Following its postponement in 2020 due to the pandemic, Eurovision 2021 finally took place at the Rotterdam Ahoy arena in Holland, with a pair of DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles handling FOH and monitor mixing duties.
The event was organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and host broadcaster Nederlands Publieke Omroep (NPO), Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS) and AVROTOS, with specialist rental and sales company, Ampco Flashlight, the Official Technical Supplier, providing lighting, rigging and audio requirements.
Among those working on the typically vast production of the show was Erwin Rintjema, ESC head of production, Thijs Peters, head of broadcast sound, Ampco Flashlights’ Remco Verhoek as senior project manager and Dennis van der Haagen serving as operational and commercial director, along with Jeroen ten Brinke, ESC head of live sound, who selected the Quantum 7s as part of his audio design.
“Audio-wise the stakes are always high for Eurovision, and this was a complex system, but not the most complex we’ve ever built and with all the experience we have with DiGiCo it was a good set up and straight forward for us,” explained Verhoek.
Though effectively given a blank slate from which to draw up the design of the audio system, Ten Brinke was mindful of previous productions, notably the 2018 Lisbon show which he had visited, where Daniel Bekerman was sound designer.
“The first thing I did was call him to make sure he was happy to answer any questions,” Ten Brinke said. “We created our design and then I checked with him to make sure we were doing the right thing.”
In addition to mirrored DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles at FOH and monitors was a soundcheck room with an identical set up, where in-ears systems on different frequencies, transmitter packs and handhelds microphones were housed, ensuring the in-ears systems were properly balanced before the performers took to the stage.
Meanwhile, in the arena, Ten Brinke was keen to have the consoles as close together as possible, taking social distancing regulations into account and ensuring short cables that were easy to trouble shoot. The monitor desk was positioned behind glass, meaning that the monitor engineer would not have any issues with spill from the L-Acoustics PA.
“The consoles were approx. 1.5m apart so we could all see each other,” said Ten Brinke. “This made things easier, more fun and meant we could keep our spirits up for the month we were on site.”
Another key reason for the positioning of the consoles was the tight change over times for the artists. “Thirty to 40 people had to [literally] run with everything,” Ten Brinke continued. “You’re always in the way or in the camera view at the side of the stage, so we were on the top of the first rake of seats and all together, which kept my wish for short cable runs. Additional cable runs were only to the PA and a few analogue inputs for backup mics, the rest was all local with the receivers, Dante machines, and split boxes to OB kept together. But with social distancing, of course.”
With simplicity the order of the day, anything deemed not essential was eliminated, while a DiGiCo Orange Box enabled the radio mic channels to arrive at the mix position and be relayed to the OB truck over a Dante network.
“We also had an analogue set up in one of the SD-Racks,” Ten Brinke added. “And there were two Optocore loops with FOH and monitors on one loop, and backups on the other. Simple is always better as if something goes wrong it’s a lot easier to handle.”
With the timecode for the show was running through the consoles, the Quantum 7’s double power supply and provided the team a sense of security. “If the timecode stops, everything stops as all departments are running through our timecode,” said Ten Brinke. “I’ve done a lot of big shows with Quantum 7s, so I trust them; they are so safe and reliable.”
Headliner recently spoke to James Newman, who provided the UK entry for Eurovision 2021, about what went down on the night an his plans for the future. You can listen to the interview in full here.