TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES IN FIVE YEARS TIME

Since 1956, Eurovision Song Contest is a competition which is held annually between the active countries, members of EBU (European Broadcasting Union).

What does this musical competition consist of?

It is very simple. Every country announces its participation for that respective year. It will be organized a national selection for every country in order to designate its representative. There is another option, the internal selection, but this selection is used just by a few countries. Once every country has its representative, all the songs will be published on the official YouTube channel, Eurovision Song Contest. According to the number of views, likes or dislikes, we can establish the preferences of this musical phenomenon’s followers. The voting system suffered some changes along the years, this year being similar to the Swedish national selection’s (Melodifestivalen) voting system. In the past, the results of the national juries and televoting were presented as combined, each of them counting 50% of the final score. But this year was not the same. Each spokesperson from the participating countries will be called to present the points given from the jury. In the previous years, the displayed points were from 1 to 7, and the points from 8 to 12 were pronounced with more emotions, but this year was not like that anymore. The points on the screen were displayed from 1 to 10, without 9, obviously, just the maximum points being pronounced by the spokesperson of every country. After all the viewers voted by phone, SMS or the official Eurovision app, the televote points from every participating country were combined, being made a draft for every song. These points will be announced starting with the country that got the lowest points from the televote, for creating a bigger suspense. After all these points were granted, we can say that we have a winner, respectively the country that will organize next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The last years’ technological evolution

In the last years, the technology and the production of the show have considerably improved. In the next paragraphs I will make a short presentation of the last years:

2011

In 2011, Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by Germany, in Düsseldorf, because of Lena Meyer Landrut’s victory, with her song “Satellite”. With a capacity of 24,000 seats, ESPRIT Arena hosted this big event. Among these seats, another 1.500 were provided for the journalists. This arena, with a total surface of 15,000 m2, was the place where not less than 32,000 fans took part to this event.

Some technical details:

  • 1250sqm LED screen
  • 12 10m x 6m BARCO FLM HD
  • 1000 projectors
  • 2500 moving lights (They include over 1,100 movable, automated light sources and 1,000 other multifunctional lights, e.g. LEDs which are mounted on more than seven kilometers of rigging beams).
  • More than 1.200 audio signals
  • 734 communications ports
  • Total amount of cables: 35 km
  • 1080 square meters of LED
  • 25 cameras were used during the show. That includes four camera cranes, two steady cams and two wireless, portable cameras. Below the ceiling, a so-called spider cam which can be steered to any position in the arena and a camera on rails which can be lowered twelve meters provide an overview of the entire arena.
  • Around 90 microphones, handheld and headsets, were used in the ESC shows. The total amplification power will amount to 350,000 watts.
  • The stage on the arena’s football pitch had a diameter of 13 meters. A 60 meters wide and 18 meters high LED wall with 520 light elements.
  • Total cost: $38.9 millions

2012

It took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, after Ell&Nikki won the contest in 2011 with the song “Running Scared”. This is considered to be the most expensive Eurovision show, its costs being estimated at 390 million dollars, just the costs of the construction of Baku Crystal Hall being estimated at 350 million dollars. With a capacity of 25,000 seats, only 16,000 tickets were sold that year.

Some technical details:

  • A different stage with 5 main LED screens was set up, included by TWO satellites(one heading to the green room).
  • More than 1.400 moving lights (2.891 fixtures total)
  • More than 150 wireless microphone and monitoring links will be operating in the newly-built Baku Crystal Hall
  • MA Lighting took 100% control of the show: 8 x grandMA2 full-size consoles, as well as 5 x grandMA2 fader wing ran all lighting, 15 x MA NPU (Network Processing Unit) devices and 21 x MA NSP (Network Signal Processor).
  • The Parasol KLR system allows moving lights to move along a circular truss in any configuration at up to 60 inches per second.
  • Almost noiselessly the fully stabilized NettmannStabC Compact head with camera speeds down from the ceiling of the Crystal Hall in Baku, held by two ropes running through a winch, being powered by a 7.000 watt motor, the camera system reaches top speeds of approximately 6 m/s.
  • Since mid-April, 60 carpenters, decorators, electricians, painters, draughts men and fitters have been working shifts day and night to create the stage concept.
  • Furthermore, Riedel was responsible for five wireless video camera systems consisting of Grass Valley LDK 8000 equipment including wireless transceivers.
  • The material was transported from Germany to Azerbaijan using 2 entire trains of the German Federal Railways, 100 40-ft-containers, 2 Boeing 747 cargo aircrafts and 110 40-ton trucks.
  • Total amount of cables: 40-45 km
  • Three concentric rings of a Parasol KLR (Kinetic Light Ring) system with circular motion, equipped with Alpha Beam 1500s, were used over the stage for a dynamic effect
  • The 2012 Finals had a live viewing audience of 23.000 plus an estimated 125 million television and internet viewers worldwide, making it the largest music television program in the world.

