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“When technical questions arise here, they reach out to me”

As Senior Engineer in Charge, I am intensively involved in the multicam registration for the Eurovision Song Contest. Since the tender phase, which was autumn 2019, I have been working intermittently on this unique project. We made the tender in consultation with our R&D department. As of March 22, I’m full-time on this mega job, for which NEP and United have joined forces: it feels like one team. We also work together with our sister company NEP Sweden, who supplies the UHD1 and CuePilot experience.

My job covers all the technology inside and outside the OBV, mainly focusing on the broadcast part: from cameras to viewing monitors. From video mixers to servers. We made a division of labour for this mega job. Robert-Jan Neijland is the Engineer in Charge for the venue network, which includes the entire signal distribution for all view monitors and external customers. When the vehicles left from NEP’s Reportagecentrum in Hilversum, I did get goosebumps. From 21 April, the crew will spend 32 nights in Rotterdam. Unique of course, a main and a back-up OBV that are executed completely identically and where all signals come in and out simultaneously. If one vehicle ‘fails’ or a piece of technology malfunctions, we can switch to the other with the push of a button. That chance is almost zero, but security comes first. Of course we don’t want the image to go black for 200 million people in Europe. We recently did a technical test in Ahoy: a complete power down of the main OBV, we switched over to the back-up OBV without any problems.

Technical Operations Centre
The Mobile Datacenter Unit is the Technical Operations Center. This TOC is the beating distribution heart in Ahoy. Thirteen 19-inch racks, packed with equipment. From this connection centre, all 260 signals go to the UHD1 and UHD2 control cars: audio, video, graphics or AR. Everything is fully redundant. So 130 signals, twice. If Rotterdam were to run out of power, the TOC would remain operational, just like the show. With both OBVs, we can continue to run without power for seven minutes. This gives us time to ‘switch over’ via other voltages. In extreme cases, the EBU in Geneva will be able to put the emergency band ‘live’. But we will certainly not assume that backup scenario.

Stand-in rehearsals
Our crew falls under the technical team of the project organisation. Gijs Vos, Technical Manager Broadcast, is our contact person. After a few days of Technical Rehearsals, we are now in the stand-in rehearsal phase, which is important for the positioning of the artists on stage and all subsequent actions for the lighting plan, production and direction. A recording is made of this rehearsal, which is then sent to the artists for checking. After that, the delegations come in gradually and we go into the next rehearsal phase with them, after which the ‘show’ week finally starts.

Rotterdam bubble
We go on and on, but strangely enough, a kind of serene calm prevails in Ahoy. It is not the calm before the storm, it is more like a well-oiled machine that runs smoothly. The Netherlands has a unique way of producing television; we deal with time efficiently. At the moment, Hilversum, figuratively speaking, is very far away. We are in a Rotterdam ”bubble” here. Our colleagues from the Centralised Production, Infra and NOC departments are also present in Rotterdam to keep everything on the right track technically. In addition, our Support department at the Media Park is always on standby. Fortunately, we have not yet had to call on our colleagues in Hilversum.

Smooth sailing
The Eurovision Song Contest has an unprecedented scale. Nevertheless, I hope that our foreign colleagues will also say something about us: those Dutchmen of NEP have done a good job. In Ahoy, a uniform passion reigns among the television producers to produce the ‘best of the best’. We’ve been busy for so long trying to get it right for the director. A flawless run is our ultimate goal. It is nice that all those technical drawings on my laptop also work in practice here. Now I am standing here in the venue watching a live stand-in rehearsal with a smile from ear to ear, this is really going to be top television.