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Eurovision - first semi final

There is going to be a change from before. I have watched the song contests in the past few years, but the write-ups never got done/finished for the reason that it is all done by hand and the markup is rather fiddly and time consuming, but that's nothing compared to sorting out the photos - which often need to be cropped as "full frame" tends to include blank areas outside of the visible picture plus it is anamorphic so needs to resized differently in each direction, which precludes using automated tools. It's a slow process.

Therefore, the Eurovision entries will be written as regular blog entries. The layout is a lot simpler, and since all this stuff is on YouTube (etc) for those who missed the live broadcast or couldn't get it in their area, I don't need to feel like I need to include lots and lots of pictures. So this will be the usual Eurovision write-up, only in a mostly-textual format.
Edit: I said I wasn't going to include pictures. I lied. Sorry. ☺

This bit is kind of geeky so I've made it small. You can safely ignore this if you don't care about the details of the video recording.
The pictures included are raw screengrabs from the recording made by my Neuros OSD PVR. They have not been processed or anything other than rescaling from anamorphic. It just didn't seem right without some sort of pictures to accompany each entry. You'll probably see a lot of compression/aliasing effects. That's because it is a 200MHz ARM and a 100MHz DSP capturing and recording video in realtime, and fast motion (like, you know, a song contest) is always a difficult thing to compress when you don't have the luxury of examining previous and next frames and taking as long as is necessary. No, this has to build the video on the fly, compress the audio (128kbps AAC) in realtime as well, plus have enough processing time left over to be able to write the data to SD card. It is remarkably impressive for such a seemingly underpowered bit of kit. It can do better. This is the 1500kbps option. The OSD can go up to 2500kbps for a much smoother looking video, however the problem here is that the song contest is long and at 1500kbps it came to one and a half gigabytes. If it goes over 2GiB (and it would at any higher option), things get kind of weird. I'm not sure if it is a bug in the firmware, the encoder, or FAT itself. But >2GiB risks the recording failing to be finalised which means the entire thing would be junk data (as the finalisation outputs the index of where each keyframe is stored). For what it is worth, my older PVR (same basic hardware, but lamer codec and split into 1 hour chunks) was also recording in case a backup copy was required.

As always, I have totally avoided all of the social media malarkey surrounding the contest. At this point I have no idea about any of the songs, including neither the UK's nor France's entries. The only "surprise" I am aware of is that a new entrant this year is Australia, as in Kylie&Jason, the other Minogue sister, Dame Edna, and some really cheesy children's Sci-Fi like...oh what was it I watched a million years ago - The Girl From Tomorrow or something?

So... As the night wears on, this entry will get bigger.


Oooh, a proper orchestra. Will this stay for the duration of the contest? I hope so - I've always said that if I was in charge of a Eurovision contest, I would do everything I could to bring back the orchestra for live music instead of performing to a backing track.
Of course, we begin with Conchita reprising the song "Rise Like A Pheonix" that won for Austria last year. It's a pretty big stage, and a welcome for all of the performers in tonight's programme.
Mom has a sore back, so I made her a hot water bottle and missed this bit - so no spoilers then. ☺ I came back to the end of Conchita's song.

Three female presenters. A lot of waffle about what "building bridges". Okay, it has just been mentioned that Eurovision is celebrating its 60th year so is doing so by having Australia enter for one year only - a guaranteed place in the grand final.

The first postcard. Lederhosen and tractors. What a cliché!

Moldova - I Want Your Love

Edward looks like one of those "trendy hackers" in a 90s movie aimed at kids. Doubly so with some extremely sleazy looking cops. It is a reasonably well choreographed but ultimately boring forgettable song. And, guess what, tonight's first (minor) costume changed.

Armenia - Face The Shadow

Well, this is a bit gothic isn't it? Cloaks and low lying fog. A slow build into a power ballad, if you can imagine Anúna - the Andrew Lloyd Webber version. I quite liked the beginning, but it got a bit weird and screechy towards the end.

Belgium - The Rhythm Inside

The third song, sung by a preppy? With some oddballs in white standing together apart from him? I don't much like this song, but it is an oddly captivating performance. Interesting staging. Well...

