This year’s edition of The Eurovision Song Contest, that was staged in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, again evinced how this event entered the Olympus of the most spectacular shows in the world, able to showcase the latest technologies with impressive numbers of professionals involved and a lot of quality and perfection. Thanks to the victory of the italian band Måneskin, the event, that ended a few days ago, projects us directly towards the next appointment in 2022 in Italy.
Due to the pandemic, this year we did not have the opportunity as in previous editions to follow the event directly on the spot, but thanks to the perfect organization set up by the production, we were able to meet via streaming some of the protagonists who have designed and made the impressive audio and visual setup, as well as knowing some rigging details, special effects and much more.
The Eurovision Song Contest Head of Production Erwin Rintjema was responsible for the whole technical production of broadcast and show. We could ask him a couple of questions.
LightSoundJournal: ESC 2021, an experience that took months of work. Can you briefly tell us about the various steps, how long took the load in, set-up and load out?
Erwin Rintjema: Absolutely! In our case it even took almost two years of work! In general what we tried to do is make sure that we had all the designs finished in October, also in the second year we were working on this, all the adapted designs and layouts incorporating all Covid-19 measures were done in October. After that we worked closely with the big suppliers in finalising all the technical plans and plannings, while at the same time working with our show team on the creative part of the opening- and interval acts. From January on full focus was of course on the participating countries, with all their entries and creative plans, trying to bring those ideas to life on our beautiful stage.
Load in started on the 11th of April, and we finished right on schedule on the 25th so we could continue with tech-rehearsals, stand-in rehearsals and show rehearsals so we were completely ready for all delegations to arrive from the 8th of May. So load in was about two weeks, amazing to be able to say that the load out was only 4 days! We started right after the Grand Final, so on the 23rd of May, and we delivered a clean venue on the 26th!
LightSoundJournal: Can you tell us what was the greatest criticality in managing the relationship with the delegations?
Erwin Rintjema: It was critical to always keep in mind that Eurovision is a CONTEST. This means that all delegations are fully focussed on their 3 minutes on stage. All of them have a story to tell, a creative plan, and the pressure is on to translate that to one of the biggest stages in the world and produce the best possible performance. So they really pushed us, all the way! We tried to service them as much as we could, by working together with them, trying to understand where they wanted to go performance wise and advise them on the (im)possibilities of all that we could do for them. Keeping the communication lines open at all times was crucial, and I think our contest team did a fantastic job!
The Host broadcaster that produced the ESC was NPO/NOS/AVROTROS on behalf of EBU.
But let’s go in order with starting to give you some numbers on the impressive array of ESC2021 lighting fixtures provided by Ampco Flashlight:
- 481 x Clay Paky XTYLOS
- 396 x Robe Spiider
- 220 x Robe LEDBeam 150
- 161 x Ayrton Huracán – X
- 140 x Ayrton Mini-Panel FX
- 100 x GLP Impression FR-10 bar
- 64 x Ayrton Karif – LT
- 35 x Robe Tetra 2
- 40 x GLP JDC1
- 10 x Astera AX-2 bar
- 10 x Martin AF-1 MK2
- 4 x MDG ATMe
- 4 x LOOK Viper NT
- 2 x MDG M3e
- 47 x Robe BMFL WashBeam (greenroom)
- 45 x Robe BFML WashBeam (audience)
- 20 x Robe BMFL WashBeam
- 19 x Ayrton Huracán – X
- 12 x Robe BFML Followspot LT
- 7 x Litra Studio
- 4 LaserAnimation Phaenon X30000 RGB with on board system control DSP and remote safety access.
The follow-spot setup was also impressive, with 14 RoboSpot controllers in multi-device mode managing 12 BMFL WashBeams, a BMFL Followspot LT and a Motion-cam. Everything was managed by a GrandMA3 in session 3 via Art-Net and all the devices were connected in a redundant network that carried the signals for the 26 cameras and the DMX-RDM information.
