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AV industry shines at ESC

130 trucks, each carrying 40 tons of equipment. 5,638 lighting fixtures. 8.5km of truss. 4,580 Barco tiles. 1,200 audio signals. Is there another event in the world that uses as much AV technology and skill as the Eurovision Song Contest?

The Eurovision Song Contest recently completed its 56th year, held at Düsseldorf Arena, marking the show’s first return to Germany since 1983. The production today is as well known for its technical achievements as for its lavish and sometimes unusual brand of musical performances. Nevertheless, Eurovision still intrigues audiences worldwide.

As well as the opportunity for each country to show off its musical prowess, the Eurovision Song Contest provides an excellent opportunity for the rental/staging community can do. Companies supplying the show included A&O, Barco, Cape Cross, Clay Paky, coolux, Creative Technology, d&b, MA Lighting, Riedel Communications, Robert Juliat, Stage Tec and Yamaha.

MA Lighting

German lighting designer Jerry Appelt, known for delivering big looks for music, television and everything in between specified a magnificent arsenal of lighting for the massive arena. More than 2,100 DMX controlled moving lights (5,638 fixtures total) with almost 42,000 parameters allowed 43 countries plus three interval acts and an over-the-top opening performance to have a completely unique look during the 3-hour broadcast.

100% control for all lighting and video came from MA Lighting. Four grandMA2 full-size consoles, each with a full backup, as well as five grandMA2 faderwings ran all lighting and video, triggered via timecode. Eleven MA NPUs (Network Processing Units) devices handled all traffic in one session on the MA-Net2. “It’s not even practical to do a show like this without timecode and grandMA2 is the best,” said Appelt, “Absolutely every millisecond is cued and then rehearsed again and again and again. There is no room for an error in a show of this size. The MA system delivered a great result.”

Four operators ran the desks: one for video, one for effect light, one for white light, and one for audience and green room. In total there were 70 patched universes and 2,921 cues.
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Approximately 8.5km of truss were required to suspend the 280 tons of equipment for the show. The truss structure, approximately 20m directly above the stage, consisted of three rings of 10m, 16m and 30m diameter, with a fourth ring over the satellite stage used for hosts and some of the performances. The main stage centre rings held 60 Clay Paky Alpha series fixtures – a mixture of Alpha Wash 1500, Alpha Beam 1500 and Alpha Profile 1500 fixtures, creating a variety of bright effects to the stage below.

Moving truss sections were arranged like spokes from the ring trusses. The truss sections held an additional 28 Alpha Wash 1500s and 36 Alpha Beam 1500s with four shorter truss sections holding 24 Alpha Wash 1500 fixtures.
Additional truss stretching the ceiling to the perimeter of the arena held 35 Alpha Profile 1500s and 42 Alpha Spot HPE 1500 fixtures. Finally, the top perimeter of the arena was home to an additional 50 Alpha Spot HPE 1500 fixtures. To match the intensity from above, Appelt placed 24 Alpha Beam 1500s and 24 A&O Falcon Xenon 3K flowers on the floor behind the stage and along the sides for a full range of effects.

Follow spots had full coverage as well with six Robert Juliat Aramis 2500W HMI DMX main spots on the platform, five Robert Juliat Victor 1800W HMI as back followspots on truss seats and four Robert Juliat Lancelot 4000W HMI followspots on the balcony. Lighting was supported with 48 ETC 750W Source 4 10° fixtures.

Cape Cross of Cologne, Germany provided all lighting and rigging for the show, sending 130 trailer trucks, each with 40 tons of equipment. “grandMA2 is a very popular brand for us,” said Thomas Brügge, managing director of Cape Cross. “The grandMA2 is a smart console and it’s great that we can totally rely on MA Lighting.”

All video content was operated off eight MA VPUs (video processing units) each with full backup. A Barco Encore system was responsible for routing the signals from the OB truck to the LED wall. Video equipment and servers were supplied by Creative Technology.

All media equipment was housed next to FOH and operated by Michael Giegerich off a grandMA2 and managed by Stephan Flören (media server technician). The graphics were created by the screen design team from Gravity, Julien Rigal, Falk Rosental and Thomas Neese.

Video content was displayed on a 67m wide by 18m tall CT Spider 30 N5 LED screen forming the back wall of the stage. 2,100 Barco MiSTRIP 1480mm and 165 MiSTRIP 375mm plus 2,480 Barco MiTRIX tiles were used for visual detailing around the stage and the movable rings overhead. Twelve R20 projectors were used for the audience screens. Even the satellite stage and Green room got special treatment with 400m of Schnick Schnack Systems strips built into surfaces.

