Live from Malmö: Behind the scenes of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024

Following Loreen’s win in Liverpool in 2023, Sweden has the honour of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for a record seventh time.

Hosted by Swedish broadcaster SVT in collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the 68th Eurovision Song Contest is set to take place in the Malmö Arena on Saturday 11 May, with semi-finals scheduled for Tuesday 7 May and Thursday 9 May. The three live shows are expected to attract 162 million viewers.

SVT is working in partnership with facilities provider NEP and with Eurovision Services, the one-time broadcasting arm of the EBU but that has been owned by Munich-based venture capital firm Dubag Group since February 2023. The EBU remains Eurovision’s main customer and the Song Contest the largest event it works on.

“I’ve loved Eurovision since I was a little boy and I still have to pinch myself that I get to help produce Eurovision as a job,” says Lennard Bartlett, project leader at Eurovision Services. “It’s a great privilege and I’m very proud of my Eurovision Services team and EBU and BBC colleagues for what we achieved together last year. Over to you SVT – bring it on.”

Eurovision Services provides distribution of the produced world feed and is producer of the live voting element of the final in which 37 live feeds from participating members need intricate coordination with belt and braces backup.

Speaking from the Eurovision Services truck located in the OB compound 20m outside of the Malmö Arena, Bartlett says: “It is the biggest live music event in the world by audience and no other show attempts live voting on this scale.”

The world feed itself remains in 1080i 50 SDR after an assessment by the EBU after the 2023 event in Liverpool found there was not sufficient demand for a 4K UHD HDR (or even a HD HDR) production among its public service broadcaster community.

Bartlett: ‘I still have to pinch myself that I get to help produce Eurovision as a job’

That said, production values are being upgraded with capture for the first time in Progressive Segmented Frame (PsF), a means of acquiring, producing and distributing a progressive scan from interlace equipment.

“The intent is to add a more filmic look to performances,” says Bartlett. “Inside the arena you can really tell that the standards of lighting, staging and sound quality will be top notch in terms of production standards. You can see that too in monitors from the OB compound during rehearsals that this is going to be a very high-quality show.”

Roe Visual is the official supplier of all LED kit for the song contest; Creative Technology Sweden is responsible for the installation.

This comprises around 1,000sqm of LED screen, including a stage floor LED of 186sqm and a backdrop LED screen of 340sqm. Hanging from the ceiling of the arena are five LED cubes totalling 460sqm.

A 6-person stage management team leads the three live shows and manage a further 36 crew who have just 55 seconds to reset the stage between each of the 37 songs. These movements have been carefully choreographed and rehearsed, just like everything else in the live shows.

Eurovision Services’ facility is connected to NEP’s OB truck via a Technical Operations Centre (TOC) and manages onward distribution over fibre and/or via satellite to all EBU members. Signal redundancy is provided from two teleports including one in Geneva.

Signals for the live voting components are contributed via satellite or direct fibre connection or video over IP.

“We require each of the 37 participating members to provide us with a main feed and a back-up link,” he adds.

“It is the biggest live music event in the world by audience and no other show attempts live voting on this scale”

Security is another crucial part of the Eurovision Services operation and it is the piece of the puzzle that shifts most year on year.

Bartlett explains: “We can’t go into detail on the mechanisms we have in force for obvious reasons, but it is an area we reassess regularly to make sure we have the latest encryption methods and that our kit is patched with the latest updates to the highest specification basically to ensure we are protected. We’ve taken aboard information provided by SVT, EBU and other security agencies to ensure we’re operating within the evolving cybersecurity picture.”

This is Bartlett’s second Song Contest as project lead but the 12th for lead engineer Felix Berndt. Many of the team producing in Malmö are veterans of the 2013 show also hosted in Malmö and of the 2016 event in Stockholm.

“We’ve a very experienced team and it all has a very family feel,” he says. “The vibe is definitely building. The city is getting prepared and hardcore fans are arriving. The Eurovision Village and Eurovision Street and other dedicated areas are buzzing. It promises to be a huge production.”

In one change to the format, artists from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, plus Sweden, will each perform their entries live during the semi-finals. The so-called Big Five get a ‘bye’ into the final but will showcase their entries to viewers live alongside the competing acts.

Twenty-four-year-old Swiss rapper Nemo is the bookies favourite to win this year.

Eurovision Services are next in action in Germany for the Euros and then again in Paris at the Olympics.

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