A single Follow-Me 3D SIX system with 3 console sets managed operating combinations of multiple lights as follow spot, in total 58 Ayrton Huracan-X and 6 Robe BMFL WashBeams. The PosiStageNet software communicated the various positions of the fixtures to the Follow Me system for correct calibration, while the dedicated MA3 console made the association between the fixture and the target. operating combinations multiple lights as follow spot
During the performance of the band Måneskin, 62 VDO Atomic Dots by Martin were used, inserted inside the staircase on which the drummer was positioned.
The approximately 3500 participants present at each evening were provided with the innovative CrowdLED remote control bracelets, managed directly by the FOH lighting consoles randomly distributed in 10 groups to create a sparkle effect and “light up” the audience with the colors of the delegation flag. The wearable devices are equipped with a one-way radio receiver and only one base station is needed to control a huge number of wristbands. It is a plug and play system that can be configured in less than 5 minutes.
Another important aspect is that the devices were not affected by the restrictions on the use of frequencies thanks to the low output power, low duty cycle and the ISM frequency band that did not interfere with wireless DMX signals, microphones or cameras.
Set Design & Lighting Design
The German company Wieder Design developed the concept of the entire scenography, collaborating with the content designers, lighting designers and directors of broadcast, as well as the various fitters and suppliers. Florian Wieder realized the initial idea, that was then transformed by his staff into photorealistic renderings. Subsequently the renderings were delivered to the Wieder art directors to be converted into CAD-3D models, floor plans and sections. The art directors managed the project until the final realization by networking all the suppliers, clients, directors, creative and technical managers.
Light-H-Art is the company that took care of the Lighting design and lighting programming of Eurovision Song Contest 2021, with l’Head Lighting Designer Henk-Jan van Beek , the person responsible for managing the various delegations and followspots Martin Beekhuizen and the operaters Joost Wijgers (key-light/followspots), Micky Dordregter (showlights), Robbert Jan Vernooij (showlight/audiance/set & prop lights), Andre Beekmans (showlight/audiance/set & prop lights), Erik Jan Berendsen (showlight/audiance/set & prop lights) and Bas Geersema Nightshift (showlight/audiance/set & prop lights).
The entire lighting setup was managed with 10 GrandMA3 consoles in FOH and 2 positioned on stage before the event for targeting operations. Everything was divided into three sessions:
- Session 1 with Main – Show lights, 15 PU;
- Session 2 with LED lines (including Green Hippo for about 700 universes), Augmented Reality, Crowdled wristbands, specials requested by the delegations, Hazer and fixture GLP FR10 Bar close to the cameratrack, 15 PU;
- Session 3 with Key-lights, Robospot/Follow-Me and camera-lights, 2 PU.
From the consoles it was also possible to control the intensity of the LED screens managed by Disguise GX2C and VX4 mediaserversand to use the lights around the LED screens as an Ambilight effect.
The universe and device monitoring was carried out by dmXLAN, network monitoring via PRTG. All devices were addressed via RDM and tested with the FixtureTester app on a mobile device.
We had the opportunity to carry out an exclusive interview with Henk-Jan van Beek who told us in detail the workflow and the critical issues of this event.
LightSoundJournal: Could you tell us about the ESC workflow, from the concept to the relationship with the delegations?
Henk-Jan van Beek: At the end of 2019 we were ready with the lighting and set design, then at the end of 2020 we have redrawn set changes concerning the green room and social distancing space as well as the interval acts, the various show blocks and the opening show. Finally from February this year we cared about the delegations and their wish lists. Then we started with stand-in rehearsals, 30-minutes rehearsals, 20 minutes rehearsals. After collecting and processing the various feedbacks, we moved on to the actual rehearsals of the show. From March 15th until April 21st we focused on pre-viz and pre-programming in a dedicated studio equipped with CuePilot system and 6 Capture stations, addressing lighting, movement, video and multi-camera content.
LightSoundJournal: How did you set up the lights for the television shoot?
Henk-Jan van Beek: Follow spot, front, audience and backlight were all managed with the same projector, Robe BMFL, with the same color temperature and white balance. We had a dedicated lighting operator for setting and maintaining the right levels for the TV-lighting. We used mainly Ayrton Húracan-X as main key light and Follow-Me follow spot key light (40 units, in drop arms, 24 side and backlight), and Robe BMFL as front key light and front follow spot light.