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24 FALCON FLOWER 3000W fixtures from A & O Technology were installed at floor level with four placed on each side of the stage at its widest position and another 12 lined along the back LED stage wall. Four more were placed on the catwalks in front of the stage.16 FALCON FLOWER 7000W were placed in the ceiling, with eight hung on moving truss directly behind the stage.

The FALCON FLOWER is a Xenon multi-beam effect-light with colour changer, pan-and-tilt movement, electronic and mechanical dimmer, douser, electronic strobe and integrated electronic power supply. An infinitely variable, rotating reflector produces up to 30 individual beams. The fixture delivered an exciting punch to many of the songs on Eurovision with multibeam effects in the shape of stars or flowers or just a simple yet powerful beam.

“The FALCONs rock – there was no doubt when those things were fired, the effects were awesome,” said concert and stage producer Ola Melzig, who has worked on nine Eurovision productions, and who worked closely with the delegations and artistes regarding the details of each performance including lighting, video, pyro, sound and camera angles. “Jerry Appelt used them for very special looks and I can tell you, those countries were thrilled.”

“I use the 3K all the time,“ said Appelt. “It’s very powerful and when I need that look, it’s the only one I go to. Düsseldorf Arena is huge and I wanted beams to reach to every corner. This was actually the first time I used the 7K and the results were fantastic. Really great light and nice beam effects – I’ll definitely use them again.”

“We use FALCONs in almost every show we do – they’re incredibly strong,” said Thomas Brügge. “Not many lights can do what they do. The Xenon is a very special form of light. I’ve seen many companies try to copy it but none have succeeded like the FALCON. It’s really brilliant.”

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The coolux Widget Designer 3.0 PRO was used at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to control the three DVI-matrices (32×32, 16×16, 8×8). If needed, the Widget Designer could have been used to easily change over to VPU backup systems.

The Widget Designer was also used to control the KVM switch and the preview for the VPU supervisor and the operator.

“The Widget Designer is a very versatile tool that gives me a lot of creative freedom for my show control setups,” said Stephan Floeren, CEO of presents e.K., who handled the VPU supervision and operation for the production.

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Stage Tec

As ‘Official Supplier’ and partner of German public broadcaster NDR, Stage Tec provided all the mixing consoles used to broadcast this years Grand Prix. Four AURUS digital audio mixing systems, each with 48 faders and a full complement of DSP, were on site. Three were installed in mobile control rooms the NDR had set up on the Arena campus; the fourth was in one of NDR’s HD outside broadcast trucks. In this set-up two of the four sound control rooms undertook all the broadcast sound mixing. The first did the music mix and passed its output to the second which produced the international sound feed. The third and fourth sound control rooms acted purely as backups and were therefore equipped with identical hardware and were able to take over seamlessly in case of any failure of the main system.

Each control room had its own NEXUS network with extensive fibre-optic cabling to allow it to operate independently of the other NEXUS units. The four NEXUS units also exchanged their audio data via MADI to form a single audio network for the entire TV compound.

“The whole installation was planned for maximum reliability by NDR in an outstanding manner,” said Dr. Klaus-Peter Scholz, one of the MEDIAGROUP’s managing directors.

As is now the norm for international events, the sound feed was produced in both 5.1 and stereo simultaneously. This was why the backup consoles featured the same abundant DSP capabilities as the main consoles. The signals from the broadcast centre reached more than 120 million viewers across Europe via more than 40 networks.

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Riedel Communications

The organisers of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, EBU and NDR, used a comprehensive fibre-based MediorNet system from Riedel Communications to distribute video, audio and communications signals at the event. Riedel, who mmanufacture real-time networks for HD video, audio and communications, installed a versatile system comprising MediorNet, RockNet, Artist and Performer components, turning the former football stadium into a 15,000 square meter TV broadcast studio.

To provide the broadcast infrastructure and the signal distribution backbone, Riedel installed a comprehensive system that distributed 70 HD/SD-SDI video signals, 1,200 audio signals and 734 communications ports. A total of 70 MediorNet mainframes were used to integrate the various positions and departments into a single system, including the TV compound, commentator positions and the press centre. MediorNet was responsible for transporting the broadcast signals to the OB trucks and distributing the video signals within the arena, for example to the monitors on various visitor floors, the video walls, as well as the green room and the commentator booths. “MediorNet’s network approach allowed us to keep full flexibility regarding the signal distribution and allowed us to monitor the complete installation”, said Simon Korzen, project director for the ESC at Riedel Communications.

To guarantee a trouble-free event the entire system was set up with at least one layer of redundancy. Redundancy was implemented not only in regards to cabling but also on a hardware level. Whether it was the redundant OB truck setup, redundant MediorNet hubs or the possibility to broadcast via satellite or two 125 Mbit/s MLPS data links (also provided by Riedel), the redundant setup secured the system against single points of failure.

