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pyrotechnic Markku from Finland
pyrotechnic Markku from Finland
Photo: Andres Putting

How it's made: From flames to fireworks

During the weeks after the Eurovision Song Contest we look back at what happened on and around the stage in Kyiv. Artists are in the spotlight most of the time, but now we shine a light on the hard-working people backstage. caught up with Markku Aalto, a pyrotechnician from Finland.

Markku was in charge of the pyrotechnics and special effects at the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. We met Markku next to the stage, where he was based for weeks on end in Kyiv. He enthusiastically told us about his job: "We’re responsible for the flame and sparkling effects, and for the smoke on stage. We basically take care of everything that is not video or lighting." 

Playing with fire

Armenia rehearsals
Armenia rehearsals © Andres Putting

Markku brought a small team of five people from Finland and worked together with local experts from Ukraine. Even though he had his own team, there were still challenges in his role. "Pyro involves fire, so you can burn yourself or get even more seriously injured. Fire is not a toy," Markku explained. 

Each different performance was special to Markku but when asked which one stands out in his mind, he immediately knew the answer. "Armenia’s performance of 2017 is very special, because the flames and smoke come from spots where you don’t see them. That gives a mysterious effect."

Mission impossible

The effects can be very special, but some countries also ask for impossible things according to Markku. "The delegations have to understand that we have to get everything up on the stage in less than one minute. We don’t have so much time to do mission impossible things," he said. A good thing then that everything was permanently installed on the stage in Kyiv, allowing the team to work safely and focus on the show.

Planning for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in Portugal is underway. What advice does Markku have for the team next year? "Be on time!" he said laughing. "I try to avoid doing the same thing over and over, so I push the delegations a little bit. I’m very happy when everything we did comes together during the live shows."