Every year the Eurovision song contest takes place in a different country. Some watch it for the music, some watch for… I have no idea? The costumes I guess?
Anyway, I watch it because of the show production. The limiting factor is often budget.
Show production is expensive, it takes time, people, space. It’s not suited very well for low budgets or hobby. It relies on expert knowledge, expensive hardware and labour intensive construction. You can only cut so many corners. Music production is accesible for everyone these days. You just need a laptop. Showproduction not so much.
The limiting factor is often budget. That’s where Eurovision comes around the corner. They have a total budget of around 50 million euro. Which makes it possible to do things right, hire the best crew and take the time to try new stuff.
In Europe it’s one of the best showcases of the latest broadcast, lighting, visual and audio techniques. Always leading to a spectacular show.
That’s why I’m always looking forward to Eurovision. In this blog I’ve compiled the coolest tech I’ve seen this year.
I’m a huge tech nerd, with all the background stuff going on. After watching the Eurovision 2021 contest and all the behind the scenes I noticed a couple of cool key technologies which I want to highlight here.
[Table of contents]
Clay Paky Xtylos
If you think about show you think about lights. They brought out some new fixtures to spice up the show.
The fixture that stand out is the Xtylos (Say: Steelo’s) by Clay Paky. Besides it’s impressive performance they are hard to miss because there are 481 of them…
What makes the Xtylos special is that it doesn’t use a LED or traditional lightbulb as it light source. Instead it uses a laser engine.
You might hear laser and think about laser light fixtures, danger output for your eyes etc… But the Xtylos is mostly like a traditional moving head lighting fixture. The difference being that the light output comes from a laser engine. But in such a way that it behaves almost exactly like a moving head. Including the ability to look into the beam without destroying your eyes (still not recommended up close though).
To understand why this is so special you need to know the limitations of LED / Lightbulbs. They have all kinds of quirks due to physical and technical limits. For example the white beam output is way brighter than the red beam. Beams are brighter around the center which much makes them look less full (so called hotspots). Traditional lightbulbs generate a lot of heat and use a lot of power.
So… the Xtylos doesn’t have these problems and creates a tight uniform beam in a compact form factor. I know I start to sound like a sales representative of Clay Paky. But just have a look at what they can do. With 481 Xtylos around the venue there’s lots of lighting programming fun possible.
Xtylos in action from the audience perspective
If you want to see some of the technical capabilities of the Xtylos you can checkout this video:
Eurovision is tightly rehearsed over and over. Because it’s a contest all the participants want to know exactly what they can expect and what it’s going to look like. Everything from the change overs, camera angels, video content, firework, lighting, choreography is tightly planned and rehearsed in advance.
CuePilot plays a big role in this process.
The performances look like videoclips. Tightly rehearsed untill the second. But also the show is not left up to fate. Uses CuePilot to create all the camera angels and cuts in advance.
All the camera moves and cuts are created in advanced and pre-programmed in software called CuePilot.
The cameracrew executes the cameramoves on command as seen on an iPad connected to CuePilot.
CuePilot makes it possible to create a timeline in advance which will trigger camera cuts, pyro, visuals, lighting and whatever you can imagine.
Working together with the lighting designers, technical stage production this means they can create all of this in advance.
This makes sure that nothing is left up to fate. You can start preparing in advance.
[Insert the video where it’s displayed that you can hook up Capture]
You can completely block out, pre-vis, use reference shots. This gives more control over the process and let’s you focus on the content of the show;
Below you can see an example of a CuePilot playing back for the Finland song of Eurovision.
I was a bit scared that’d overdo it and add AR overlays everywhere. This is what you often see when a new technology get’s popular (drone shots everywhere, everything filmed using a gimbal).
NEP introduces new technology.
The cool thing is that it’s not a 3D overlay or graphic but that it’s overlayed into the actual scene. It appears to be actually there and takes up space in the venue. If the camera moves forward, the 3D element also becomes larger as if it’s actually there.
To place 3D elements over the video feed the computer needs to know exactly where the camera is. Otherwise the perspective of the 3D elements is wrong or they would glitch/wiggle as they can’t stay in the 3D scene because they don’t where the camera is.
For the camera to know where it is in the [zaal] it needs some kind of reference. In this case they’ve put tracking markers across the venue. If the camera moves it’s position to the tracking markers changes. The computer can calculate the new position from the way the tracking markers have shifted.
<strong>How Camera Tracking works</strong>
Imagine putting two cola cans on the table 50cm apart and watching your screen to them. If you put a step to the left, the left can is bigger and in a differente angle. You can use this information to calculate where you are in relation to your previous positoin.
It's called Tracking/Matchmoving and is also heavily used in VFX for films
Tracking markers (See Blog)
Pre-Vis with Capture
How do you know what your light show and stage looks like in real life? Back in the days you had to create drawings, prepare as best as you can and hope for the best.
But these days you can pre-visualize the show in software. This means that you can program the lighting show without actually needing to build the stages.
This saves tremendous amounts of time and money. Also you can build a way better show. Because you have weeks to program instead of a couple of days. You can’t just build a stage for weeks because every extra day is very expensive.
Cool thing is that it works together with other software. So the multicam director can use it to visualise the camera movements as well by feeding it cue’s from the CuePilot software.
This is an example of a lighting show in pre-vis software. It’s timecoded, which means that the music track also triggers a timecode track. You can program things to happen at exact moments in the timecode track. Such as after 60 seconds, turn all the moving lights red.
Digital Stage Marker
Blog about the technical production from rigging the venue, stage, light, audio and everything around it.
PS: An Image is more powerful than the truth
The below video spread like wildfire on social media. It appears that the lead singer of Måneskin is doing drugs on live television. Later this was debunked.
Unfortunately an image is more powerful than the truth. Our brains use all kinds of heuristics and shortcuts to process information. An image like this is very sticky in our minds. It’s impossible to forget. Even though evidence says otherwise, our minds have already attached a ‘sex, drugs and rock’n roll’ label upon the band.
Subconsciously people still associate the band with drugs even though the evidence points the other way. Also, the video spread like wildfire, but I can’t imagine many people shared the news that the singer tested negative for drugs.