LightSoundJournal: What were the critical issues in the realisation of this event?
Henk-Jan van Beek: Balance between video and lighting: We had control over the quantity of Lighing output of the LED wall and floor and we’ve made sure we’ve kept the same color temparature balance between lighting and video. We wanted to keep the white and level balances of video, front lite and follow spots to match exactly. Another challenge was the number and angles (steep- and l/r-angle) of all follow spots we’ve used, solved by having the choice of follow spots from various angles, to avoid to collide with fly cams or other objects. We had a great own liason between the delegations and our lighting FOH crew, which in fact allowed us to better address the various problems.
LightSoundJournal: In a few words, what does this experience in Rotterdam represent to you?
Henk-Jan van Beek: I was free to make my own choices in what to create, combining lighting and all other visual elements. Flexibility and cooperation between all creatives and parties, incl. AR, video content, set design, etc. was great! But we always kept the interest of our general design in mind. Also when supporting the delegations to make their act as best as possible.
Let’s get back to numbers and talk about the entire network: within the location there were approximately 7000 m of fiber to transport all 305 sACN universes and 37 Art-Net universes in completely redundant mode with a 10 Gbps backbone. The fiber network connected to 10 main dimcities, located in various key points. Finally there were 65 ELC nodes for DMX outputs and 32 switches for data distribution.
Some moving heads were connected to a particular telescopic drop-arms system that allowed the movement on the z axis of 40 moving heads. This system allowed a maximum extension of up to 8.60m with a speed of 0.55m/s, and was capable of supporting a weight of 110 kg.
Kind of particular was the system that allowed the rotation of the LEDwall divided into four sections, two side wings and two rotating walls in the center. The rotating walls were 9 m wide and 12 m high. The four elements could be completely closed by means of a magnetic locking system or rotated 180° in about 16 seconds at a speed of up to 0.9 m/s. In this way it was possible to make the back of the LEDwall visible or not, where there was a matrix consisting of 70 moving head lights. Approximately 60 m² of floor surface rotated together with the LEDwall.
Here are the technical specifications:
6800kg LEDwall panels per side (13600kg totali)
Mobile structure: 2150 kg per side (4300 kg total)
Fixed structure: 6480 kg per side (12960 kg totali)
Total weight of each wing: 15,430 kg
Total height: 14.20 m
Weight: 5030 kg per side (10060 kg total)
Lower stage per side: 6650 kg (13300 kg total)
Push chain drive: 1500 kg (3000 kg total)
Lower stage rails: 7230 kg
Total weight of both rotating LED walls: 46290 kg
Rotating structure without LED: 6350 kg (12700 kg total)
All LED and Media server video equipment was supplied by Faber Audiovisuals. Project managers were Ben Augenbrou and Steve Ackein. You can find the complete LED and Media server video equipment list HERE.
The Eurovision Song Contest wouldn’t be complete without the flames and sparks!
The SFX was controlled with a MA 3 lighting console, not at all oversized given the presence of an impressive number of special effects, complete with 40 channels for safety and the need to manage the timecode signal.
Pyrofoor, supplier of the fx systems, created a complete digital 3D environment for both SFX and Pyro, thanks to the Finale 3D and Depence 2 software. Lucas Gerritzen, project manager, said: “We are convinced that the use of the pre visualization is a very powerful tool in communicating with production and delegations. It gives us the opportunity to share the effects and timing in advance with all parties involved and to save time during rehearsals ”.
Regarding safety, Jessy Maas, show manager, chose to employ strict protocols, with a series of dedicated digital channels and emergency buttons.
For ESC 2021 the following were used:
- 6000 pyro effects
- 300 liters of isopar
- 300 co2 cylinders
- 14 Magic FX flameblazers
- 6 Explo waveflames
- 24 Magic FX Sparxtars
- 6 Magic FX co2 jet
- 6 fans AF-1
- 2 fansMagic FX XL
- 8 Lemaitre freezefog
- 8 floorpockets
- 25 meters pyrotechnical waterfall
- 2 Grand ma3
- 2 Pyrodigital FC-A controller
- 70 Pyrodigital FM-A module
- 8 SRS 32A switchpack
- 2 km of cable
- 0.5 km of flexible hose for co2
The Powershop was chosen by Eurovision Song Contest 2021 for the technical supply of high efficiency electric generators, and has implemented a redundant system positioned in a special area outside the Ahoy.
