OSRAM and ABD were in partnership with Jerry Appelt, lighting designer and production co-ordinator, to create one of the most widely watched TV shows in the world on 13th May, the Eurovision Song Contest 2017.
Can you tell us a little about the set up you have here at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev?
It started about middle of November I think, which is quite late for a Eurovision Song Contest. There were a lot of local issues with the networking stations changing from state general to a public network, which caused a lot of tension in the process. Finally, we made it to today!
How it usually works for Eurovision is we have the chance to collaborate with the delegations and the entries from the different countries, and this usually happens around mid-March. All the artists bring their information, pictures, directors, media and playbacks to a large meeting, which is very necessary. For me, this means I have to develop my toolkit prior to these meetings. You have to have in mind, ‘what might I need?’ That’s the experience I have had with the last two Eurovisions I have done. Deciding what I want to use without knowing exactly what I want to use for this delegation or that delegation is why I have a big toolbox, or what I like to call, Swiss Army Knife. Then we try to closely link these with different songs and the content creation. Once we receive the information we begin to prepare our staff. In this case, we did three weeks programming in Hamburg and then show up here to pull it all together. Then there are the extended rehearsals with the hosts and acts, which I think are very useful.
What about your choice of tools and how was that informed in terms of diversity of looks?
On this size of production, it is always a mixture between budget issues and what I think is needed, so I was quite happy when Elation stepped in to provide the lighting gear for the audience area. However, with Claypaky’s Scenius Unicos, I was really keen on keeping them but I had to stand some pressure, budget-wise. They are my workhorses; this is the last thing I want to change. There are a few particular things I think are necessary to hold onto. For example, key lighting, your follow spot systems and your usual equipment that your work with, in my case, that set up is with the Unicos.
In terms of the features they have here, how have you exploited them?
The complete variety is great because I don’t have to choose before I put the different fixtures on their positions. Mainly for me, the nice thing is the rich colour with the powerful brightness that comes from an old fashioned punchy beam. It’s not a flat field, which most modern fixtures want to achieve, which of course for key and effect lighting is important. I prefer the older approach, much like the RCLs back in the day or the first series of star lights. They all had a hot spot and I’m still a fan of this.
You have a huge number of very varied fixtures here and you also have a great use of projection. Between cameras and lighting and having to deal with projection, how hard was that to balance everything?
It is tricky but because I do it quite often, I know how to handle it. To be honest, this show is mainly made for television. Of course it should be a good experience for the audience here too, but the cameras, the iris set up of the cameras and the way we run the metrics is the main focus. We start simple and then we add the layers, which is the trickiest part, particularly the layer for the arch of the stage. There is a maximum power level provided by the anti-lumen, therefore I level out all of the other items to make it look good in combination, otherwise the LED light would blast certain elements away. But the ruler on this kind of show for me is the camera itself, because it transports what we do to all the screens in the living rooms outside.
You have the main fixture, which is the Unico for the stage, but what else have you incorporated?
It’s easy! My main workhorse on stage is the Unico, but then I added others when I needed compact features. For example, on the beehive, it is better to have a smaller unit and for the grand centre features it makes sense to have something large but compact. In the audience it is mainly the boy wash and spot and key lighting is mainly the Elation LED washes.
How do you manage all the different lighting whilst avoiding the bowels of the stage – that must take a lot of precision work?
Yes that’s true, it takes a lot of framework. We really need to take care and that’s where the cue pilot comes in. We can be sure if the directors decide to shoot scenes over here, we can work on that. If you use the system manually with the vision mixer, it always makes it a little difficult. It’s a funny thing, sometimes it’s good when you’re following the motions, but this special show, especially with all the administrations and talks with delegations, you have to rely on a backbone. If they explain to you they want this shoot four frames earlier, you can easily provide it with the cue pilot. This is the same with lighting, because everything is linked together with its total visual impact, it means I am quite happy to work with this particular cue pilot.
Beyond the lighting sources is there an element of support that helps you in your work by having sponsors like OSRAM become involved in the show itself and how does that affect and help you?
Yes, even in the Elation lights there is OSRAM! First of all, I am quite open to resolutions that help to achieve a better result in the existing budget. I am not adamant with ‘I have to use this light and nothing else will work’. You always have to level out the issues that you have from an economic situation, and this helps us to go into this show and not forfeit 300 features. OSRAM was a really relaxed partner on that side and I am quite happy!
What’s next after Eurovision has finished?
The next challenge! I go back to Germany where music celebrity Helene Fischer hosts a record release show. Then I go back into Eastern Europe to help with the Russian production for the Astana Expo 2017, held in Kazakhstan.