grandMA3 for Eurovision 2024

24th June 2024

Home 5 MA Lighting News 5 grandMA3 for Eurovision 2024
The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) staged in Malmo Arena, Sweden, featured a spectacular and ambitious visual production that also set some new Eurovision history landmarks, including being the first time this massive multi-camera live broadcast phenomenon was presented in-the-round.

It featured one of the largest grandMA3 control networks for lighting, playback video, lasers and PixMob (LED wristbands) to date for a music show, involving over 200,000 parameters of control across 682 DMX universes of output and 663 universes of Art-Net input from the Disguise video servers. Running all of this were up to 14 x grandMA3 consoles and five main lighting show programmers all working in one session.

Dream Team

An incredibly talented creative and technical team worked on the production and delivery of ESC 2024 which culminated in three live broadcasts, the two televised semi-finals and the grand finale on May 11th.

Scenography and set design were by Florian Wieder and production lighting design was by Fredrik Stormby from Green Wall Designs in Stockholm. Fredrik also co-ordinated and integrated the screens playback video content for each of the 37 competing countries.

All of this plus the other technical disciplines including audio, rigging, automation and SFX, were overseen by Ola Melzig, ESC 2024’s senior technical director (show).

Fredrik is the first to credit his hand-picked team of programmers – LX director / lead programmer for FX Ishai Mika, LX director / lead programmer for key and white light, Dom Adams and LX programmers Isak Gabre, Linus Pansell and Leo Stenbeck.

They worked tirelessly throughout the 5-week on site production period in day and night shifts once the rehearsal period started, having spent the previous four weeks programming at the Green Wall Designs Studios in Stockholm.

They ensured that each delegation received their desired shows.

One Session

The decision was made early on in the planning stages that all five show programmers would work in one session, explained Ishai.

grandMA3 was the only option to control this many parameters in one multi-user session, which offered the advantages of minimising bottlenecks related to the programmer’s workload distribution and the infrastructure handling and maintenance.

In that session were 5 x grandMA3 full-sizes (main show) + 1 grandMA3 light (follow spots) utilised as the main show consoles (with 4 grandMA3 full-sizes for backup). Another grandMA3 light was used as a monitoring console at FOH, and between 2 and 3 other grandMA3 full-sizes were dotted around the stage or green room, and used as technical desks and for monitoring and programming.

These were running with a total of 16 x grandMA3 processing units – 12 x grandMA3 PU (processing units) XL and 4 x grandMA3 PU Ls, with five grandMA3 PU Ms for the offline sessions and 90 x grandMA3 8Port Nodes all connected over a Luminex network. Plus of course, some serious mathematics!

The beauty of this configuration enabled them to work smartly and not get bottlenecked by waiting on a specific programmer or fixture type while cues were updated and notes responded to during the delegation rehearsals, which is a high-pressure scenario.

If anyone finished with one task, they could either assist another programmer or continue straight on and start working on the next song.

The five programmers could all help each other and work globally on the rig from their own workstations. Rehearsals could also run without all programmers being present on site, maximising their time and avoiding potential burn-out from working crazy hours, as all the infrastructure-related tasks only had to be done once in the one session.

It pushed the boundaries of the system and the handling capabilities of the grandMA3 showfile which ended up at a whopping 1.2 GB with everything remaining impressively solid.

Need for Speed

Speed, flexibility and stability were the principal requirements for any control system, and there was never a question that grandMA3 would be used for dealing with the 2,168 physical stage lighting fixtures rigged around the arena and the Green Room, adding up to a total of 3,425 fixture numbers in the patch including ‘incidences within fixtures’ like individual pixel mapping.

These included moving lights and LED sources from multiple brands – plus playback video content stored on eight Disguise servers (1 x Director, 3 x Actors and 4 x Understudies for backup), all of which were input through the grandMA3 consoles allowing the relevant lighting fixtures to be pixel-mapped via the content as well as run as ‘traditionally’ programmed fixtures during different sections of the show.

All the non-key light fixtures with RGB or a fast dimmer were pixel-mapped in the media servers to keep the creative options as open as possible, so most of the outputting DMX universes were merged with the 663 DMX universes of Art-Net input.

The lighting system also received triggers from the video session at times and the lighting session also sent simulated automation data to the media-servers, mainly during previz.

No Cheating!

“Programming was a real team process,” explained Ishai, “and to achieve the desired results we had to approach this work in a clean and disciplined fashion. Prioritizing what was programmed and when was a key.”

