ESC2019 – Interviews

Here we are with the second part of our report from the 2019 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (you can find the first part here), in which we conduct a series of exclusive interviews with Ronen Najar, one of the two Lighting Designers who created this incredible lighting show, as well as Angelo Di Nella, programmer and operator of the main lighting console for to the stage. We also speak with Edoardo Michelori, from Agorà rental, who will talk about the audio setup inside the Expo Tel Aviv.

Ronen Najar welcomed us the day before the final evening in the heart of the lighting direction, taking place in the final row of the expo’s pavilion 2. The rehearsals for Madonna’s performance had just taken place here, strictly behind closed doors. With the entire team completing final touches before moving to the arena for the final, a visibly tired but satisfied Ronen enthusiastically responded to our questions, reflecting his passion for the show that was to be impeccably managed on a technical level and where everything worked perfectly.

LightSoundJournal: So, Ronen, first of all we want to know you a little better…

Ronen Najar: I am an Israeli lighting designer, 45 years of age, and have been designing for about 20 years. This has mainly been for touring, live events and musicals – mostly for events taking place in Israel. For this adventure, I have collaborated with Dakar Azulay, with whom I designed both stage and scenes. We are close friends and have been working together for several years. Dakar is more specialised in television, so working together has made it possible to shorten preparations whilst still maintaining a high quality.

Photo: Ralph Larmann

LightSoundJournal: Would you tell us about the ESC workflow, from the concept to the relationship with the delegations?

Ronen Najar: The stage was designed by Florian Wieder and inspired by the triangles that together make up the star of David. From there, as you can imagine, managing 41 delegations and 41 completely different shows is extremely complex, especially when there are specific requests regarding basic colour, video content and scenic additions that often include additional light fixtures. We have no direct contact with the delegations, but there is a technical / creative team that acts as a pre-filter to the various requests and that, after the first test, provides us with feedback. Most of the time, this was used to understand how to make the delegations happy and overall create an excellent show, finding an optimal combination between delegation requests and our ideas.

LightSoundJournal: Let’s go into the specifics, tell us about the lights the rig is composed of.

Ronen Najar: In total there are 1600 fixtures for the main stage and 200 in the Green Room, most of which are LED, with a crew of 30 lighting staff including 12 designers, operators and spot controllers, as well as 16 operators on a follow spot. For the fixtures, we wanted to save as much as possible in terms of power, as well as analysing novelties regarding the LED sources, making the most of the geometry of the triangle. Broadly speaking in terms of brands, we have entrusted Claypaky with the role of special effect, with the Sharpy Plus and Axcor Profile 600 positioned inside and around the luminous triangles on the roof. The Scenius Unico is utilised for the high and low backlight between the screen and stage, whilst the Sharpy Washes are entirely dedicated to public lighting, with further Axcor 600s for the lighting of the sets of the various artists.

Robe was instead chosen mainly for the key-lights, with the BMFL WashBeams on the roof and on the stage, alongside the BMFL Spots, essential to ensure constant lighting for the television directors, remaining consistent with the stage. We also have MegaPointes, distributed among the trusses suspended above the audience and on the stage, and useful for some effects during the performances.

As for DTS, we have the KATANA installed on the main stage and on the sides of the stage, as well as above the audience, essential in giving continuity to the triangular pattern of the ceiling. Their blades of light surround the audience throughout the venue, with the Synergy Profile inside of the Green Room.

Ayrton is present with a large number of MagicBlades, used to support the LED Wall. They are located across the bottom and along the side walls, interspersed with Khamsin-TC profiles, while the Bora-TC has been chosen for the lighting of the various delegations in the Green Room. GLP products’ JDC-1 strobes and X4 Bar 20s are also used, with SGM LED bars and 94 Q7 installed on the backdrop and above the stage.

Photo: Ralph Larmann

LightSoundJournal: How did you set the lights for TV footage?

Ronen Najar: We use a colour temperature between 5000K and 5700K, which is not too hot nor too blue and with a slight accent towards pink. The level of the keylights on the stage is balanced compared to the rest of the rig lights. We don’t use too much smoke, only haze, and we check the balance between backlight and the LEDWall with a series of presets, in order to obtain the same light intensity throughout the entire evening.

