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Compulsory redundancy

Jul,2008

This spring, the Eurovision Song Contest took place for the 53rd time. 43 countries took part and 25 made it to the final on May 24th in Belgrade. A huge technical and logistical effort was put into the grand finale of the Eurovision show, which has been run every year since 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), making it the largest live production TV event in Europe. Just the rehearsals for the entire production took two weeks...

This year, Procon Event Engineering from Hamburg took care of the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time as general service provider. They supplied all the technical equipment from stage and riggings to sound and video, broadcasting van, camera technology and lighting. The project planner and head of sound was Kai Reiss, who has already been responsible for numerous well-known events such as Wacken Open Air, the Pope's visit to Bavaria, Melt Festival, Bravo Super Show and The Dome. Reiss used digital Yamaha technology for sound reproduction in virtually every important position. A total of six Yamaha digital mixing consoles from the PM1D, PM5D and DM2000 ranges were used for the FOH and monitor desk, plus two DME64N and various AD8HR and DA824 A/D and D/A converter systems, giving a total of around 128 channels. A DM1000 and a DME32 were also installed in the Green Room, the artists’ lounge in the backstage area.

Bearing in mind the significance of this event, the real challenge was in providing fully redundant FOH and monitor desks - the three consoles required here were doubled up, including any DSP units, so that if one component stopped working, it could immediately be replaced by a second one.

On stage, the signal sources were distributed via analog splitters to the FOH and monitor mixers and to the broadcasting van used for the live broadcast. This concept, where all three channels have their own A/D converter, was chosen for this production because it is particularly reliable and also offered the advantage that each of the three crews could independently control the analog gains of their pre-amps.

Glass fibre systems were used for the transmission to the FOH desk. Their signal channels were fed straight into a total of four digital consoles using appropriate interface cards– a PM5D-RH for artists’ appearances and a DM2000 for verbal contributions such as presentations, playbacks or conference sessions. Both consoles were summed via the DME64N DSP system, which also generated a shifter for the presenters’ headsets. The entire set-up, consisting of two consoles and the DME, was installed twice for redundancy purposes.

Horst Hartmann, monitor man for well-known acts and shows such as Die Toten Hosen, Scorpions, Peter Maffay, Juli, Bravo Super Show and The Dome, was also responsible for monitor mixing at this year's Eurovision Song Contest. His workplace in Belgrade consisted of two PM1D consoles plus associated DSP units, where a particularly elegant solution has been found for redundancy switchover in the event of breakdown. If a DSP unit malfunctions, the second unit, cabled in parallel, is switched in via the A/B change-over switch. After just 4 seconds the second unit takes on the role of the old unit without changing the set-up. In the same way, the other console can also be activated if there is a defect in the user interface and, as a last resort, there was also a laptop in Belgrade that could have been used to control the DSP unit using “Studio Manager” software.

Horst Hartmann on the PM1D: “I think the console is still the first choice for major live productions, if only because there are 48 controls available in parallel on the interface. There are simply more operating elements for direct access here than anywhere else and you hardly need to change the layers during the show. That ensures a much clearer overview than is available on a console with just 24 faders, especially for complex tasks. What’s more, the rest of the sector has yet to match the reliability of the PM1D, presumably because highly specialised hardware is used here, rather than a modified PC."

Conventional wedges, sidefills and in-ear wireless channels were available as monitor channels in Belgrade, so the artists could choose their preferred type of monitoring in advance. As the wedges on the stage are built in under gratings and the sidefills are winged, most artists naturally preferred in-ear monitoring, especially if their choreography involved lots of movement. Nevertheless, the wedges were always useful, because lots of artists had not brought any of their own, moulded IEM earpieces and universal earpieces can fall out really easily during fast movements.

A maximum of six artists were on stage at any one time, so Hartmann worked with six IEM channels, with three receivers available for each. This enabled the IEM systems for the next two acts to be prepared while an act was in progress. All IEM transmitters were controlled in pre-fader mode so that the artists could hear themselves immediately after the end of the previous act. The wedges and sidefills, on the other hand, were controlled as normal via the monitor console faders and only raised at the beginning of the song to avoid disturbing background noises. According to Hartmann, this process has become well established, so the artists can check that their monitoring is working very early on without disrupting the show.

Data

Products PM1DV2 , PM5D , DME64N

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