Held at the Rotterdam Ahoy in The Netherlands, the recent Eurovision Song Contest was organised by the EBU and host broadcaster Nederlands Publieke Omroep (NPO), Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS and AVROTOS. Ampco Flashlight served as Official Technical Supplier, providing lighting, rigging and audio requirements – including DiGiCo Quantum 7 mixing consoles for both FOH and monitors.

EurovisionWorking on the lavish production fans have come to know and expect were 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 taking up the role of Operational & Commercial Director, along with Jeroen ten Brinke, ESC Head of Live Sound, who specified the Quantum 7s as part of his audio design.

A competitive tender for the show had been sent out in October 2019, with Ampco Flashlight awarded the contract in January 2020. ‘We were prepped and ready to go, then the show was postponed because of the pandemic,’ recalls Verhoek, who oversaw proof of concept, prepping the equipment including constructing custom racks and scheduling and taking care of his team. ‘But we had been chosen and that didn’t change for the 2021 edition. 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.’

While Ten Brinke had free rein on the design of the audio system, he kept previous productions in mind – particularly the 2018 Lisbon edition where Daniel Bekerman was sound designer – and drew on his experience: ‘The first thing I did was call him to make sure he was happy to answer any questions,’ he says. ‘We created our design and then I checked with him to make sure we were doing the right thing.’

Along with 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 acts went on stage.

In the arena, Ten Brinke wanted to have the consoles as close together as possible, taking social distancing regulations into account, ensuring short cables that were easy to troubleshoot. The monitor desk was positioned behind glass, so the monitor engineer would not have any issues with spill from the L-Acoustics PA.

Eurovision‘The consoles were approx. 1.5m apart so we could all see each other,’ says Ten Brinke. ‘This made things easier, more fun and meant we could keep our spirits up for the month we were on site.’

A significant reason for the position of the consoles was the tight changeover between artists. ‘Thirty to 40 people had to [literally] run with everything,’ Ten Brinke notes. ‘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 engineer duties organised in a slightly different way to the norm to account for their time being divided between the soundcheck room, where artists’ in-ear systems received their initial balance, and the arena, Ten Brink wanted to keep things as simple as possible. Deploying Quantum 7s gave both familiarity to his favourite engineers and exceptional speed of operation

‘To create Snapshots and transfer them to another desk only took a minute in total,’ he says. ‘No other desk can do that, so for me the choice was clear and with Ampco Flashlight as technical supplier it was an easy decision, as I use their DiGiCo consoles on many different shows.’

EurovisionWith simplicity being key, anything that was not essential was eliminated, whilst a DiGiCo Orange Box allowed 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 adds. ‘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.’

As the time code for the entire show was running through the consoles, the Quantum 7’s double power supply and engine gave the team a feeling of ultimate security. ‘If the time code stops, everything stops as all departments are running through our time code,’ says Ten Brinke. ‘I’ve done a lot of big shows with Quantum 7s, so I trust them; they are so safe and reliable.’

Despite the teams’ experience and confidence in their equipment, there was still much to take into consideration. ‘It was intense,’ notes Verhoek. ‘We were working from a standstill – we hadn’t done much work since lockdown – and were going into a full-on production that covered 45-50 days. But it all went perfectly. For me, the DiGiCos and all their infrastructure performed as we’re used to them performing. There was a backup set up, but we didn’t have to make use of it as there wasn’t a single issue.’

The Ahoy loudspeaker system consisted of a mixture of L-Acoustics K1, K2, KS28 and Kara – in a total of 16 hangs spread across the venue. The system processing was handled by an Outline Newton FPGE processor, with control of the Newton via a Mac Mini in the control rack.’

‘Newton was used as matrix mixer to sum all the mixers to the PA feeds,’ explains Ampco Flashlight Audio Project Manager, Remco Verhoek. ‘There were two DiGiCo Quantum7’s and two Yamaha CL1’s, matrixed into a number of feeds outputting over Dante – on the other end we converted back to AES and analogue via [Lake] LM44. All desks had AES and analogue outputs into the Newton with its failover feature enabled.’

Ampco Flashlight purchased its first Newton units shortly after launch in 2018, and has built dedicated drive racks equipped with Newton for use at all festival and indoor shows, including North Sea Jazz, Lowlands, Down The Rabbit Hole and Vrienden van Amstel Live.

See also:
Shure Axient takes to the air at 2021’s Eurovision

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