LightSoundJournal: Did you pre-program and simulate the various scenes before setting up?

Ronen Najar: A 1-month pre-programming session with Cast Wysiwyg was organised in an area not far from Hall 2, together with the video crew. For the first time we have been able to simulate not only the lights and the video, but also the movements of the cameras and the various shots.

LightSoundJournal: To conclude, just a few hours before the final evening, what have been the critical issues in the realisation of this event?

Ronen Najar: The only challenge was time, with a huge job that concerned the management of requests from the delegations, and not least the particular attention for the performance of Madonna.

Whilst I was getting some photos of the various lighting stations, I hear a familiar voice behind me. “Please tell me something in Italian! I’ve been here for a month!”, I turn around and see Angelo Di Nella, a well-known MA Lighting specialist, sitting in front of a Full Size MA right in the middle of control. We had to seize the opportunity for an interview!

Angelo Di Nella, Eyal Daniel and Ronen Najar

LightSoundJournal: How did you come to be involved in the contest and how long have you been here?

Angelo di Nella: The company I belong to, Cerebro Lab, was contacted directly by Ronen Najar. I have been here in Tel Aviv for a month and specifically I am in charge of programming and its execution.

LightSoundJournal: This is a control area rich in consoles and operators from all across the globe. How did you interface with one another?

Angelo di Nella: The team does indeed come from all over the world: Bulgaria, South Africa, Germany, Israel and of course Italy. For me, it is the first time in such an environment and I did not hide my initial concern. However, once I arrived in Tel Aviv I discovered that programmers communicate with one another at a level that goes beyond the language, uses and customs, making everything simpler. In addition, the two Lighting Designers had clear ideas on how to divide roles and tasks, making them able to able to create a unique synergy that allowed them to finish the work with serenity and tranquility.

LightSoundJournal: Do you want to describe what all these consoles are for?

Angelo di Nella: Between the main stage, where we are now and the Green Room, there are 15 grandMA2 consoles, including backup consoles. Three full-sized consoles plus one backup are part of the main show desk group, whilst 11 grandMA2 light (of which five are backup), are used for programming the various remaining sectors with different functions (key light, public, Green Room, playback videos etc …). Furthermore, Dakar has a full-size grandMA from which it manages the key-light levels and the various intensities for the cameras.

Dakar Azulay

LightSoundJournal: let’s leave the professional role for a moment. In a few words, what does this experience in Tel Aviv represent to you?

Angelo di Nella: It represents a lot because we are talking about the most watched televised music show in the world. So being here is certainly the result of many years of in-depth study. This year’s slogan was Dare to Dream, which is incredibly fitting in what it means to me. I won’t hide that working at the Eurovision Song Contest is an experience I’ve always wanted to have!

Given the tight deadlines and in order not to disturb the various crews involved in the final, at the end of the event we reached Edoardo Michelori, System Engineer and PA Manager for Agorà who oversaw the entire distribution system inside the Expo. The various L’Acoustics clusters were scattered widely between the Main Stage and Green Room.

Agorà crew

LightSoundJournal: Who was involved in the PA project and how was it divided up and managed?

Edoardo Michelori: The system design was developed directly by the local Heads of Sound, Yair Goren and Yossi Edri, taking inspiration from the experience of previous editions. In the next step everything was assimilated and discussed in Agorà and a team composed by Federico Rizzi, Nicola Pisano and me were responsible for recreating and testing the system in stock. All this with the collaboration and support of Technical Director Domenico Cerqua. Once in Tel Aviv, our team considerably expanded to proceed with the assembly and disassembly phases in the required time, giving the resident technicians a “turnkey” system. The following team members were added: Fabrizio De Amicis and Daniele Carillo as PA Main, Andrea Tesini as RF Engineer, Giovanni De Santis and Pablo Consoli as Riggers and finally Giulio Rovelli as Project Manager. Once the preparation of the system at the venue was finished, it was Federico, Andrea and my job to keep everything operational and check that everything ran perfectly.