“It was one of EBU’s and NDR’s major demands to provide a flexible redundancy concept,” said Korzen. “With our MediorNet system we were not only able to provide a reliable system but we could also install everything very quickly and with a lot less effort than a solution over copper would have required,”.

Around 1,200 audio signals were transported via MediorNet and RockNet during the event. To distribute the wireless microphone signals from the splitter world to the FOH, the monitor mix or the amp racks, an elaborate RockNet installation with connections to the MediorNet system was used.

The digital and analog outputs of the Sennheiser wireless receivers were used independently to feed an analog and a digital RockNet module. In this way, hardware redundancy was achieved at the earliest stage. RockNet expansion cards for digital Yamaha mixing consoles integrated the Yamaha PM5D consoles at the FOH and the monitor consoles into the audio network. The connections to amp racks in the ceiling and to the OB trucks in the TV compound were realized via MediorNet and RockNet links.
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Eurovision was broadcast to more than 120 million viewers worldwide, with a total of 48 commentator booths used for broadcasting the event. Each booth was equipped with a Riedel Artist CCP-1116 commentary control panel. A combination of Riedel Artist and MediorNet systems was used to set up the commentary infrastructure. The system at the commentary position was installed independently. Via MADI links it was connected to the MediorNet system of the arena, which was responsible for transporting the signals to the TV compound. Riedel Connect Duo ISDN codecs provided the ISDN connections needed for the commentator booths.

In addition to the commentator control panels, two TV screens were used in each booth. While one screen provided the program, the second monitor offered parallel information on the voting and additional camera positions simultaneously. Due to MediorNet’s integrated Quadsplit-feature this could be done within MediorNet without the need for additional hardware.

All important positions at the event, from the director to the follow spot operators, were integrated into a comprehensive communications infrastructure including Riedel Artist digital matrix intercom, Riedel Performer digital partyline as well as digital and analog radio systems. The distribution of this infrastructure was taken care of by Riedel Artist and MediorNet, translating into significant savings of time and effort during setup and installation. A Riedel Juggler interface and various Riedel RiFace modules integrated the radio infrastructure directly into the wired communications system. This allowed every unit of the 500 mobile TETRA radios to easily communicate directly with dedicated intercom ports and vice versa.

Riedel’s responsibility was more than just distributing video, audio and communications signals. The signal distribution and the IT infrastructure within the press centre, located two hundred meters away from the arena, was also provided by the German network specialist. A total of 1,000 workspaces with Internet access, 400 laptops, 28 Wi-Fi access points and 60 printers were installed. Furthermore, Riedel managed the entire Internet connection of up to four Gbits/second for the facility. The press centre also featured an individual OB truck to broadcast press conferences. Integrated into the arena’s infrastructure over a redundant fiber link, it offered a seamless transfer of all signals between the two locations. This fiber link also enabled the distribution of all broadcast feeds to the press centre for feeding the installed monitors.

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More than 20 Yamaha digital mixing consoles were used at the Eurovision Song Contest to help ensure that the sound matched the spectacle.

Yamaha worked closely with rental company Neumann & Müller to provide an audio system that would provide both high quality sound and cast-iron reliability. The event’s senior sound engineer (PA), Jochen Jensen, approached Yamaha’s Arthur Koll, with a view to using a system which had a great focus on redundancy.

“I came up with a concept for the show in June 2010 and we worked on it through to April this year, when we set it up at Neumann & Müller’s premises for four days of testing,” said Koll. “On 19th April the rig was set up at the Esprit Arena and from then on it was 24 hour working, through the two semi-finals on 10th and 12th May, until after the final on 14th May.”

The huge Yamaha system included five PM1D, six PM5D-RH, three M7CL, a DM2000 and several 01V96 digital mixing consoles, plus two DME64N digital mixing engines and a range of MSP5 powered monitors.

Redundancy was extremely important, as the show was being broadcast live and there was only 45 seconds between acts, so each of the main consoles had a duplicate backup in place. Thus two PM1Ds were used for monitors, two PM5Ds for the main front of house mix, two PM5Ds for the vocal effects mix and two more for the continuity mix between acts. Separate PM1Ds mixed the performance by Stefan Raab and Jan Delay during the intermission, while the votes were collated, and another PM1D was located in a rehearsal room.

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Creative Technology

For many viewers, the Eurovision Song Contest was dominated by a 1,250 square metre expanse of Spider 30 LED screen, which completely filled one end of the Esprit football stadium in Dusseldorf. “That’s almost the entire worldwide inventory of Spider30,” said Creative Technology’s MD Dave Crump.

