Eurovision 2023’s design team has revealed how it will use LED screen technology, lighting and automation to create a “spectacle” for the final of the competition.
Set designer Julio Himede was invited to pitch by the BBC in September alongside four other designers before going on to win the project in November.
“Bringing new tricks”
The brief comprised two distinct parts: creative and logistic design requirements. The first asked Himede to “create a unique design” that works at scale and in accord with the Eurovision identity, he says.
On the logistical side, Himede says he had to consider that there are “more performances than any other show” with 37 countries taking part this year. He adds that making the set “neutral” and adaptable to each artist’s style and genre was crucial, so they can “own the stage”.
The Eurovision 2023 set is 90% video technology – encompassing the floors, walls, and ceiling – blended with lighting and automation. The design team briefed each performing nation on what the set has to offer to them so that they could decide how best to use various special effects, according to Himede.
Use of lighting and video in Eurovision has increased over the last few years but “while it’s not necessarily new”, Himede says Eurovision works on “bringing new tricks to the show each year”.
Technology and precision
The nature of the show means that all elements must transform and move quickly. “The thing with Eurovision is it’s very precise and also a spectacle to watch”, says Himede.
Audiences at home see the elaborate performances but they don’t see the changeover between acts, which happens in under a minute. Himede says most TV and awards shows he has worked on do this in two-to-three-minute commercial breaks whereas the Eurovision team must achieve it in 50 seconds.
Another technological feature not visible to at-home audiences is the marking out system. Speaking from his sound booth at the venue, lighting designer Tim Routledge explains how the team use the LED screen floor to help bring sets onto stage at speed via “spike marks” that show the crew “exactly where to place everything” as well as indicating where the artist should stand.
Blurring lines between digital and reality
With four hours of consecutive performances, the design team’s goal is to keep viewers’ attention by continuously evolving the show design and architecture. Another consideration is catering to all of Eurovision’s music genres, from thrash metal to pop.
Routledge describes the lighting rig as “the biggest ever seen in the UK”. “Huge statements can be made with lighting”, he says. “Even if it’s a ballad there’s still opportunity for an epic lighting moment”.
Although Netherlands contestants Mia Nicolai and Dion Cooper didn’t make to final, Routledge speaks highly of their use of the set and lighting, describing the “massive lighting reveal coming out of darkness” at the end of their performance.
Designers also had to think about the scale of each performance. Himede says that Croatian band Let 3 “really embraced the video set” with their creative direction while Sweden’s artist Loreen will stand on “a tiny box” for her performance.
Routledge adds that Armenian artist Brunette has “an amazing projection piece” planned for the final, starting with her in a small box on the stage, eventually revealing the full set as the song progresses. “A lot of countries follow the principle of starting small and revealing more and more as they go through the piece, but always in a different way,” he explains.
Himede and Routledge sought to blur the lines between the real and digital world for some of the performances. Swedish artist Loreen “wanted her own world on the stage”, says Routledge, with real life smoke effects accompanied by digital smoke effects.
Greece’s contestant Victor Vernicos will lie on the floor inside a digital clock during his act, while Cypriot Andrew Lambrou’s performance features a moment when all the screens are blacked out aside from the waterfall feature, designed to leave at-home viewers questions whether the water is real or not.
UK artist Mae Muller’s performance includes a huge five-metre-wide riser “clad with video”, making her “appear to be inside the video world”, says Routledge.
A cultural collaboration
Julio says the opportunity to work with two different cultures – Ukraine and UK – has been “unique” and influenced both the design choices and the crew. Two content companies, one based in the UK and Ukraine, created all of the video content for the LED screens.
Routledge was also keen to have Ukraine integrated into the project in as many places as possible and worked alongside Ukrainian lighting designer Zhenya Kostyra, who worked on Dancing with the Stars and The Voice in Ukraine.
Ukrainian multimedia company Freckled Sky used the immersive screen “quite heavily” during the interval show of semi-final one to create “a beautiful immersive story using perspective techniques” telling tales of people leaving Ukraine during the war, says Routledge.
Belgium-based company Wi Creations worked on the automation for the show and was a key partner in “bringing it to life”, says Himede.
The same attitude towards collaboration is expressed through Eurovision 2023’s brand identity designed by Design Bridge and Partners (formerly Superunion at the time of the project) and Ukrainian studio Starlight Creative. The colour palette comprises hues from both the UK and Ukraine flags while the font nods to traditional Liverpool street signs, paying homage to the host city.
Design Bridge and Partners design director Tyler Berry says: “Eurovision’s theme this year is United by Music in light of the UK hosting on behalf of war-torn Ukraine. All these elements come together in the brand, which encapsulates the unique and emotive spirit of Eurovision 2023: a collaboration between city, people and nations, and a declaration that music binds us all.”