Editor’s Note: The first three installments of this series can be found here.
With spring on the horizon, there’s a sense of relief the worst of winter is behind them, says Volodymyr Golovan of Real Music, particularly given the attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, adding that, “It’s been quite mild. So, everybody says here that winter was on our side.”
During our conversation in mid-March, with the ongoing struggle in Bakhmut and the grinding uncertainty of the future, it seems odd to start by discussing the weather, but as Golovan says, after more than a year of war, Ukrainians have adapted to conflict in ways similar to the way people adapted during the Covid pandemic. As an example, he cites their determination to continue to find ways of mounting concerts and, specifically, a large venue held recently in Kyiv despite everyday air alarms.
In spite of the risks, being able to experience music is vital, he continues, “People need this. From the latest concerts, we see full venues, not just a few people.” The venue he mentioned has a capacity of several thousand, “And it was full during the last concert by Okean Elzy. Live music unites people – people feel from songs and lyrics that we are together, the connection is strong, and things will not happen like Russia expects – that we will be split. The main mistake Russia made is they underestimate the ability of Ukraine to unite.”
In response to danger, he adds: “It’s everybody as one. There’s a new wave of music in response to the war, all different genres about how we think about the Russian army. I believe these songs, produced by the war, will be in our culture forever.”
He also mentioned pro-Russian artists – whose impact has obviously diminished, but, in streaming, he implies, “it’s another front.”
In this piece, we look at how ongoing events reflect the Ukrainian willingness to adapt and how a venue completed just before the hostilities began symbolizes their hopes for the future.
When we looked at the shows mounted in Ukraine and discussed them with our contacts there, there was a fair bit of discussion about the challenges of mounting shows during wartime. Those challenges continue, of course, but as the war continues, those working to create in-person and broadcast events have gained significant experience using the space available to them to increasingly high-value production effect.
As much as the metro shows look like ordinary gigs – a challenge we discussed previously – a recent Eurovision show in the Kyiv station looks extraordinary. “It’s quite interesting and unique,” Volodymyr Golovan explains, adding that he has gathered comments from a variety of people involved in the production of the National Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv on December 17, 2022.
It was the final of the National Selection “Eurovision 2023” in Ukraine, mounted and broadcast live from 90 meters underground. According to the voting results of the jury and TV viewers, the TVORCHI group will represent Ukraine at this year’s prestigious competition in Liverpool.
“It was in the Independence Square (Maidan) station. It took four days with rehearsals and everything and a few more days to set up,” Golovan explains. “By the following Monday, everything was removed, and the station was up and running again as normal. “Some people didn’t like their commute being impacted,” he chuckles. “And there were crazy people who did crazy things to make it happen.
Looking at the result, the last place you’d think of is a subway platform. It took a team of people to make that a reality, among them directors Yuriy Prystaetskyi and Roman Dmytryk, OB van director Maryna Shaleva, director of production Oleksiy Kovalenko, lighting designer Oleksandr Manzenko, and sound & automation designer Anton Markman, CEO of Unimate Production.
Borys Pustovyi (project manager for the Ukraine National ESC Selection/CEO of Starlight Rental Company, the event’s main technical contractor for this event, explains:,“Our idea was very ambitious from the beginning; to make this as high quality and innovative as possible, regardless of the location and other troubles.” That required “maximum concentration” from the entire team, something ongoing rocket attacks and thoughts of family and friends. “This was the most difficult part of the preparation.”
Then there were physical constraints. First, the comparatively small space available: “Seven meters between columns and six meters in the center.” Additionally, the curved ceiling is only six meters at its highest point. “The immediate challenge was making the room not look tiny, the stage small and the ceiling low.”
To address this, the team installed a deep stage (14 meters front to back) and the entire station was draped in black fabric to create a sense of a larger space for the broadcast image, and Pustovyi adds, “so that there were no associations with the subway and the picture didn’t look “cropped’.”
Screens and lighting on the ceiling further obscured the setting. We’ve previously addressed the issues associated with getting truss, staging, and gear into the space. An even more significant challenge in this case, with 17 cameras and the broadcast infrastructure required, including a powerful OB van that had to be disassembled, moved into place, and reassembled, with all equipment and staging coming in via metro trains during off-hours.
