyes

Eurovision is always a visual affair, with projection mapping, large video walls and elaborate creatives. This year will be no different, and the video equipment that has been shipped to Ukraine is bound to impress.

The centre piece of the entire system is the LED wall, which at this year’s show is 70m long and 11m tall. This dominates an entire curved wall behind the performers and consists of 12mm ROE in the centre, and ROE 18 on the outer side.

An LED wall is nothing without an impressive lighting matrix, however. In-use at Eurovision 2017 will be 350 units of the brand new Elation Paladin High Output LED Strobe.

The LED wall was up within weeks of beginning production, despite being 1,000sq-m in size, and was completed alongside the lighting trusses and stage arcs. To accompany the wall, however, the production team decided to turn to an old favourite of Eurovision contests gone by – projection mapping.

Projection mapping has featured in many Eurovision Song Contests in the past few years, and this year will be powered by one of the world’s brightest rental and staging projector – the Barco HDQ-2K40. Accompanying those projectors are high-end Mirror Moving Systems, which allow the projected image to move across the stage, smoothly and without any degradation in picture quality.

It’s not just about the projectors and screens, however. The team also deployed Green Hippo Boreal systems to handle the media content. These media servers are often the unsung heroes of projects of this size.

Production City

The venue for Eurovision 2017 is essentially an empty box, meaning the producers had free-reign to do almost anything they wanted. That included removing walls, building grand stands and hanging heavy equipment from the ceiling. In fact, there were very little restrictions put on the producers – one was simply that the painted floor be removed after the show.

To get around this giant venue, the producers enlisted an army of segways to navigate the hall. This was a useful way of getting around, but due to the sheer amount of gear left on the floor, it wasn’t always efficient.  

Part of the construction for the show included a green room platform, where there were 26 lounges for the delegations from the various European countries. This area is where viewers will get a glimpse of all the performers, as they chill out and watch the rest of the acts.

In the green room, delegations will be able to watch the action with video monitors, while relaxing with a glass of wine. The green room won’t be the only place where screens are installed, the audience will also have countless screens dotted around the venue, allowing them to take in the atmosphere, while still enjoy what’s going on, on the stage.

Behind the ginormous green room, is an even grander FOH. In fact, at this venue there will be 50m of FOH dedicated to the production of the show.

While much of the venue was coming together in mid-April, one area hadn’t even begun its build-up – Hall 1. This area is where the Delegation Bubble, Dressing Rooms, IEM rehearsal studio, press centre, press conference and fan areas are all located. Thankfully, these didn’t take all too long to set-up.

Rehearsals officially began at the end of April, with lighting, cameras, stage changeovers and stand-in all coming together to ensure the show goes off without a hitch. This was also an opportunity for the production team to show the delegates what they could expect for their arrival.

There were some bizarre requests from some of the acts, this included Sweden’s act, which required the use of treadmills. These treadmills are programmed and operated off a Grand MA II – that should prevent any issues at the show.

Networking, Pyrotechnics, Sound Systems and Power Generation

Networking is one big challenge of Eurovision Song Contest 2017. That’s because of the 15,000 users on the network, some of which are wirelessly connected, and some who use hardwired connections. To ensure everyone can communicate, and access the network – it needs to be reliably controlled – which is why there’s a dedicated person for operating the network.

To ensure against any mishaps, the network is backed up multiple times, and is also synchronised with Sweden.

With 48 flame units, 50 firing positions and 6 heavy fog outlets – Eurovision 2017 is sure to go off with a bang. In fact, pyrotechnics will represent a large part of the show, with the following kit brought in:

  • 3 units of FireCTRL Firing Desk
  • 100 pcs FireCTRL Field modules
  • 1 pc  MA DOT2 Dmx desk (for heavy fog + smoke jets)
  • 24 pcs TBF Single Shot flame units
  • 24 pcs TBF Spraymasters
  • 6 pcs Le Maitre Freeze Fog + G300 Heavy fog machines
  • 8 pcs Magic FX Stadium Shots for Streamers
  • 8 pcs Co2 powered Confetti Cannons
  • 16 pcs MagicFX Smoke Jets
  • 1 pc TinyFogger (for Finnish piano, radio controlled)
  • 36 pcs Co2 bottles / show+ We will use total approximately
  • 120 pcs 40 ltr Co2 bottles on this show.
  • Tons of cables + co2 hoses
  • 16 bottles of Jaloviina
  • 1 cigarette lighter

All effects are pre-programmed and triggered via timecode through the Fire Control desk, with the exception of smoke jets and fog, which are controlled via a grandMA DOT2 DMX desk. This desk has a clear line of sight to the stage so the guys can visually confirm that the necessary areas are all clear and the timecode can be overridden if anything is out of place.

Sound is perhaps the most important part of the show itself, which is why there are 258 speakers, 212 microphones and 13 sound desks. In total the speakers output 825,600W – so anyone in the arena will likely feel the audio.

The audio equipment is supplied by Black Box Music, which is based out of Germany and has experience with an array of different event, including Adele’s World Tour, MTV Unplugged and the Rammstein Festival.

Powering all the show is a giant generator village, which again features miles and miles of cabling. Thankfully all the cabling is well organised, and shouldn’t prove a headache for the organisers.

All the generators were supplied by The PowerShop, with a total of 18 generators on-site. These are enough to produce 7MW of electricity each and every day.

10 of the generators are dedicated to the lights, while 8 are dedicated to sound, video and broadcast. Typically the generators run at half capacity at all times, which means if there is a failure with any of them, the others have extra capacity to cope.

On production, 8,000L of diesel was being consumed by the generators, but it will be closer to 10,000L on show days.

From the generators, the power goes to the breaker panels. From there they are fed through to the distribution panels – one for lights, one for sound/video/broadcast. Each panel is 8000A, with 16 PD400 distribution panels and 61 various distribution panels (125A, 63A, 32A).

From there, the electricity runs through 38.5km of high voltage cabling, with 660 yellow jackets of protection. 6.7km of that cabling is multi-core (125A, 63A, 32A), while 29km is single core. 2.35km is earth cabling.

After travelling through the various cables, they end up at a distribution hub. Lighting alone consumes 854,000W.