The final of the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest took place in Liverpool, UK, on May 13th and attracted a worldwide television audience of over 160 million people. Throughout the week-long extravaganza, music for all of the televised live shows and rehearsals was mixed on the Mixbus, a music and audio outside broadcast facility that now incorporates an Evertz Studer Vista X console.
Owned by BAFTA winner Conrad Fletcher’s SounDesign company, the Mixbus was chosen for Eurovision because it is kitted out with a plethora of high-end equipment, including a Studer Vista X console that has the ability to handle complex and technically challenging live music shows.
A long time Studer user, Fletcher ordered his new console just three months before the event as a replacement for his old Studer Vista 8 console.
“The Vista 8 had always done a sterling job, but I’d been wanting to upgrade to a Vista X for some time in order to carry my business forward for the next 10 years,” he explains. “Winning the Eurovision project vindicated my decision to invest. The type of projects we do, especially live to cinema that makes up 50 percent of our workload, are complex and I honestly believe Studer is the only console manufacturer that can handle them. Nothing else comes close.”
Cooperation between Fletcher and Evertz, which had recently moved all Studer manufacturing to its factory in Canada, was key to ensuring the console was built and installed in time for the contest.
“Our build team was aware that this console was destined for Eurovision, so they knew delivery wasn’t a moveable date,” says Mark Hosking, Director of International Sales, Studer-Evertz Audio Solutions.
“It went flawlessly,” Fletcher adds. “BAFTA winner Andy Tapley, Sound Supervisor and Sound and Technology Manager at BBC Studioworks was calling me every day to check on progress because he knew he’d be mixing the contest on it. We were all very relieved when it arrived on schedule and was installed on the truck.”
Fletcher’s Vista X has 52 faders and a control surface that weights 150 kilos. It is also 7cm higher than his old Vista 8, which meant the back end of The Mixbus had to be rebuilt to raise the speakers and video monitors above the meter bridge.
Like its predecessor, the console retains Studer’s patented Vistonics user interface and added FaderGlow, along with a new Infinity Core, that provides control of 1,000 or more audio DSP channels with superb sonic quality and more than 5,000 inputs and outputs. To ensure system redundancy that is so vital for live events, Vista X has four processor Quad Star technology and CPU-based DSP that allows two completely independent DSP cores to run in parallel with ‘instant’ change over.
“While it is operationally very similar to the Vista 8, this new desk has some clear advantages,” Fletcher explains. “I really like FaderGlow because each audio fader type can be associated with a chosen colour, plus it has assignable channel meters with a history function so you can instantly see which microphone is faulty, even in a show with hundreds of them; or spot problems with assignments, which is invaluable in a live situation. This gives you an instant overview of the console’s status.”
Fletcher adds that the console’s configuration system is also much quicker to work because it runs natively on modern x86 CPU processors that are found across Evertz live media production product lines. It also has exceptional system reliability with four independent processors providing the necessary backup for shows as complex as Eurovision.
Organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Eurovision is usually hosted by the previous year’s winning country, which in 2022 was Ukraine with the song Stephania by the Kalush Orchestra. But, because of Russia’s invasion of their country, Ukraine was unable to hold this year’s contest, so instead – for the first time in 25 years – it took place in the UK at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, where it was hosted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on behalf of the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine.
Costing more than £16 million to stage, Eurovision 2023 involved 37 participating countries and nine television shows including two live semi-finals and a live final, which was ultimately won by Sweden’s Loreen with the song Tattoo.
Throughout Eurovision week, the Mixbus team were responsible for mixing 45 songs live to air, including guest artists such as Sam Ryder, Rita Ora and Rebecca Ferguson, and contestants. Once the stereo mixes were completed, they were handed over to another BAFTA winner, Sound Supervisor Richard Sillitto, who added presentation and audience on board NEP’s UHD1 scanner. He also provided the 5.1 surround mix. Graham Norton’s presentation was added separately, and an international feed was provided to each country so that they could add their own commentary.
“Considering the complexity of the final show – and indeed all the live shows and rehearsals – it is testament to a great team effort that everything went so smoothly,” says Andy Tapley. “The Vista X was absolutely the right choice for this event. Its ability to completely reconfigure every parameter on the fly at a touch of button meant it was the perfect choice. It is simply the best console for entertainment and music mixing.”
Conrad Fletcher adds: “We are told that the EBU was extremely happy with the quality of the output from the Mixbus, and this is both gratifying and a relief. Some colleagues questioned the wisdom of putting a new desk in just before one of the biggest shows we have ever undertaken. All I can say is the Evertz Studer Vista X console gave us complete and total reliability, from first delivery to completion of a four-hour epic broadcast, and everything in between.”