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Alin Popa

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Lighting the romanian Eurovision

August 16, 2016
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Sergiu Ardelean is a light designer and a lighting director. He watched over every frame of the National Television Eurovision 2016 broadcast. Further on he talks about his experience on this particular event.

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Hello! There have been 12 competitors at Eurovision Romania this year. How long did the creation and execution processes take?

Hello! The period in which the preproduction was made was a very short one. In order to accomplish such an event, and especially at a high artistic and technical level, the way the audience expected, The Romanian Television Society (SRTv) had to sign a partnership. Although we can find “in-house” pretty much all we need to put on a good show, it was clear from the beginning that we would need a lot of extra tech equipment. The same goes for any super-event all around the world. The management’s decision that the show would take place outside the studios appealed to many and it became very clear that we were going to make a super-production. The searches had begun, days and nights of negotiations and, finally, it was decided that the National Selection would be held in “Lascar Pana” gymnasium, in Baia Mare. And the countdown started. There wasn’t much time till the start of the set-up works, but we received the scenery schematics in a record time and that was our starting point. The scenographer, Iurie Moroianu, had a brilliant idea for the stage, suitable for the size of the show, then together with him and director Dan Manoliu we put all the construction details into perspective, stage technics, integrated lights, and the result was a spectacular stage that allowed multiple visual solutions, shooting angles and “it looked good”.

One of the major problems we had was the event logistics, because it took place very far from the headquarters. We needed everything to be in place when we would start the set up. In short, we reached Baia Mare with our homework made, and on site we agreed on a relatively lighter schedule in order to have the time to solve any problem that might have come up. The work on the setting started well before a week from the first rehearsal. When all was ready we took a day off to review the plans, make notes of the latest changes and to make the final corrections. Three rehearsal days followed, then the semi-finals, then one more rehearsal day, followed by the great final, which appointed the winner. There were two full weeks, in which the creation process operated non-stop, and the execution was made entirely according to the set plan and successfully exceeded all the unexpected and unforeseen moments. We offered our best to the 12 artists who competed and we tried to make one of the best shows to support artistic initiatives outside the competition.

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Tell us a bit about the hall features. What was needed to be done for a gymnasium to become the stage for Eurovision?

Although it is home to the local handball teams and even the name indicates it is dedicated to sports, “Lascar Pana” Sports Hall  in Baia Mare is still a multifunctional arena that can host a wide range of events. But depending on the show complexity it needs adjustments. In our case, we had the biggest problems with the sound (the hall echoed) and the daylight.

Because the simple rehearsals, the filmed rehearsals, other materials that needed to be shot, songs recorded in live setting, to be able to edit their recap and to have a back-up, were made during the day, it was imperative to totally isolate the hall from ambient light.

I also mentioned the sound because draping allowed us to solve both problems. Everything that was part of the windows and hall ceiling was covered with a black textile material. Another problem was raised by the floor. It is generally made of wood and sound can cause it to vibrate. This is not good for the cameras because it induces a short tremble which appears on the image. Luckily, the floor was isolated and covered with a special cardboard like material, but very thick, which absorbed the vibrations, then we had a layer of high traffic carpet, meant for public use. Another reason for isolating the floor was that it is a “Champions League” surface type and it needed protection.

An excellent bonus was the ceiling which, because of its honeycomb structure, allowed rigging points in almost any area we wanted. This allowed us to follow the setting and light plans almost entirely as we wanted to.

What companies joined bringing lights and video equipment?

Locally, TVR collaborated for this show with Art Tradition, but also SetUp, Arena Events and MaxMedia were been involved in the production process, especially with lights and video equipment.  I don’t remember exactly who brought what, it was a collective effort, each one being involved in more or less tech, and the production crew made sure things went smooth.

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What equipment did you use?

