Js line up for Helsinki's Eurovision Song Contest


The arrival of Lordi as last year's surprise winners of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) established a new precedent; essentially anything goes, and that was reflected by the variety of content for ESC 2007 from the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. The show was universally acclaimed a triumph, not least for its eye dazzling use of scenic video, a feature that allowed the TV directors to present a three hour marathon show with as much visual variety as there was musically. So too with the audio, "The dynamic range of the music was immense," said system designer Reima 'Reiska' Saarinen. "I had to provide a system that could accommodate all the various styles." The European Broadcasting Union who oversee the event are very clear that the tools of production should not be seen to favour any particular contestant; and rightly so.

"I have put systems into the Hartwall before," explained Saarinen, "most recently using a d&b audiotechnik J-Series system supplied by Akun Tehdas, one of Finland's leading audio companies, for a concert by 50 Cent. Hartwall is a typical big hockey arena but is more audio friendly than most, insulation beneath the roof helps a lot, and the Finish broadcaster YLE also carpeted the floor for the event. My only problems were the glass windows on the VIP boxes and the balcony fronts. But my experience with 50 Cent convinced me that the J-Series was the way to go."

Sightlines were also a major consideration; YLE the Finnish broadcaster wanted no loudspeakers to be visible in camera shot. "There were three main elements to Reima's system," began Akun Tehdas system engineer Timo Liski. "Two hangs of J subwoofers flown closest to the stage approximately twenty metres apart; then outside them a line of J8s with two J12s at the bottom. Front fills at stage level were not allowed, but in the end, and despite the height we had to fly the whole system, the J12s covered the front rows of the audience perfectly. Finally we had another line array aimed off into the seating areas to the immediate side of stage, this time using d&b's Q-Series system." Liski had Jonas 'Jones' Wagner from d&b Application Support check Saarinen's design configuration to make sure nothing was overlooked, "He confirmed what we already knew; the huge central hockey scoreboard flown above the arena floor would cause a problem in the far centre seating. We were fortunate in that lighting rigged a large follow spot bridge behind it, and we were able to rig Q loudspeakers off its back edge, which covered the far balcony seats in the shadow of the scoreboard perfectly. It was very reassuring to have Jones confirm all our calculations; we've not even had the system a year yet so it's good to know when someone from the manufacturer tells you your understanding of system performance is correct".

Control and mixing was all digital; desks from Innovason were used by Kimmo Ahola at FoH, with Klas Granqvist and Arto Nuppola sharing honours on monitors. Liski used ROPE C from front of house (with a mimic set up backstage right), "Once I'd time aligned the system there was virtually no EQ to apply; Reima just had me adjust around 8 kHz to the far reaches of the audience left and right. I found the SenseDrive function in the d&b's D12 amplifiers really effective; we have some very long cable runs from the amps up over the lighting rig to the loudspeakers; the performance consistency from the array has been as if the amps were right beside them." Monitors also utilised d&b equipment; M4 wedges were expertly concealed beneath the stage by set builders Stage One, and Saarninen achieved an unheard of feat by getting YLE to agree to flown sidefills. "I put just three Q1 cabinets a side above the stage, it was a close thing; they trimmed at 9.5 metres, putting them approximately twelve to thirteen metres from the performers' ears. The time delay between them and the stage monitors was just short enough to work." It also meant he was able to reduce the number of wedges on the stage, thus allowing the set design to contain an even greater unbroken surface of LED video devices.

Saarinen had one operational headache, one common to all modern renderings of the ESC, "The show hosts sometimes present from in front of the PA right among the audience. To make matters worse they wear head-worn mics; that was one of the reasons I didn't fight for front fills. The 120 degree vertical pattern of the J12s above came from the one direction where the mics were mostly shielded by the wearers head, so we managed."

"We were very happy with the live sound set up," said Matti Helkamaa, head of sound for YLE. "We got exactly what we wanted, good engineers, good system features. I'm responsible for everything audio, intercom, commentary, broadcast sound, and live; this last part has been the easiest." Ahola at FoH was equally satisfied, "I regularly mix for Nightwish," one of Finland's most internationally successful rock acts. "The sound from the J-Series is exactly the same as what I'm used to from the d&b Q loudspeakers, which I regularly rent from Akun Tehdas for our tours in Scandinavia. I'll be asking for Js from now on, they cover a big room like this really comfortably."

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