“There are twelve 10 x 6m projection screens with Barco HD20 projectors flown out in the audience area,” said head of CT’s Dusseldorf Office, Alex Klaus, “and over three thousand pieces of Barco MiTRIX and MiSTRIP in the lighting system or built into the stage set. All of this required video processors, data feeds and power, as did the further 1,600 pieces of Schnick-Schnack strips we built into the Green Room back stage.”

Feeding the projectors spread across the nine hectares of roof space was a challenge that paled into insignificance compared to routing mains and data to the Barco LED elements throughout the lighting rig and stage set. “The LED elements were extremely widespread,” explained Klaus, “and there’s a finite limit to how far a given video processor can transmit data. Those two factors combined to mean we needed far more processors than the destination LEDs required, and we had to build the cables to go with them.” Ten kilometres of new data and mains cable was commissioned to connect a vast array of Omix controllers and DX700 processors sourced from rental companies across the globe.

“Our design concept was simple enough,” said set designer Florian Wieder. “We elected to use a relatively small stage at 15m diameter to retain a certain intimacy; after all, there’s only ever a maximum six people on stage. But to then make the 36,000 people out in the audience feel part of the show we had LED strips integrated into the lighting rig above, and into the arena floor below, all the way to the extremities of what would normally be the football field.” Lighting designer Jerry Appelt agreed. “It gives a sense of scale without losing the tight atmosphere on stage. The fusion of lighting and video content streaming from the MA Servers CT has kindly invested in specifically for us, has allowed us to create a coherent visual environment that works for the broadcast image without compromise to the visual spectacle for the audience in the stadium.”

The final element in the CT jigsaw was the content playback and screen control system. Two identical systems were installed, allowing 100% redundancy and operated in parallel by dedicated engineers. Each system included seven MA servers, selected by Appelt and purchased by CT for the project; image compositing was performed with Barco Encore and signal routing and distribution handled by a pair of DVI matrix’s outputting over 6 kilometres of fibre cabling to the various processing and projection locations.

CT believes that its investment in new MA VPU media servers, and especially in the new mains and data cabling, now places its inventory perfectly for future massive scale events.

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“Bearing in mind this was staged in a football stadium, the sound was outstanding,” said Ola Melzig, production manager for the Eurovision Song Contest since 2000, and well placed to pronounce on such things.

For the team at d&b audiotechnik, the challenge of the Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf was sheet metal – nine hectares of it to be precise. “The roof structure is enormous, all corrugated metal,” said Jochen Jensen, head of sound for the live event at Nord Deutsche Rundfunk (the German broadcaster). “With a reverberation time of six to eight seconds it was absolutely critical we keep sound energy from hitting the roof, or reflecting off the floor up to it. My first thought was, who are the specialists who can help me with this?” Fortunately for Jensen he had an old colleague from his early days spent working in Hamburg who knew a lot about stadium sound. “I called Ralf Zuleeg at d&b audiotechnik and asked if he could help. It will require a big commitment from d&b, I warned him.”

“Yes of course we wanted to do it,” said Zuleeg, “Who wouldn’t?” Management agreed, not least Werner ‘Vier’ Beyer, the so called ears of d&b, “with such a huge ‘no compromise’ production comes a chance to learn and experience handling of this sized genre of live sound reinforcement. Great, I said, let’s look deeper into it.”

The resulting system comprising over three hundred loudspeakers embracing three main elements from the d&b range of products Q, J and T-Series, and for distinctly different functions. “In collaboration with my old friend Jochen we conceived a distributed system solution that properly delivered the correct direct-to-reverberant ratio throughout the venue,” explained Zuleeg. “In simple terms, a set of three concentric circles of PA radiated out from the main stage. The first ring needed to point acutely down onto the front rows of the audience; and consider this: we had to fly every part of the PA above eighteen metres to be clear of the camera angles. For this the Q-Series with its lighter weight and slightly narrower dispersion angle proved ideal. We adapted the Q rigging system to take flying frames top and bottom of the line array to achieve the necessary acute downward angle. For the next two rings the J-Series took the main role; here the need to tilt down was not so acute, but the throw distances were typically fifty-five to sixty-five metres. Finally the T-Series was used for the upper ‘nosebleed’ seats at the very top of the grandstands; here the audience were so high relative to the stage that the need to use a physically smaller line array that could still deliver the required punch without blocking their sightlines was essential.”

All d&b equipment was supplied by Crystal Sound with support from the wider d&b network, overseen by Simon Klumpp, with all consoles front of house and monitors provided by Neumann & Muller. “I think NDR is fortunate to have a man of Jochen’s calibre to oversee such an event,” concluded Zuleeg. “There can’t be many TV companies in the world who have a man with the kind of skills he brings to the event.” Jensen pronounced it a job well done. “They all did an excellent job,” he said. “This show was all about performance; the PA system, the personnel, and most importantly the artists themselves. All produced a world class result.”