The system included:
- 6 twin generators of 400kVA for a total capacity of 3.8 MW;
- Switchcontainer 8000 Amp
- 20 power distributors of 400 Amp;
- 100 power distributors of 125, 63 and 32 Amp;
- 3500 meters of 120mm2 powerlock cable (neutral + earth + phases for a total of 17.5 km)
- 5000 meters of powercable
The entire configuration was monitored by a proprietary Calculus system and the GridVis software.
We close this roundup on ESC 2021 with rigging, that was supplied by Ampco Flashlight, with lighting & rigging projectmanager Ruud Werkhoven. Inside the location there were a total of 514 Lodestar engines and 74 BroadWeigh load cells for a total weight equal to 220 tons of static load and 285 tons of dynamic load.
6 main clusters on 36 engines, and 7 infill clusters on 14 engines.
- 22x 500kg Chain Hoist
- 20x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 8x 2000kg Chain Hoist
208 total motors with some trusses with moving objects, constantly monitored by the load cells.
- 127x 500kg Chain Hoist
- 46x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 41x 2000kg Chain Hoist
- 8x BroadWeight Loadcell
A total of 22 engines with 3 rigging structures for the rail camera, the fly-cam and for a fixed hanging camera. Due to the dynamic load also in this case load cells were used.
- 2x 500kg Chain Hoist
- 20x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 9x BroadWeight Loadcell
13 engines in total: 12 for inbound and outbound load and setup, and one to raise the bridge between the A-Stage and B-Stage to make it easier to move bulky items.
- 12x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 1x 2000kg Chain Hoist
- 11x 500kg Chain Hoist
Support grids for motion and video, a combination of electric chain hoists and manual hoists.
- 28x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 30x 2000kg Chain Hoist
- 37x Manual Lever Hoist
Rack, Bridges & drops:
The power and data racks for lighting, video and audio were wired on the ground and subsequently suspended, ensuring access via the appropriate walkways. Part of the lighting wiring is passed through some dedicated trusses.
- 20x 500kg Chain Hoist
- 40x 1000kg Chain Hoist
- 1x 2000kg Chain Hoist
- 16x 500kg Chain Hoist for the 8 suspended LED screens
- 20x 500kg Chain Hoists for the 5 trusses dedicated to Augmented Reality, with about 100 reference points for cameras.
In closing we could also speak with Dennis van der Haagen, Commercial and Operational Director from Ampco Flashlight.
LightSoundJournal: Tell us briefly about this experience where you have been engaged on several aspects. How did you organize your workflow?
Dennis van der Haagen: After an elaborate official european tender process we were more than pleased to find out that Ampco Flashlight was awarded rigging, lights and audio. This is a nouveauté in the recent history of the Eurovision Song contest. To live up to the expectations we combined the experience which we assembled doing rigging and lights in Portugal in 2018 with our extensive audio track record on the cross roads of Broadcast and Live music events. This approach was also reflected in the crew which we selected.
LightSoundJournal: What were the two most remarkable moments you remember?
Dennis van der Haagen: The first remarkable moment for me was the first semi final because it was the first time in over a year that we had an audience inn. The second special moment was the Grand final because it was flawless.
Key Crew Ampco Flashlight
Overall – lighting & rigging,
Account director: Dennis van der Haagen
Deputy account director: Marc van der Wel
Project director: Marco de Koff
Project manager Lighting: Ruud Werkhoven
Crewchief lighting: Tijs Winters
Crewchief lighting: Martin Hoop
Lead Systems tech lighting: Roy Aarninkhof
Lead Systems tech remote follow spots: Dennis Berkhout
Project manager rigging: Roald Gluvers
Deputy project manager rigging: Joey Dunnewijk
Crewchief rigging: Dirk Sommer
Crewchief rigging: Christiaan Schutte
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