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Eurovision 2012: Baku’s big show

All eyes were on Azerbaijan for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Unlike previous shows, the logistics of running this year’s contest included shipping every single piece of kit in from abroad, writes Erica Basnicki.

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest will perhaps go down in history as the most-talked about event in the show’s history, though certainly not just for the music. Nearly 16,000 fans filled the newly-built Crystal Hall in Baku, Azerbaijan to watch Engelbert “The Hump” Humperdinck, an Albanian version of Bjork, and ­– just like last year – some outrageously political voting, and bloody Jedward. German production company Brainpool deserve a trophy for the herculean task they had on their hands, which above and beyond the average Eurovision workload included having to ship every single piece of kit – from their own forklifts right down to rolls of gaffer tape – in from Germany and Romania, as there is no live events infrastructure in Azerbaijan to speak of. It took no less than 100 shipping containers to get it all there. Additionally, the stadium was an unknown venue to work with; construction of which was only completed on 16 April. Brainpool’s head of sound, Florian Kessler, relied on L’Acoustics’ Soundvision simulation software to design the PA. In the end, he decided on an L’Acoustics KARA system, flown in nine positions of 20 modules, with three SB18 subs at each position. Six arrays of KIVA line source elements were used as nearfield monitors. Eight Soundcraft Vi6 consoles were used to mix and monitor the contest: one pair for the performance, another for the interval material, and a backup for each. Additionally, a Yamaha DM2000 was used to monitor all 150 wireless frequencies in Sennheiser’s setup: 50 channels of monitors, and 100 wireless microphone channels. Audio for the show was provided by Cologne-based Toneheads. Celebrating their 25th Eurovision contest, Sennheiser provided performers and presenters with SKM 5200-II microphones fitted with Neumann KK 104-S capsule heads and SK 5212-II bodypack transmitters each with EM 3732-II dual-channel receivers. The IEM system comprised SR 2050s and IE60 headphones. Additional kit was also provided for rehearsal and production crew, as well as press conferences. Markus Müller of MM Communications and a crew of 90 people did the planning for the wireless system, which Müllers said required 10,000 batteries to be shipped in from Germany. There was also more than enough equipment provided to detect news crews using wireless frequency users illegally “I had a long list of more than 40 (illegal frequency users) last year,” said one of Sennheiser’s RF experts, Klaus Willemsen. “This year, there are only about 20.” Despite the enormous logistical difficulties of pulling off the event in Baku, it was a spectacular night without a technical glitch (or sign or protest). In case you haven’t heard it on the radio (have you been away?), Sweden’s Loreen grabbed the top spot with “Europhoria” earning 372 points in total, and the country has confirmed it will host next year’s show. The Russian Grannies placed second and UK entry Engelbert Humperdinck finished a less-than-remarkable second last, only five points ahead of bottom finisher Norway who went home with 7 points. More on Eurovision, Baku, and the epic production that was this year’s song contest in the July issue of PSNEurope…