Creating a canvas for Eurovision’s Swedish entry

Green Wall Designs’ Fredrik Stormby, Lighting and Video Designer for Melodifestivalen 2024, reflects on providing a dynamic visual canvas for 30 unique performers and supporting creative teams bidding to become Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest 2024 entry.

Melodifestivalen 2024 marked the 64th edition of the Swedish music competition, orchestrated by Sveriges Television (SVT) and spanning a six-week period from 3 February to 9 March 2024. The victorious duo, Marcus & Martinus with their rendition of Unforgettable, earned the honour of representing Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2024, hosted on home turf in Malmö. Across six Swedish cities – Malmö, Gothenburg, Växjö, Eskilstuna, Karlstad, and Stockholm – six weekly shows captivated audiences.

In recent years, lighting and video have become integral components of the spectacle. Green Wall Designs’ Fredrik Stormby, recently named the Lighting and Screen Content Designer for Eurovision Song Contest 2024, cut his teeth at Melodifestivalen as a Lighting Technician – he recalls lying beneath a stage riser during Loreen’s triumphant 2012 Melodifestivalen performance of Euphoria. Over time, Stormby’s role has evolved into a multifaceted position encompassing artistic direction, media server programming, and now, lighting and video design.

Reflecting on the endeavour, Stormby acknowledged the collaborative effort of a talented team: “I couldn’t do this role without the support of a wider team of talented creatives, technicians, and engineers. This role gives me the possibility to make holistic decisions that benefit the overall visual package, facilitating a design in collaboration with the set and creative teams.”

As the dust settled on Melodifestivalen 2024, Stormby sat down – screen to screen – with TPi’s Jacob Waite to reflect on the whirlwind six-week cycle…

What inspired the vision for this year’s show?

“Melodifestivalen is essentially a mini–Eurovision Song Contest with a long and storied history. It is considered a benchmark for pre-contest selection productions. We pride ourselves on our ability to envelope performing artists in their own universe on stage, which we can try to facilitate creatively and technically using video and lighting.”

How do you use video as a storytelling device?

“Having a large back wall of video, as a canvas, allows us to dictate where the borders of performance are.  I like to manipulate various screen surfaces within the design as a set extension or storytelling device and by presenting content in a cinematic style and using certain elements of the screen. If you add a lot of layers of automation and lights, you can use video to provide depth, without necessarily relying solely on it as a focal point of performance – whether that is tactfully lighting certain elements of the stage design with CGI or otherwise, you can provide a lot of depth to a performance. Lighting and video always play a key role in proceedings… experimenting with modern concert touring conventions, incorporating the crowd more, is something we hope to continue to explore.”

How do you approach designing a rig for this project to ensure it stands out and is flexible enough to meet each diverse artist’s vision?

“We wanted to provide a ‘workhorse’ rig with a lot of extras, we aren’t as restricted by the competition rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, so we are able to create elaborate set pieces and designs to realise the vision of the performing artists. My approach when it comes to selecting lighting fixtures is this: try to select fixtures which are not brand specific, they are multi-functional workhorse fixtures that can contribute to the overall design and energy, without too many frills yet are able to immerse the audience and artist in an environment which draws emotion from those in the room and people watching at home.”

Fredrik Stormby of Sweden-based design studio Green Wall Designs is the Lighting and Screen Content Designer for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden.

Which fixtures or software stood out to you on this run?

“The rig is completely LED driven, without any discharge lights, which worked fantastically. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, it required a little more attention – tweaking the frequency of lights to ensure there is no banding on cameras. Generally, I think the technology is now available en masse to create a completely LED-driven show for the Eurovision Song Contest 2024. Malmö Arena – which isn’t the largest room – was the perfect place to pilot this, given the 40m range which followspots on the market today can reach.”

What are some of your favourite looks from this year’s event?

“Marcus & Martinus’ winning performance was a demonstration of the collaborative nature of the project. We were able to marry up the lighting, video, and graphics. An element of the video content was the timecode for the song, which was a nerdy inclusion, that I and many of the other technicians involved particularly enjoyed. It was interpreted by the mainstream media as something akin to The Matrix, but it was inspired by Massive Attack’s live visuals. We always try to tell a story with each performance, and I think Unforgettable did that by mastering workflows to produce visuals shot by shot and creating a live performance which looked as polished as a music video. We added vignettes to shots, adjusted frames to complement the lighting design and added black and white frames to generate the energy of the performance, which we enjoyed finessing over the course of the rehearsals.”

Which challenges did you face while designing the lighting and screen content for a live event of this scale, and how did you and the team overcome them?

“Having redesigned the format [30 entries took part, two more than in prior iterations, across five heats], we had to adapt to the budget. While technology and processes continue to improve, prices of raw material have risen, so we try to focus on working closely with video and lighting inventory, without the need to build bespoke infrastructure, to meet the creative demands.”

How do you balance pushing the boundaries of creativity while ensuring that the lighting and screen content complement the artists’ performances rather than overshadowing them?

“Rule number one of production design is not to overshadow what is happening on stage… As soon as a performance becomes solely tech-driven, you’ve lost the audience. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t continue to push the boundaries of technical innovation or enhance the audience experience with ground-breaking technology when fitting.”

What do you hope audiences will take away from the visual experience of this project, both in terms of the show itself and the broader cultural significance of the event, especially with the Eurovision Song Contest around the corner?

“This is the third time that Sweden has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years. Eurovision fans have quite high expectations when it comes to Sweden, given the country’s track record of success at the competition, so there is also a level of friendly competition and resentment. The country takes the competition seriously and the level of attention focussed on discovering the next act is enormous. Over the years, we have noticed production trends and conventions come and go – from the heavy use of projection in past years to the increase of video surfaces. Overall, the seriousness in which Sweden takes the competition adds value to Melodifestivalen and drives technical innovation when it comes to the spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest.”

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