If I remember right, I had the following:

26 x Clay Paky K10 WASH

26 x Clay Paky QWO 800 SPOT

60 x Martin PAR LED RUSH 2 ZOOM

69 x Stairvile LED MATRIX BLINDER

8 x Martin STROBO  ATOMIC 3000

24 x ROBE BMFL SPOT

24 x ROBE POINTE

24 x ROBE ROBIN WASH 600

24 x Martin MAC 101

40 x Beam 5R – generic type (Sharpy)

32 x Showtec Infinity WASH

26 x LED PAR + LED FLOOD – generic type

24 x ARRI Fresnel 2kW + LEE 201

12 x ETC Source4 750W (15-30, 25-50) + LEE 201

6 x STRAND CANTATA 1000W (26/44) + LEE 201

4 x follow spots HMI – 2 x 2.5 kW / 2 x 1,2 kW

4 x Haze – 2 x Smoke Factory TourHazer II / 2 x Look Solution + FAN

1 x Smoke machine 9kW

 LED RGB Courtain – ShowLED Chameleon

I almost forgot about the schnickschnacks LED system integrated in the front of the stage, DMX controlled.

As a video surface, we had two main screens, a central portrait one, of 4,5 x 6,5 m, for stage compositions, a sideway landscape one, of 6 x 4 m, for presentations, all topped with 8 strips – 6,6 x 1,2 meters – of LED courtain on stage and 10 columns (strings) of approximately 4,2 x 1,2 in the audience for totally immersing the people in the show. The base of the stage was also elongated by video screens shaped as beam (rays). The entire composition formed either a single image or various set-ups, depending on the stage show. We continuously looked for a balance between the light and video, so one wouldn’t put the other one in the shadow, but be in perfect symbiosis in order to create new dimensions to the show.

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What kind of  lighting desks did you use and how many people operated them?

 

We divided lights controls into three parts. We had 3 GrandMA on PC, complete set-ups meaning Command Wing + Fader Wing + PC + TouchScreens. Each handled by its own operator. The video was operated separately.

One was equipped with intelligent stage lights, the second one was for the matrixes which made up a full screen for minimum effect graphics, so we had LED MATRIX Blinder and white light. The third one was for the audience and hall lights.

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Tell us a bit about the light design process.

We started small to get to big. We have the man. The artist. The main element of a TV show. From here we build up. The man is the stage. The stage is the hall. The hall needs to be filmed. Each of these elements requires its own ecosystem. And to make things complicated, you always have to remember that whatever angle you shoot from you must get interesting, esthetic and seamless frames. The general frame of the hall indicates the atmosphere. As we close in, the stage needs to be imposing and lead us out of the general state to the particular one of what’s going on. This is translated into sources with precise roles. I don’t know who said it, but it’s not mine: „One Light. One Job.” Each source has its own contribution to each and every scene.

After I finished the light schematics, I started thinking how am I going to create every single moment. Most artists had their own ideas about how the show should look like, and I tried to respect most of their requests. After I listen to every song I begin braking in down. Then I create a baseline on which I build the visual identity. I see the light as the spine of a show. But to it you add video, special effects, heavy smoke etc.

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We had a very strong and important ally: preprogramming in MA3D. This was, at the rehearsals a lot of stuff was ready, especially the set-up part, which meant more time for fixing details. During the rehearsals we rolled up what we had prepared. You fixed what wasn’t ready on the spot. We took notes. Then, after the rehearsals, we finished programming, and the next day, at the general rehearsals we could see the results on tape.

I believe we managed to do something very interesting, that the audience, in the hall and in front of the TVs, liked. A very good show.

 

Which was your favorite gadget, one which you’d wanted multiplied?

I didn’t have a favorite apparatus. Each was used for a certain purpose, and I am convinced that each did its job. But I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of Robe BMFL, as it was the first time when I used them. The same goes for POINTE. Thanks to them I placed Robe company in my top 5 preferences. First place goes to Clay Paky, by far.

You can find out more about Sergiu Ardelean at http://www.sergiuardelean.ro

photo © Ioana Chiriță, Cristi Șerban

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