LightSoundJournal: Can you describe the setup?

Edoardo Michelori: The PA for the Main Room was composed of 40 x L-Acoustics K2 (2 x 6 K2 Front Fill – 2 x 6 K2 Main – 2 x 8 K2 Delay), 12 x L-Acoustics KS28 (4 x 3 KS28 in end-fire configuration in two rows), 24 x L-Acoustics KARA (2 x 6 KARA Out Fill – 2 x 6 KARA Stage Side Fill), 6 x L-Acoustics LA-RAK and 2 x L-Acoustics LA-RAK II
In the Green Room we had 46 x L-Acoustics KARA (2 x 8 KARA Main – 2 x 6 KARA Out Fill – 2 x 9 KARA Delay), 4 x L-Acoustics KS28 (2 x 2 configuration), 4 x L-Acoustics LA -RAK and 1 x L-Acoustics LA-RAK II.

LightSoundJournal: How were the Optocore, redundancy and various mixer rings configured?

Edoardo Michelori: The distribution of the signal to the PA was independent for each location, based on Dante with primary and secondary systems. Each FOH console generated a MADI out that entered the respective REDNET D64R; the latter becoming TX Dante whilst the Lake functioned as RX. From the Lake, signal came out in AES / EBU and went to the finals.

In each room an additional level of redundancy has been implemented with an SD11, which has as input the matrices of the two FOH consoles. The analogue outputs of the SD11 powered the analogue input of the amplifiers. For tuning, I used LA NETWORK MANAGER 2.7 and a multi-microphone system based on Smaart 8 for analysis.

There were a total of 5 Optocore loops: two identical loops for reasons of redundancy, both on the main stage and within the Green Room, as well as a further single loop in the Rehearsal Room.

Each Main Stage loop consisted of 1 x DiGiCo SD 7 Core 2 Single Engine FOH, 1 x DiGiCo SD 7 Core 2 Single Engine MON, 1 x DiGiCo SD 9 Core 2, 3 x DiGiCo SD Rack, 1 x Optocore DD2 FR / FX and 1 x Optocore DD4 MR / FX.

In the Green Room we had 1 x DiGiCo SD 9 Core and 1 x DiGiCo SD Rack, while in the Rehearsal Room 1 x DiGiCo SD 7 Core 2 Dual Engine, 1 x DiGiCo SD Rack, 1 x Optocore DD2 FR / FX and 1 x Optocore DD4 MR / FX.

The Main Room loop included about 240 channels including microphones, bases and monitors.

LightSoundJournal: How were the various bases managed and how did you interface to the Broadcast?

Edoardo Michelori: The playbacks of the bases on which the artists sang was one of the fundamental aspects of the show. To guarantee extreme reliability, a system based on QLab4 was designed, consisting of 3 synchronized iMacs that left the management of their MADI flows to 4 EXBOX.BLDS. In this way it was possible to bear the breaking of two players without consequences.

All the “dirty work” of sorting the MADI signals and interfacing with the Broadcast was instead entrusted to 5 RME MadiRouter with redundancy of the flows on both Optocore loops … redundancy first of all!!!

LightSoundJournal: Any final considerations on the experience?

Edoardo Michelori: The key points for this event were redundancy, reliability, quality, flexibility and speed of use. These are features that can be found in all the products used.
Eurovision represents the optimal management of a TV show. If we look at the technical part for example, everything has redundancy, nothing is left to chance, and there is always a plan B. Every technician can work with the time needed to do his job the best thanks to the massive amount of tests, with no compromises existing. Everything must be done in the best possible way and with the right technologies. An example for each production. Finally, with regards to Agora, there were no particular difficulties or challenges; we came from the experience of the previous year, making made everything easier.

In short, three days on Israeli soil allowed us to witness a production where nothing is left to chance. This is one where the best technology in the field gives rise to a unique and exciting show, one where everything is organised to the smallest detail, with high skills of many who, as the slogan states, dare to dream.

We would like to thank the protagonists of this ESC for their availability, in taking the time to detail the technologies and, above all, the emotions in taking part in an event of this magnitude.

Walter Lutzu
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