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A phenomenon: Melodifestivalen 2021 in Sweden

Enthusiasm for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest is bursting every disco bubble this year, especially in the wake of last year's first ever cancellation due to - we all know what - as competing countries ramp up the glorious glitz, glamour, drama and pop moments with gusto.

No country takes the ESC more seriously than Sweden. It is one of the most successful competing nations with a total of six victories and the most top five results of the 21st century, with 11 Melodifestivalen - the annual competition to select the Swedish entry is organised by Sveriges Television and is a phenomenon in itself. In recent years, it has been a touring show visiting six key cities, but due to Covid restrictions, this year the six rounds - four heats, the "second chance" and the final - were staged in one place, the Annexet arena in Stockholm, part of the Globe complex, and broadcast live on STV1.

It was lit for the 20th time by Fredrik Jonsson who utilised 200 Robe moving lights and four Robo Spot systems among other fixtures on the rig. Taking this fund of experience into account, Fredrik always relishes the challenge of making "Mello" look fresh, exciting and fun each year and 2021 was no exception, offering the rare opportunity to work in what was effectively a very large studio space without an audience, which opened new doors for technical experimentation.

Jonsson once again worked closely with set designer Viktor Brattstrom, another long-term member of the Mello creative team. The two enjoy a great imaginative synergy, and usually start throwing ideas into the mix the previous summer and autumn. Video content was supplied by Green Wall Designs, another regular collaborator, who had their content wranglers onsite together with a disguise operator.

With a trim height of around 10 metres - and without the limitations of having to tour the rig - the circumstances gave rise to an idea floating around for some time which involved integrating a roof into the set design. This resulted in shiny black rectangular scenic roof sections being rigged in the upstage/downstage orientation, with lighting trusses filling the gaps in between. With the 24-metre-wide by 28-metre-deep stage to achieve the desired catwalk/runway perspective, the whole roof system needed a lower trim, so this was set at 4.9 metres from the stage floor, resulting in the epic cinematic look that they had been dreaming of.

The low trim also meant that any big bulky lights were out, so Fredrik wanted as many compact powerful fixtures as possible on the rig and chose Robe Mega Pointes and LED Beam 150s to be at the core of the main lighting system. The 88 x Mega Pointes and 82 x LED Beam 150s were rigged in triangular-shaped trusses to maintain the linear perspective at the heart of the set concept.

The next challenge was the rear follow spot positions and Fredrik chose BMFL Wash Beams as follow spot fixtures. However, with this design, it was impossible to rig them on the back bars and keep the clean lines due to the larger size of the fixture compared to the LED Beam 150. After some experimentation, Fredrik opted to use six Mega Pointes as his rear follow spots which retained the aesthetic integrity of the rig. These six fixtures were hooked in to the Robo Spot system.

Some applied rigging magic from rental company - and lighting equipment suppliers - Creative Technology Northern Europe's crew combined with short pipes and swivel couplers enabled the LED Beams to sit slightly lower from the trusses so their lenses aligned trim wise with the Mega Pointes. Also on the rig were 27 x Robe BMFL Wash Beams utilised for key lights, four of which were the front follow spots, also running on the Robo Spot system. MegaPointes were the main workhorses for creating all the effects in the stage area. Most of them were in the roof rig, with a few on the "flowerbox" set pieces - two sets of lights on shelves running US/DS on both sides of the stage. The LED Beams were rigged in almost identical positions as the two types of fixtures were essentially working in tandem so that alignment was also important. Two lighting operators worked alongside Fredrik Jonsson on the show: Danne Persson and Timo Kauristo, using a combination of grand MA2 and grand MA3 consoles. The disguise operator was Fredrik Stormby.

Fredrik broke a few personal records during Mello 2021: The sixth and final broadcast was his 115th Mello broadcast, and by that time he had designed a staggering 612 competition songs - excluding all the interval acts and opening/closing/linking performances. Mello 2021 was won by singer Tusse with the foot-tappingly catchy "Voices", who will represent Sweden in the 2021 Eurovision Song Context Final in Rotterdam on May 22nd.

Fotos: Danne Persson, Fredrik Jonsson

 

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