“We also added highlights by using CuePilot broadcast automation system for the first time in Ukraine for live video editing, adding effects/graphics, and substantially increasing the quality of the result,” Pustovy notes. “Several of the performances simply could not be done manually without this system. We showed ourselves and the world that we can create a unique, high-quality product, despite the circumstances, difficulties, and limitations.”
On the audio side, challenges included noise and vibrations of other trains passing through other tunnels in the station, helped by the large quantity of fabric deployed in the facility. For mixing (for the audience, monitors, and broadcast) several DiGiCo consoles were deployed: two SD10s with SD-Rack stage racks, and one SD12 with an SD-MiNi Rack were connected in an Optocore ring with redundancy for each connection.
“Thanks to the Optocore connection, the consoles exchanged signals flexibly, significantly simplifying the switching, says chief sound engineer Anton Markman. “The signal from any input was instantly available on any mixer.” In addition, an SD9 with a D2-rack was utilized for in-ear monitors as well as the director’s audio feed.
The main PA consisted of four L-Acoustics 115XT HiQ coaxial point source elements and two SB18 subwoofers. A separate delay line was provided for the jury, and four 115XT were used as stage monitors/side fills, with another pair of 115XT HiQs for foldback. All loudspeakers were driven by a single LA-RAK amplifier controller rack joined by an additional LA8 amp controller. Multi-channel audio interfaces from RME Audio – MADIface and Digiface Dante – were also employed for several applications.
“Two playback stations, each playing 12 audio channels, were used in parallel with full redundancy and automatic switchover to a backup system. The first six channels of each station went to all consoles (except monitors) through an analog split. Channels seven to 12 went only to the monitors. An additional channel with the control signal for the mixers was played simultaneously with the music channels. OSC commands controlled the faders of the DiGiCo sound consoles, and all the automation precisely matched the timecode of each track.”
Markman continues: “Light and video screens worked in tandem with the music, which is common for us. But this time, automated visual and sound effects were added. To connect the devices and software environments, LAN, OptoCore, and Dante networks were used, through which rtpMIDI, LTC timecodes, OSC commands, and UDP messages were transmitted. That allowed us to automate the work of the video switcher, camera operators, audio consoles, lighting devices, graphics on screens, alpha-channel special effects, titles, vocal effects, and musical tracks to ensure high-quality performances and make them unforgettable for audiences.”
Even with the drapes in place, Unimate technical director Anton Hryshkovskyi explains that “The noise of passing trains made listening and monitoring the mix difficult, but these difficulties only fueled interest in the project. The sound reinforcement was zonal, with the maximum reduction of room reverberation, and site acoustically muffled. Broadcast control was placed between the Maidan and Khreschatyk stations in a bridge/passage and was acoustically insulated.”
Going to the lengths they did was unusual and emotional, Hryshkovskyi concludes. “The reasons for choosing this location are quite serious and sad. But for us Ukrainians, there is nothing that we cannot do.”
That sense of accomplishment and pride is shared, as echoed by the event’s live broadcast director, Maryna Shaleva. “To make a broadcast for the audience, which, at least for a while, will immerse them in the world of music and fill them with good emotions, and where each participant will be properly represented on the screen because this is a competition, the importance of which we all understand.”
The preparation for Shaleva was intense – it required visualization of every second of the performances and constant communication with everyone involved. But under the circumstances, she adds, “In our case, there was no light and connection sometimes for more than 26 hours in a row, which seriously slowed down the work process. I literally spent almost the entire month of preparation in bunkers, basements, parking lots, and ‘points of invincibility,’ looking for a generator, the Internet, light, and communication.
“During the creation of this very special broadcast in the history of the Eurovision contest, it became clear how the human brain works in crisis situations. Just when everything looks like a failure and the lack of opportunities, our team seems to have moved to another level of solving problems and finding and implementing ideas. I think each of us made a quantum leap in work, with our technical and creative brains working in a non-standard, much wider way. That’s why this year the team did what is impossible for many.”
Emily Event Hall
While Eurovision displays the perseverance and ingenuity of the Ukrainian entertainment industry and everyone working in it, Emily Event Hall represents hope for the future. As mentioned in my first article in this series, the audio installation at Emily Hall was a direct project of Real Music’s installation team, brought in after a previous sound system provided for the hall was deemed inappropriate for the venue.
