ESC Official Technical Supplier, Ampco Flashlight of Utrecht, supplied a large number of Ayrton Huracán-X, Karif-LT and MiniPanel-FX LED fixtures for the 65th Eurovision Song Contest at the Rotterdam Ahoy Arena, at the request of ESC Head of Lighting, Henk-Jan van Beek of Light-H-art.

With some 39 countries and 55 scenes to create and programme different looks for, van Beek needed fixtures that would give him a lot of variety, and used the ‘trilogy’ of Ayrton fixtures for three different purposes.

“Huracán-X is our workhorse,” says van Beek. “We chose it because it gave us all the power, possibilities and creativity in one fixture and we used every feature of it.”

180 Huracán-X were rigged over the main and B-stages where 40 of them were mounted on extendable drop arms, and on three levels around the auditorium from where they were used for show and key lighting.

“Huracán-X gave us all the colourful looks and gobos we wanted for top and side lighting, and superb architectural looks, textures, beams, and audience backlighting from the auditorium fixtures. It also helped us work around the massive video wall that is the backdrop to the whole show.”

Florian Wieder’s set design was inspired by the long lines and low horizons of the Dutch landscape – a motif that van Beek continued through into the linear looks of his lighting design. It was imperative that none of the technology should interfere with these lines or impinge on the video backdrop. “By using Huracán-X rigged at a distance and located on three different levels, we were able to maintain completely clear sightlines to the video wall, but still retain all the options and power we needed,” says van Beek. “Even from the back walls the Huracán-X still had plenty of punch, and their movement and positioning gave us multiple angles at every level, to give all the angles, intensity, colour and effects we could need.”

The 40 Huracán-X mounted on drop arms enabled van Beek to close in on the performers for more intimate looks and even change the shape of the stage frame.

“Mounting the Huracán-X on drop arms was originally a functional solution to maintaining the clean, straight lines of Wieder’s set design,” explains Ampco Flashlight’s Operational & Commercial Director, Dennis van der Haagen. “The grid is too high for useable performer key lights so the drop arms brought the Huracáns down to a more useable angle. The Huracáns’ reliability was also important in this location. They then became a design feature in their own right, serving both a functional and effect purpose, reshaping and framing the stage and adding to the linear looks. The result is really impressive.”

Fifty-eight Huracán-X fixtures were calibrated to a Follow-Me tracking system and used as key lights and followspots on the artists. For the second semi-final interval act – The Power of Water by Davina Michele & Thekla Reuten – the Huracáns were integrated in the FollowMe system to follow the dancer in motion. “It was spectacular to see,” says van Beek. “They delivered a beautiful tone and quality of light, even from the farthest side lights at more than 25m distance and the effect we achieved from having the fixtures rigged over the three layers of the venue gave the most fantastic look with every angle covered.

“I knew from the outset that the interval act would need water effects, which was a major influence on which fixture I chose. Huracán’s effects wheel worked perfectly with the mix of gobos and colours to give a very nice atmosphere which got excellent reviews.”

This is the first time van Beek has used Huracán on such a large scale: “I am very happy with all the features: the effects wheel, the blades (shutters) which are very fast and accurate, the output, the responsiveness – they gave us everything we needed for keylight, showlight, back light and colour bumps, etc. The colours and whites are very good, especially for television, which is another reason we chose them – it’s the workhorse we need!”

Second on van Beek’s inventory of Ayrton fixtures – and also a first time use for him – were 64 Karif-LT LED beamspot fixtures which were rigged in small clusters on the balconies and goal posts, and located on the floor and upstage truss behind the video wall to be revealed through large rotating doors in the centre.

“Karif- LT is a smaller unit which we used mainly for effects and creative backlighting,” says van Beek. “The upstage units were very effective for entrances, while the auditorium units worked especially well in the clusters. They gave us a useful alternative to the laser line effects, with plenty of punch and colour for bumps and effects over the 25m throw distance.”

The large video wall had two huge rotating doors set into its centre, on the back of which were embedded 140 Ayrton MiniPanel-FX – the third of van Beek’s trilogy – with mirrors attached to the reverse of each fixture.

“We had a lot of compliments about the MiniPanels on the revolving doors,” says van Beek. “They are amazing fixtures which fit precisely into the custom made set piece and integrate perfectly. The doors became like huge impressive fixtures in their own right.

“I used many configurations of individual pixels – there so many variations just from the face of the unit – and the mirror on the back certainly added another dimension,” says van Beek. “There is one special moment at the end of the Switzerland entry when the doors are rotating and the MiniPanel-FX fixtures are turning over and over in a cascade of continually rolling MiniPanels, flashing the lights and mirrors alternately. It’s a really nice effect I used a couple of times.

“MiniPanel-FX’s continuous pan and tilt lent an extra dimension,” adds Dennis van der Haagen. “That allowed us to create a triple effect from the one unit: the output of the MiniPanel-FX itself with its distinctive square 2 x 2 LED face, the waterfall effect from the continuous tilt/roll of the head, and the reflections of the other lighting from the mirrored back.”

“It’s important to choose the right spot for the right job,” confirms van Beek. “Ayrton now has a good line of fixtures and I think Huracán-X will be a favourite in the coming years.”

Ruud Werkhoven, Ampco Flashlight’s Senior Project Manager states: “We were really happy to work with the Ayrton fixtures, both because of the quality of the light source and the build quality. Everything worked very well and was very reliable. We had great support from Ayrton!”

A close partnership has existed between Ampco Flashlight and Ayrton since the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon in 2018. “We knew of Ayrton before, mainly as an effects lighting company,” says van der Haagen, “but when we met at Lisbon we experienced for ourselves how very versatile and reliable their products were, and how solid their support was. Ayrton is always available, and very proactive when it comes to ensuring projects like this work.”

Following the two semi-finals on 18 & 20 May, the Eurovision Grand Final was broadcast on 22 May 2021 to 180 million worldwide viewers and in front of a 3500 seated audience. It was produced by Netherlands’ host broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). ESC Head of Production was Erwin Rintjema.

Text: Julie Harper
Photos: © Ralph Larmann & © Nathan Reinds

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