As this issue of ED goes to press, it looks like the European Union's dream of unity is not going to happen any time soon since both France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed constitution that would have effectively created a “United States of Europe.” But at least the diverse countries can get it together to put on a show: the Eurovision Song Contest that is, now in its 50th year.

The 40 singers performed live from the Sports Palace in Kiev, The Ukraine on May 21st for a TV audience of more than 250 million around the world. Aside from the singers, another star of the show was Michael Ilkla's sets and Per Sundin's spectacular lighting design, which was coordinated by project manager Ola Melzig of Swedish company Spectra Stage & Event Technologies. The rig included 370 Robe moving lights (ColorSpot 1200s, ColorWash 1200s, and ColorMixes), along with 5,504 modules of Barco's OLite 510 (86 tiles), 280 tiles of Barco's ILite 8, and 174 conventional fixtures, which were all controlled by five ETC Congo consoles that made their “professional” debut with the Eurovision Song Contest. The fixtures were supplied by HSL Productions in the UK and Miclen in Germany.

The moving lights were installed across eight “finger” trusses that reached across the stage and were used for the rich colors as well as for the tighter beams of light that zoomed in on the singers. The effects lighting on the trusses and the floor featured 70 ColorSpot 1200s, 70 ColorWash 1200s, and 22 ColorMix 575s and were controlled on one Congo by Emma Landare. Danne Persson controlled 67 ColorSpot 1200s, 21 ColorWash 1200s, 11 Syncrolite SX3Ks, nine Martin QFX150 FiberSources, and 90 conventionals on another Congo.

The audience lighting consisted of 72 ColorSpot 1200s, five Clay Paky Stage Profile Plus SVs, 84 conventionals, 44 8-lites, 40 ACL sets, 84 conventionals and were controlled on another Congo by Oskar Krogell. Sixteen Catalyst media servers were controlled by Pontus Lagerbielke on the fourth Congo, while the spare was controlled by Ulf Sandstrom, who was standing by in case one of the other four suddenly failed.

Sandstrom, who was involved in the design of the Congo, the goal during development was to keep everything as direct as possible and allow the operator to work the console without taking his eyes off the action. “I was delighted to notice that we seem to have suceeded in this,” he says. “Our engine has already proven itself at the Eurovision Song Contest three times. It was the new hardware and navigation solutions together with the graphical interface that made the whole difference.”

Sandstrom's role was to support to the other four operators. “I ran all their shows in parallell from a fifth system and I was there to observe how Congo responded to their individual styles of operation,” he explains, adding that all the board ops had different experience on a variety of other consoles, but they were all familiar with moving lights and media servers. However, debuting a console for an audience of over 250 million was somewhat daunting, but Sandstrom says, “Looking back, even we were a bit amazed at how smoothly it went.”

All of the consoles were handled through ETCNet2 nodes and controlled over 15,000 channels over 37 EDMX universes. Four Capture stations were employed for visualization during pre-programming. Two of the stations were also available when necessary during live programming. Avab IPX was used to send DMX information over Ethernet to the Capture computers. ETCNet2 data was transferred from front of house to the dimmer room and ETCNet2 nodes via two fiber-optic cables using spanning-tree functionality. The board ops stored all of their file data on a file server, which was accessible in all systems. The Congo began shipping worldwide in June.

The OLites also made their debut at Eurovision and proved an effective addition to the high-energy production. The OLite's indoor/outdoor display was ideal for use in the stage and backdrop.

The lighting was easily the most spectacular in Eurovision's half century history and when it was all sung and done, the Eurovision 2005 final was won by Greek favorite Helen Paparizou who beat 23 other nations. Better luck next year, Malta.