“It was in boxes there at the venue,” Golovan says, but after sounding out some engineers, they were told it was far less than ideal and came to Real Music (the L-Acoustics distributor in Ukraine), which had a K3 rig in stock. It was installed and tuned by the company’s integration team in January 2022, well ahead of the grand opening in late February. He adds: “The L-Acoustics, new K3 linear array fit all their requirements.”
The venue is a part of the Emily Resort – a multifunctional complex located in Lviv-Vynnyky that offers a hotel and a range of amenities that include a wellness/spa area, medical center, skiing tracks, an ice rink, and swimming pools and beach access.
Before the Russian invasion, the resort was ready to open most of its areas, including Emily Event Hall, at 1,500 square meters, the largest concert hall in Western Ukraine. Beyond the audio system, the first L-Acoustics K3 rig deployed in Ukraine, the Hall features a permanent interactive 3D mapping projection projected onto the venue’s undulating indoor mesh wall.
“Our approach to choosing the sound system was thoughtful and responsible. We considered a huge number of technical riders, consulted with artists’ sound engineers, and studied the experience of the best concert venues in the world. And after all, we simply had no doubts that we needed L-Acoustics,” says Denys Rynskyi, project curator for Emily Hall.
The main left-right PA is comprised of six K3 line array enclosures per side, Golovan explains, taking me through the layout. “The horizontal angle of three upper cabinets is set to narrow 70 degrees due to Panflex technology, which helped to reduce unnecessary sound reflections from the side walls and increase the long-throw ability of the arrays. The three lower boxes are open horizontally wide by 110 degrees, ensuring more even coverage in the center of the venue. Two A15 Wide loudspeakers (also with a 110-degree angle) are used for the center hang with six KS28 subwoofers for the low-frequency range.”
Coverage is extended further into the hall via left/right hangs on delay, each consisting of two A10 Focus and one A10 Wide element. Audio powered by LA12X and LA4X amplifier controllers, with a P1 processor for loudspeaker management and an LS10 AVB switch.
Everyone is proud of the result. Golovan states. “This is truly a landmark project for Ukraine. It would be difficult to find a venue that could compete with this in terms of technical equipment.”
Pavlo Mineyev, an L-Acoustics certified system designer in RealMusic, adds, “The K3 line array is the best solution – a truly full-range array, with an identical sound behavior as K1 and K2 arrays.” Being a multi-purpose venue, he notes, “It’s very important for the sound system to be highly flexible, reliable, and redundant. With the matrix processor and measurement platform P1 allows the use of up to three guest mixing consoles at the same time, and connections via AVB protocol with full analog fallback redundancy ensure smooth and uninterrupted operation.”
Golovan and Mineyev were there when the conflict started, preparing to mount a demo event called Open Days to show off the K3 arrays in action. “We arrived at the venue the day before, February 23. Everything was ready. People were invited. But on February 24, we woke up in a new reality.”
Although the opening was put off, Emily Event Hall remains a symbol of inspiration as well as perseverance, hosting shows over the past six months – providing hope and solace to both concertgoers and, in a very real way, for those in need during the conflict; hosting people displaced by the conflict in the larger Emily Resort complex.
The war changed their plans, Rynskyi says, “But the entire Emily Resort team began to volunteer. They prepared thousands of meals and delivered them to those in need – people in shelters, train stations, and so on.”
He adds that the resort’s management decided to open the complex for visitors despite the conflict “to support the country’s economy and to create jobs for people.” The venue – with everything necessary to host world-class events on-site, he continues, “Since, it has been the perfect place for holding charity concerts.” Among them were several large symphony concerts and performances by the Emily Orchestra, concerts attended by hundreds of guests, with all profits going to support Ukraine’s military. “Namely for the purchase of ‘warming sets’ to help soldiers keep clothes, shoes, and food warm.
“Moreover,” he continues, “on St. Nicholas Day, the resort team prepared a special present for children affected by the war (including the kids of soldiers, forced migrants, and children from orphanages) – a free, specially staged holiday musical, ‘Stolen Time,’ so that children could feel the holiday mood, and, at least for a while, forget the horror of war. “Today, Emily Event Hall continues to work for the benefit of Ukraine and all Ukrainians, who are waiting for the victory and return of the great festive events to their lives,” he concludes.
As for the future, Golovan says he looks forward to hosting Open Days – eventually. “It was postponed, not cancelled. After our victory, we believe that we will celebrate in this hall, together with famous Ukrainian and international artists.”