2013

This edition was held in Malmö, Sweden, after Loreen won the contest in Baku, with her song “Euphoria”. The executive producer of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013, Martin Österdahl, claimed that he does not agree with the decision of the last years’ hosts to organize the competition in very big arenas, stating that he and SVT wanted the 2013 edition to be „more personal and intimate”. So, this edition was held on Malmö Arena, having a maximum capacity of 15,500 seats. Since 2013, there is an official app for smart phones, which allows to all users to vote from their mobile phones without composing their SMS. The representative for the voted country will thank to the user by a pre-recorded message. The price for an SMS sent from this app is similar to the one sent manually.

Some technical details :

  • 1283 lighting fixtures
  • Total amount of cables: 64 km
  • 600 rigging points
  • 3500 meters of truss
  • 14 hippotizers
  • 4 graphic designers and 2 lighting designers
  • 800 moving lights
  • 12 GrandMa Light consoles
  • 500 control channels
  • 23 cameras
  • 200 tons rigged into the roof
  • 28 Barco HDQ40s, 6 megawatt generator farm, 8 sound consoles
  • 30 transport trucks
  • 210 speakers
  • The official list includes all kinds of lighting fixtures: 50 Alpha Beam 1500s, 50 Alpha Profile 1500s, 129 Alpha Spot HPE 1500s, 40 Alpha Spot QWO 800s, 58 Aleda K10 LED wash lights, 49 Aleda K5s, 50 battery-powered Glow Up Strip 100 LED bars, 200 Sharpy „beams” and 75 brand new Sharpy Washes.
  • 96-channel wireless microphone system
  • 96 microphone channels of Sennheiser’s top-of-the-range 9000 Series, plus 28 wireless monitoring channels of the 2000 IEM Series with a total of 160 body pack receivers. 150 frequencies were coordinated for the microphone and monitoring requirements in Malmö Arena and the ESC press centre.
  • A total of 11 x grandMA2 light consoles were used for running lighting and video.
  • BlackTrax – CAST Group’s revolutionary 6D live tracking solution, BlackTrax, made its big show debut at the 2013. During the performance by Urban Orchestra, BlackTrax was used to track BMX riders and rollerblades onstage, enabling effects to be projected on the floor at their exact position, without any lag or drift of the effect from the performer. Dancers, meanwhile, performed in line with pre-programmed effects and therefore were required to be in exactly the right position at the right time in order for effects to follow them accurately.
  • BlackTrax was then used during the final of the contest for Loreen who, along with several other aerialist performers, was tracked while ‘flying’ above the stage.

2014

This edition was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, at B&W Hallerne, after Emmelie de Forest won the contest with her song “Only Teardrops”. The Danish broadcaster, DR, announced that the contest will be organized on B&W Hallerne, on Refshaleøen, an island from Copenhagen. B&W Hallerne has a capacity of 10,000 seats. We can see that, from 2011 until 2014, due to the enormous costs for the hosting of this contest, it was decided that this contest should be organized at an increasingly lower scale.

Some technical details:

  • This year’s 35m x 20m Eurovision stage is designed around a glowing cube, showcasing the industrial heritage of the B&W Hallerne venue – a former shipyard. The cube itself consists of 120 modules with a special surface of projection film, which allows the display of pictures or animation. Mediatec Solutions took care of integrating the Barco gear into this setting, just as it did last year.
  • 46,320 parameters
  • 138 universes 1,380 moving lights
  • 1,500 spot (conventional, LED, effect)
  • 10 km of data cable, 12 km of power multi-core cable, 6 km of power cable
  • Danish lighting designer Kasper Lange relied on 7 x grandMA2 full-size and 2 x grandMA2 light consoles, 19 x MA NPU (Network Processing Unit) and 9 x MA 8Port Node for control.
  • Martin Moving Lights and PRG Bad Boys, Clay PakySharpy Wash 330, Clay Paky Alpha Beam 1500, Philips Vari*Lite VL3500 Spot, Philips Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash and Philips Vari*Lite VL5 were in the lighting rig.
  • The MA part of the ESC network used 17 x LuminexGigaCore switches.

