Eurovision 2013 Visual Focus Includes the Audience

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2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyMALMO, Sweden — If many Americans have still never heard about the Eurovision Song Contest even though it has emerged, in 58 years, as one of the world’s biggest non-sporting TV events, they’ve undoubtedly heard of the stars that the annual event has launched into the entertainment stratosphere over the decades, including ABBA, Céline Dion and Julio Iglesias.

But the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, with semi-finalists from 39 countries competing May 14-16 and the competition between 26 finalists broadcast live to more than 120 million viewers May 18, was not just about the international stars of tomorrow taking the spotlight of today.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyA Theme of Unity

With its theme, “We Are One,” a key design goal was to include the energy of more than 10,500 fans packing the arena in the show’s visuals as well.

Under the direction of Mikki Kunttu, video still played a big role, with 94 million video pixels of content on 22 media servers beamed by 60 Barco projectors. Thirteen of the 28 Barco HDQ-2K40 units at the event were used for edge-blending and warping imagery to the dimensions of the large stage’s back wall projection elements. But there was less emphasis on LED surface dazzle than in recent years, shifting the visual focus to powerful beam and wash fixtures mounted on moving truss.

The lighting and staging, overseen by technical director Ola Melzig, lighting designers Fredrik Jönsson and Emma Landare, and stage designers Viktor Brattström and Frida Arvidsson, also moved further from a traditional bright stage-dark audience entertainment paradigm, focusing on performer-audience interaction instead.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyLighting and Video Control

The lighting rig, provided by Starlight and PRG, included 1,400 fixtures for the event, produced for host broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT) by Martin Österdahl and Christer Björkman with a total crew of more than 250 people. Singer/songwriter Emmelie de Forests of Denmark ultimately won the contest, which was broadcast to 44 countries via SVT1.

The show required some 24,500 control channels, and the control setup included 12 grandMA2 light consoles in all, with four grandMA2 light consoles, plus four as backup, for the lighting/automation rig.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyThree grandMA2 lights (with one as backup) were used to cue up to 16 video layers via MA-Net2, with four MA onPC command wings, 16 MA NPUs and nine MA NSPs plus a grandMA2 fader wing for LD Fredrik Jönsson playing a supporting role.

In pre-production, Marcus Krömer assisted with the 3D visualization, created by QConcept using grandMA 3D. On site, Jönsson worked with assistant lighting designer Emma Landare, who coordinated lighting all the interval and opening acts. (The event’s large green room was also featured and lit during the broadcasts, along with other periphery areas.)

The show’s four programmers — Calle Brattberg, Timo Kauristo, Pontus Lagerbielke and Danne Persson — used individual Cubase projects to generate their own timecode before switching to the show’s main timecode, using grandMA 3D software for pre-viz.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyKulan Wallertz called the 14 followspots, with one of the grandMA2 Light consoles controlling iris and color channels so that all the operators had to do was point the hardware.

Mikki Kunttu worked with grandMA2 operators Neil Trenell and Mikko Linnavuori on the original wide-format video content for 38 of the contestants. The lighting and video crew spent three weeks pre-programming the show at SVT HQ in Stockholm before moving to Malmö Arena a month before the Final, with a particularly grueling schedule during the last two weeks. The grandMA2 system and network technician was Nicolai Gubi Schmidt.

Jönsson also noted that by using one manufacturer for the majority of the rig’s moving lights — Clay Paky — the crew saved time with color uniformity and matching gobos.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyThere were more than 700 Clay Paky fixtures in the rig. The production’s record-setting Sharpy count topped 200, and the production included 75 of the new Sharpy Wash fixtures. Also new were 50 of Clay Paky’s new Glow Up Strip 100s. Other Clay Paky gear included Alpha Spot HPE 1500s (129), A.leda Wash K10s (58), A.leda Wash K5s (49), Alpha Beam 1500s (50), Alpha Profile 1500s (50) and Alpha Spot QWO 800s (40). The rig also featured Vari*Lite moving lights and SGM fixtures, including 52 of SGM’s X-5 white LED strobes and 82 SixPack LED blinders.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyAutomation and Staging

The automation setup for the layered 3D performance environment was intricate enough to warrant its own dedicated grandMA2 console. It included 48 customized winches from Tait Technologies that flew individual pixel-lanterns above the audience. That same console was also running another 14 winches flying illuminated ‘icicle’ tubes in and out over the stage, which could be lowered in to make the space more intimate. All of the units were controlled by the lighting operator via an Art-Net patch to Tait/FTSI’s Navigator control system.

2013 Eurovision photo by Ralph Larmann, courtesy of Clay PakyTait also provided the 450-square-meter rolling main stage, including a downstage apron, pantograph stairway and four flaggapault lifts for a dynamic performer stage entrances and exits, along with a 36-meter-long catwalk leading to a B-stage, which was equipped with a triple scissor lift so that it could rise six meters above the arena floor.

The upstage projection wall was ground-supported and had two flown center sections. Two 14-meter-high scenic arches were fabricated using a steel framework and support ballasts that was then clad with a scenic stress skin panel comprised of fiberglass, polystyrene and brushed aluminum paneling. The arches were integrated with lighting elements and positioned to frame each side of the stage.

To complete the design, a 45 meter wide ground-supported scenic landscape projection wall sat behind the arches. At the center of the rear projection wall, an 18-meter-wide portion was rigged with variable speed chain motors, enabling the designers to open and close the wall for a variety of lighting and projection effects.

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