He laid down the basic rules, adding with a smile, that it entailed lot of trust between them all and, importantly, “No little personal cheats or nerdy workarounds sneaking in!”

For most of the rehearsal period, Dom and Ishai would work on their respective grandMA3 consoles during the days, when the intense nature of the delegation rehearsals limited the amount of real-time and on-the-spot lighting programming changes. So afterwards there would be copious notes left for the overnight shift to deal with.

Isak, Linus, and Leo would then come in and power through as many notes as they could – from the design team and the delegations – working methodically and swiftly to ensure that maximum updations were completed for Ishai and Dom to return – fresh – the next morning, ready to move forward.

Workflow

In terms of workflow, the programming team leaned heavily into grandMA3’s powerful Selection Grid feature.

This offers a clear view of the fixture selection order and structure and allows swift and logical selection techniques to be mapped to the lighting rig, so various scenes can be built with dynamic values. With so many multi-instance fixtures on the rig, Selection Grid assisted in crafting diverse looks for each delegation’s show, all with their own unique style and aesthetic.

The ability to Revise and Offset timecode for every timecode object was something that Dom found especially helpful. Negative Offset allowed bump buttons to be set up in advance for anticipated accenting, detailing and punctuative music-related moments, retaining the absolute timing while offsetting all timecode objects to compensate for system delays.

The programming team made use of popular plug-in ‘MArkers’ which creates a sequence to track tempo changes in the timecode that was applied to each fixture group as another powerful tool to assist the workflow and system synchronisation.

With speed usually a crucial factor in programming large and complex shows like ESC and time always a major challenge with constantly more to do, these tools and features are all essential to fine-tune the process.

Ishai and others in the Green Wall Designs team had previously used this same version of grandMA3 software to light the 2024 Melodifestivalen tour, Sweden’s comprehensive and high-profile ESC selection event, so they were confident that it would work well for the ESC 2024 final.

“You just need to be a little clever and judicious about some of the operational decisions,” Ishai and Dom confirm, both overall extremely happy with what everyone was able to achieve.

Monitoring

Network architect Michael Nielsen and systems engineer Tue Knudsen – working for lighting equipment supplier CT Sweden – were integral to setting up and maintaining the whole grandMA3 environment.

A grandMA3 light console at FOH was specifically dedicated to monitoring the network, and in one of the third-tier boxes high up around the arena, Michael & Tue set up their global monitoring ‘mission control’ centre.

Here, using the Luminex control software Araneo together with the new MA License, grandMA3’s powerful architecture, facilitated access to and monitoring of every command input into the system used by the 7 x active grandMA3 consoles involved in programming the show.

As Tue described, like a race car, when you are working with a highly tuned performance machine, it’s essential that the ‘pit crew’ know exactly what’s going on and when it happens.

This monitoring / feedback setup enabled them to do just that.

It was invaluable for watching the network activities and identifying or tracing any traffic anomalies and interrogating the systems logs.

The grandMA3 system worked seamlessly in terms of processing THAT much data with 5 people simultaneously programming, however Tue notes that, “It was a huge learning curve, and it was vital to respect and understand what was happening to optimise that workflow”.

“Programming the show was one aspect, running it was another” stated Tue, who believes “you can achieve anything with grandMA3, it’s certainly the only system that could handle a show control on this scale, but you must also listen to what it’s telling you!”

The Code to Credits

Ishai, Dom, Isak, Linus and Leo worked closely alongside associate lighting designers Mike Smith and Michael Straun and assistant lighting designer / viewing room co-ordinator Louisa Smurthwaite, with Per Hörding calling follow spots.

CT Sweden supplied the full technical production package for lighting, video and audio to the event. Their head of lighting was Emil Hojmark.

MA Lighting as the official ESC event lighting control supplier, together with Swedish distributor Gobo, also fielded a fantastic support team on site.

The 68th Eurovision Song Contest was organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and hosted by Sveriges Television (SVT) for the seventh time, and it was staged in the city of Malmo for the third time, the second time at the Malmo Arena venue, following the success of 2013’s “We Are One” themed ESC event.

Over 163 million viewers tuned in to the final of ESC 2024 via public service media channels, with votes cast from 156 countries around the world, and it reached nearly 500 million accounts on TikTok.

Eurovision 2024 was won by Switzerland’s Nemo with their song “The Code”, closely beating Croatia’s Baby Lasagne with “Rim Tim Tagi Dim”, and Ukraine’s Alonya Alonya & Jerry Heil coming in third place with “Theresa & Maria”.

Photos: © Ralph Larmann