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Images of the OB truck during the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest
Images of the OB truck during the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest
Photo: Stijn Smulders

Eurovision backstage: We spoke with multicamera director Paula Macedo

Several aspects make a great performance: Props, outfits, the artist, the song, lighting and camera work. A combination of elements that resulted in three live shows watched by nearly 190 million people around the world. But what does it take to get there? Who are the people involved? spoke with Paula Macedo, multicamera director at RTP and the first female multicamera director at the Eurovision Song Contest, to find out more about her work.

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most sophisticated examples of live television and features some of the highest production values in modern broadcasting. But it comes with responsibilities like making sure the entire show gets broadcast in all 43 participating countries and beyond. Paula Macedo was responsible for this during this year's Grand Final and amongst her other responsibilities, she had to sit inside a so-called 'OB truck' during the entire broadcast on the 12th of May.

So... what is an OB truck? 

The outside broadcasting truck (or OB truck) is a production truck from where television or radio programmes are being broadcast. All microphone and camera signals come into the truck for processing and transmission to all broadcasters so you can watch the show on television. Or, as Paula describes the OB truck: “This is where everything happens during the broadcast. We run all the shows from this place with nineteen cameras. During the Grand Final I couldn't leave the truck as I had to be there from beginning until the end. Usually there are several directors on the show; one who is responsible for the acts, one for the interval acts and one for voting. But this year I ran the full show. It was a long time without a break!”

If things don’t go as planned

Most of the camera shots are programmed in a piece of software called CuePilot, which basically cuts from camera to camera at exactly the right time. Here you can see how CuePilot worked back in 2016, during the particularly challenging act of Georgia:

You would think there is not much left to do for Paula during the live shows, except keeping a very close eye on what happens during the show. And that doesn’t always go as planned, Paula explained: “During the first Semi-Final, something went wrong with one of the cameras. Everything is programmed in CuePilot, so we had to improvise. We had to change one camera with another and even though it was a pretty difficult situation, we managed.”  

There are more challenges involved. If you watched the live shows, you probably noticed some of the special effects during some of the performances. A good example is the Bulgarian act — if you watch closely, you will notice visuals that are added to the recording, only visible on TV! These effects are programmed manually in the so-called vision mixer. If something were to go wrong during that performance it is more difficult to improvise as these effects have to be changed as well.

Despite some of the challenges, Paula is also very happy with her job: "I love it. I was born to do this!" would like to thank Paula Macedo for taking time out of her busy schedule in Lisbon to speak to us.