2015

The contest was held in Austria after Conchita Wurst won the contest in 2014, with her song “Rise Like A Phoenix”. The contest was held at Wiener Stadthalle, a multifunctional covered stadium from Vienna, Austria. The arena was designed by the Austrian architect Roland Rainer, between 1953 and 1958. The capacity of this arena is approximately 16,152 seats. That year, Australia was invited as a special guest to participate and taste the feeling of the Eurovision Song Contest, although it is not an European country, as you probably might know.

Some technically details:

  • The stage consists of 1288 individual pillars and measures 44 meters in width, 14,3metres in height and up to 22 meters in depth. The LED pillars can produce a wide variety of lighting effects as can the 11 meter diameter stage floor. In the background, there is another LED wall of 22 meters wide and 8,5 meters high.
  • 26 cameras will cover the three shows, including spider cams and a camera hanging from Wiener Stadthalle’s ceiling. That hasn’t been used in Europe before. Austria has taken the contest to the next level.
  • 58 commentating booths have been placed just behind the green room, which will include a wide LED wall and a catwalk to the stage, dividing the arena in two.
  • A spectacular kinetic sculpture consisting of more than 600 spheres was made possible with the unique winch from Wahlberg Light & Motion Design. 
  • One winch pr. ball is necessary to program the whole group of balls into diving, soaring and dancing in various formations.
  • The song contest’s techies took the unprecedented precaution of installing anti-booing technology to protect the Russian contestant Polina Gagarina.
  • Total amount of cables: 25-30 km

2016

The contest was held in Sweden, because of the fact that Måns Zelmerlöw won the previous edition with his song „Heroes”. The event was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in the premises of Ericcson Globe. The hall has an approximately capacity of 16,000 seats and hosted the event for the second time, after hosting it in 2000 as well. This year, the voting system has changed, being now similar to the Swedish national selection’s  (Melodifestivalen) voting system. What did this new voting system consist of? Each national spokesperson from the participating countries was called to present the points of the national juries. In the previous years, the displayed points were from 1 to 7, and the points from 8 to 12 were pronounced with more emotions, but this year was not like this anymore. The points on the screen were displayed from 1 to 10, without 9, obviously, just the maximum points being announced by the spokesperson of every country. After all the viewers voted by phone, SMS or the official Eurovision app, the televote points from every participating country were combined, being made a draft for every song. These points were announced starting with the country that got the lowest points from the televote, for creating a bigger suspense.

Some technical details:

  • Total amount of cable: 143 kilometers
  • 220 people required to run the live broadcast
  • 1828 fixtures
  • Consumes 854 000 watts
  • 900 square meters of high resolution LEDs
  • 71 000 002 pixel resolution
  • 12 HDQ 40 projectors (the worlds largest video projector)
  • 134 speakers
  • 345 000 watt output
  • 64 microphones
  • 18 IEM systems (In-ear monitor)
  • 152 IEM receiver (In-ear monitor)
  • 7 sound desks
  • 480 channels in the opt loop
  • 32 people involved to run sound during broadcast
  • 109 tones of rigged gear in the roof
  • 78 cyber hoists
  • 350 rigging points
  • 1 397 meters of truss
  • 4,64 megawatts at full capacity
  • 10 Generators
  • 10,000 liters of fuel used every day
  • Stage weight 65 tones
  • 220 square meter performance area
  • Height 15,5 meters
  • Width 50 meters
  • Depth 32 meters
  • 2 000 square meter high gloss surface
  • The wall alone is built of 5 397 pieces of scaffolding

40 stage technicians will handle the changeover during broadcast

We can note the fact that more and more technology advances and a simple song with a simple staging does not bring benefits anymore. That is why, in the last two years, more and more artists carefully chose to combine their shows, the songs and the emotions in a perfect whole, in order to be remarked. As a parallel to the previous years, in the past, the voice and the emotion of an artist could make the difference, but now it is not enough. You should know how to “fill in” the stage, how to catch the public’s eye so that when they watch you to be able to say “Yes, man! This country deserves my vote.”


Serban and Georgiana contributed to this article


 

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