Following two semi-final events earlier in the week, the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) was broadcast on 22 May 2021 to 180 million viewers worldwide, as well as playing out in front of a seated audience of 3,500 people at the Rotterdam Ahoy Arena in the Netherlands.
The event was produced by the Netherlands’ host broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union. The head of production for the event was Erwin Rintjema.
ESC head of lighting Henk-Jan van Beek of Light-H-art chose a large number of Ayrton Huracán-X, Karif-LT and MiniPanel-FX LED fixtures for the event, which were provided by the ESC’s official technical supplier, Ampco Flashlight of Utrecht.
With some 39 countries and 55 scenes to create and programme different looks for, van Beek needed fixtures that would give him a lot of variety. He used the trio of Ayrton fixtures for three different purposes.
“Huracán-X is our workhorse,” said van Beek. “We chose it because it gave us all the power, possibilities and creativity in one fixture, and we used every feature of it.”
In all, 180 Huracán-X were rigged over the main and B stages, where 40 of them were mounted on extendable drop arms, and on three levels around the auditorium for show and key lighting.
“Huracán-X gave us all the colourful looks and gobos we wanted for top and side lighting, and superb architectural looks, textures, beams and audience backlighting from the auditorium fixtures,” said van Beek. “It also helped us work around the massive video wall that is the backdrop to the whole show.”
Florian Wieder’s set design was inspired by the long lines and low horizons of the Dutch landscape – a motif that van Beek continued through into the linear looks of his lighting design. It was imperative that none of the technology should interfere with these lines or impinge on the video backdrop.
“By using Huracán-X rigged at a distance and located on three different levels, we were able to maintain completely clear sightlines to the video wall, but still retain all the options and power we needed,” said van Beek. “Even from the back walls the Huracán-X still had plenty of punch, and their movement and positioning gave us multiple angles at every level, to give all the angles, intensity, colour and effects we could need.”
The 40 Huracán-X mounted on drop arms enabled van Beek to close in on performers for more intimate looks and even change the shape of the stage frame.
“Mounting the Huracán-X on drop arms was originally a functional solution to maintaining the clean, straight lines of Wieder’s set design,” explained Dennis van der Haagen, Ampco Flashlight’s operational and commercial director. “The grid is too high for useable performer key lights, so the drop arms brought the Huracáns down to a more useable angle. The Huracáns’ reliability was also important in this location. They then became a design feature in their own right, serving both a functional and effect purpose, reshaping and framing the stage and adding to the linear looks. The result is really impressive.”
A total of 58 Huracán-X fixtures were calibrated to a Follow-Me tracking system and used as key lights and follow spots on the artists. For the second semi-final interval act – The Power of Water by Davina Michele and Thekla Reuten – the Huracáns were integrated in the Follow-Me system to follow the dancer in motion.
“It was spectacular to see,” said van Beek. “They delivered a beautiful tone and quality of light, even from the farthest side lights at more than 25m [82ft] distance and the effect we achieved from having the fixtures rigged over the three layers of the venue gave the most fantastic look with every angle covered.”
Effects and backlighting
Second on van Beek’s inventory of Ayrton fixtures – and also a first-time use for him – were 64 Karif-LT LED beam spot fixtures. These were rigged in small clusters on the balconies and goal posts and located on the floor and upstage truss behind the video wall to be revealed through large rotating doors in the centre.
“Karif-LT is a smaller unit which we used mainly for effects and creative backlighting,” said van Beek. “The upstage units were very effective for entrances, while the auditorium units worked especially well in the clusters. They gave us a useful alternative to the laser line effects, with plenty of punch and colour for bumps and effects over the 25m [82ft] throw distance.”
The large video wall had two huge rotating doors set into its centre, on the back of which were embedded 140 Ayrton MiniPanel-FX – the third of van Beek’s trio – with mirrors attached to the reverse of each fixture.
“We had a lot of compliments about the MiniPanels on the revolving doors,” said van Beek. “They are amazing fixtures which fit precisely into the custom-made set piece and integrate perfectly. The doors became like huge, impressive fixtures in their own right.
“I used many configurations of individual pixels – there so many variations just from the face of the unit – and the mirror on the back certainly added another dimension. There is one special moment at the end of the Switzerland entry when the doors are rotating and the MiniPanel-FX fixtures are turning over and over in a cascade of continually rolling MiniPanels, flashing the lights and mirrors alternately. It’s a really nice effect I used a couple of times.”
A close partnership has existed between Ampco Flashlight and Ayrton since 2018’s ESC in Lisbon, Portgual. “We knew of Ayrton before, mainly as an effects lighting company, but when we met at Lisbon we experienced for ourselves how very versatile and reliable their products were, and how solid their support was,” said van der Haagen of Ampco Flashlight. “Ayrton is always available, and very proactive when it comes to ensuring projects like this work.”