Ayrton fixtures help light Eurovision Song Contest 2024

Photo: Ralph Larmann

Behind the scenes at the Eurovision Song Contest is veteran Eurovision technical show director, Ola Melzig, the production designer, Florian Wieder, and lighting and screen content designer Fredrik Stormby of Green Wall Designs, who worked closely with associate lighting designers Mike Smith and Michael Straun. 

“As this was the 3rd time Sweden had hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in ten years, we set ourselves the challenge of doing something new and brave that would respectfully challenge the traditional Eurovision concept a little, and introduce a more large-scale concert tour feel to the familiar ‘studio show’ concept,” explained Stormby.

Taking inspiration from Swedish music, songwriting and local architecture, and a tricky request from the producers to put the audience in shot for every performance, the duo developed a stage without any traditional scenic elements or shapes. Overhead a highly dynamic rig on almost 200 automation hoists carried over 200 tons of equipment. “Most of the lighting design was to work with strong lines of fixtures – not many types – but densely used to give very strong expressions,” explained Stormby. “We could then use many combinations of these individually strong lines of lights and the many automated rig positions to create a very interesting palette.”

Key to Stormby’s exclusively LED and laser-based design were 384 new Ayrton Rivale Profiles and 146 newly-released Kyalami fixtures, along with 32 Huracán Wash, supplied by Creative Technology Group.

“I like to approach my television designs using dedicated key light fixtures that have a certain quality of light to function well as key lights,” said Stormby. “I also like a single type of workhorse fixture throughout the rig that I can use for beam effects, mid-air effects, and to frame in on props or dancers, but can also support the key lighting to fill in as back or side lights. And that became the job of Rivale.”

Twenty automated ‘pods’ each carrying Rivale Profiles in a three by three configuration formed the main feature of the lighting design. More Rivale Profiles were rigged in the audience trusses, above the stage and around the bleachers.  “I was looking for a workhorse LED fixture with shutters and good colours that was affordable in large numbers. I also wanted good light quality, a narrow zoom, gobos, shaper blades and all the traditional stuff,” said Stormby. “We also needed to be careful of weight as there was so much hanging above the stage. I saw Rivale in Paris when it had just come out of development. It checked all those boxes and came in a compact, light-weight package which was perfect for what we wanted to achieve with this moving lighting rig.”

Thirty-two Huracán Washes were rigged on front of house and audience trusses: “I wanted a wash instrument with shutters that I could use for audience lighting but be able to shutter off the bleacher sections to avoid spill,” Stormby continued. “I thought the Huracán Wash was a good pick because I had this idea that I might use soft gobos – which I didn’t in the end – but it was one of the features that attracted me. It turned out a nice big powerful, traditional wash light with some extra features which was exactly what I was looking for.”

Stormby mounted Ayrton’s Kyalami on Wahlberg lifts around the stage edges where they could be raised and lowered to define the shape of the stage as required. More Kyalami were rigged in a long vertical line in each of the two 18m high towers that flanked the main video screen. “The Kyalami on the truss and the towers could form a box of light for framing the back screen. We could also lower the massive truss right down to stage level so the Kyalami could act as a floor package or raise it really high to open out into very wide effects, and so many different ways in between,” said Stormby.

The result was a design with enough flexibility to create unique looks for the each of the 37 participating countries’ performances, with less than a minute turnaround time between each song.

“It was great fun working with this rig because we could position it in so many different places that, as well as giving us all manner of side light, backlight and low lights, we could really play with the lighting and directions of lighting as well,” Stormby added. “The openness of the 360° stage allowed us to invite the audience into the shots in a very natural way as part of the background. This is when we had to rely on the skills of our programmers! If we were shooting from one side of the stage, for example, we had to clean out all of the lights hitting the bleachers on the other side to make it look good. So we really produced the show shot by shot to achieve the big clean cool rock concert looks, yet were able to instantly cut to the hosts and back into Eurovision mode again. Eurovision is a cross over between television, theatre and show lighting and I think we succeeded in making the performances look like a big arena show.”

“I was really happy with the overall outcome. It was 10 weeks of bonkers production but I’m proud of the result and we certainly ticked all the boxes in ‘respectfully challenging the concept.’ I like the fact that Rivale and Kyalami especially are such small fixtures but we can still pull off a show of this scale with them. That’s quite cool,” Stormby added.

Creative Technology Group made a substantial investment in 276 Rivale Profiles and worked closely with VIGSØ Denmark to sub-hire the remainder of the huge inventory of Ayrton fixtures. The fixture selection process was supported by TopStage of Sweden who worked closely with the lighting designers.

Emil Højmark, CT Group’s Head of Lighting for Sweden commented: “We’d been looking into investing in Rivale long before Eurovision came along, but Eurovision sealed the deal! Eurovision has always pushed the technology and Ayrton, which has had a long involvement with Eurovision, has always pushed the envelope in product development.”

“We had over 384 Rivale Profiles on site and very few issues – it’s proved a really stable platform. The Huracan Washes were similarly reliable and one of the few fixtures we had no problems with at all. Eurovision is a high tempo project with unique challenges, and having direct access to the Ayrton tech team on site made such a difference. They are so passionate and dedicated delivering outstanding communication and support,” Højmark added.

Ayrton joined forces with VIGSØ to ensure everything was delivered and prepped in under 48 hours. “It was very impressive,” concluded Højmark. “VIGSØ did what I’ve never seen before from a distributor to pull this together. All departments worked really well together. It was hard work but good fun and all done in good Eurovision spirits.”

“The collaboration with Creative Technology was great, and it was exciting to be involved in the decision-making process from the start,” said Linnea Ljungmarkof TopStage, Ayrton’s exclusive distributor for Sweden. “When Fredrik came to me early in the process to discuss lights for Eurovision, it was clear to me that he was looking for a very unique look with what the fixtures could achieve. Ayrton was able to provide this and it’s been really great to follow him through the process from initial idea to final design.”

Kenneth Jakobsen, Head of Sales at VIGSØ Sales, Ayrton’s exclusive distributor for Denmark, said, “VIGSØ was very happy to work with CT on this mammoth production. Everyone involved put in a huge team effort under challenging circumstances to collectively deliver the entire, massive project on time.”

“I think CT carried out an excellent delivery,” said Stormby. “With a rig designed like this with everything in straight lines, it really comes down to the finish of the build to make it look good and they really pulled that off. I’m really happy with CT and I’m really happy with the support from Ayrton.”

“It took an amazing collaborative effort to gather so many products in one place and make sure all was running smoothly and on time,” added Michael Althaus, Ayrton’s Global Sales Director. “Special thanks to Emil Højmark who coordinated the operation, to CT for its huge investment in Ayrton, and to Kenneth Jakobsen, Christian Vigsø and Linnea Ljungmark and their teams for all their hard work. It couldn’t have been done without them all, and thank you especially to Fredrikand the team for making everything look stunning!”