ChamSys helps Crt Birsa balance the lighting demands of Popevka Song Contest

Crt Birsa harnesses a ChamSys MagicQ MQ80 and a PC Wing to control the lighting design of Popevka Song Contest, Slovenia's ESC selection competition.

Broadcast on Slovenia’s RTV network, the 44th annual Popevka song contest featured performances by 11 entrants, each one of them lit in a way that reflected its unique style and personality. “This is a very big event in Slovenia with deep cultural significance,” said Birsa, who used over 100 lighting fixtures in his seven-universe show. “We were dedicated to conveying the full passion of every performance.”

Birsa’s task of reflecting the nuances of Popevka was complicated by scheduling difficulties. With the show’s start delayed because of COVID-19 safety concerns, he came to the studio to complete programming the lighting design late, because of a previous touring commitment. This experience gave him a new appreciation for the flexibility of his ChamSys MagicQ Software.

“I actually had to start by using my PC Wing at load in before going to the MQ80,” recalled Birsa. “This year was challenging logistically for our company, Blackout Lighting Design, because of COVID-19. So many shows that were scheduled earlier in the year were moved back because of safety concerns. Popevka was in this group. I was already committed to a tour when this project started, so we had to get creative.”

Although Birsa had designed the show earlier in the year, by the time of Popevka’s load in, he had to rely on his team mate Klemen Krajnc to start the process of setting things up. Using a ChamSys PC Wing and Extra Wing, Krajnc began the project on a Sunday, while Birsa was out on tour, and took the show’s set up through Wednesday.

“I landed at the airport in the middle of Wednesday,” said Birsa. “Then Klemen sent me the half-done show file and went on another project, while I was on my way from the airport going straight into the TV studio. I have just finished a short tour with Luka Sulic and have joined the TV studio just after lunch break. I came there with my MQ80 + Extra wing that I had with me on the tour. So I have continued the rehearsal day and finished all the programming that Klemen started until Friday.”

On Saturday, the live broadcast went off without a hitch,” a tribute to the ChamSys features like MagicVis software,” according to Birsa. “All the pieces fit together,” he said. “It is great that the show can be shared on different platforms. I have made the patch and prepared the show on a MacBook, then Klemen has made half of the show on a PC wing and I have finished it on a MQ80. The speed at editing cues with ChamSys also made it easy for me to make adjustments. In this industry, our workflow is never predictable, so a tool with the flexibility of ChamSys is invaluable.”

Those watching Popevka on TV could never have imagined the logistical challenges involved in the lighting of the show, given how smooth and effortless it looked. Working closely with his frequent collaborator set  designer Greta Godnic, Birsa positioned his fixtures to accentuate the depth of the 3D set design, which was characterised by curved scenic pieces and mirrored backgrounds.

He described the process of lighting the programme inside RTV Studio 1. “It always takes a nuanced approach to position fixtures in this studio,” he said. “So the first challenge is to build the set design very accurately. The hard part is over when the fixtures are set up correctly due to the position of the set design. Then the most daunting part was not to blind the musicians in the live orchestra on our stage. In a project such as this, the XYZ Positioning feature of the MQ80 comes in very handy, not only by allowing  precise fixture placement, but in terms of the time savings.

“Tracking is also very important in a TV show,” continued Birsa. “Programming a tracking show is very fast and easy on the MQ80. This feature was a big help in allowing us to give each contestant the best possible design for their particular song.”