The Netherlands - Walk Along

An extreme close-up of a woman wearing a veil, which she pulls off for the first chorus to reveal a bizarre outfit that makes her look like she's wearing a mecha-suit. She is a bit sloppy on the note changes.
Why? Why don't you walk along baby... (or something like that) - fine, I'll walk along. Next!

Finland - Aina Mun Pitää

Riight.... Older people with "special needs" (is that politically correct enough?) bashing out a short rock number, as if the lead singer thinks he is Sid Vicious. And running to a huge one minute forty. It is . . . a very unusual entry from Finland. And this is the country that gave us hard rock monsters, remember.
But, give it some credit. It's the first song of the night not in English.

Now some time wasting while lesser channels go to adverts.

Greece - One Last Breath

A woman, a piano, a ballad. She just has one last breath. Oh my. Farrah Fawcett hair and the wind machine, though I wonder how many have noticed that the slit down the front of her dress reaches down to her belly button. It's... yeah... It defies logic.

Estonia - Goodbye to Yesterday

A guy with a guitar and an interesting shadow, it's all a bit film noir. Then the woman approaches for the second chorus. It's a gentler song about the woman asking why didn't the guy wake her up? Not a bad song, though the woman has spooky eyes. Either that or she totally wants the bloke.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - Autumn Leaves

Something that I've noticed in recent years is that the background visual effects are quite impressive, and this song goes to town with that. The song? It's a power ballad sung by a male, and I'm really pleased that the three black blokes that walked on partway in didn't do something horrible like rap or beatbox. If anything they add a sort of soul vibe. It was a reasonable song, yes.

Serbia - Beauty Never Lies

Imagine a Kokeshi doll. Now try to imagine the polar opposite. Right, you're on the right track. My mom just walked in and asked "is that a female???". Need I say more?

Hungary - Wars for Nothing

Mom says this girl looks "amazingly like Kate" (Windsor, Prince William, you know...). There are others, and the background screen used quite effectively.
I really like this song. Such a gentle song. Did I mention I like this?

Belarus - Time

Serious fiddling (as in violin!) but it is hard to watch. Too damn much going on in the background display. It detracts from the song, which is probably just as well as it sounds like he is saying something like "time is like thunder" over and over.

Russia - A Million Voices

Is her dress lit up, or is it a light effect? It's... Quite nicely co-ordinated with the floor effects. A bleach blonde with backing musicians dressed like the BeeGees. One of the better of this year's power ballads, and she's given this one two hundred percent, even though she looked terrified.

Now another cut out for adverts.

Denmark - The Way You Are

Okay, what era is this from? This is like every cliché from the late sixties rolled into one song - including the dress, and possibly the instruments too. This is a comedy entry, isn't it? Mom says "it is very Herman's Hermits". Well, at least it wasn't a Beatles clone. Could be catchy, but it is a bit repetitive.

Albania - I'm Alive

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't shouldn't one of the primary criteria for entering a song contest be the ability to sing? Next...
(at the end of the song: the world would be a messed up place if this qualifies)

Romania - De La Capat

This far in and the second song of the night in Romanian (and English). This is quite a pleasant song, he has a nice voice. Not sure what the suitcases on stage are for. With the black and white photos on the screen behind, maybe this is a song about memories or something?
I liked that.

Georgia - Warrior

This kind of defies description. Elvira and Morticia Addams belting out a screechy rock song. It's a good effort for those sick by now of all those power ballads. Well, that's the joy of Eurovision, it's like opening fortune cookies.
What comes to mind when I see this? Well...
# You'd better hope and pray that you wake one day in your own world.


Okay. That's it. That's all of the songs.


My picks

Here are my choices, in order of liking (first is best):
  • Hungary - wars for nothing
  • Russia - and the million voices
  • Romania - and the suitcases
  • Estonia - the film noir girl that wants the guy
  • Armenia - and the strange purple song
  • Belgium - and the oddly captivating performance
  • FYR Macedonia - and the indoor shades
  • Denmark - and the sixties
  • Georgia - and the change of tempo
  • Greece - hopefully not her last gasp?


A lot of talking. Wasn't there some sort of interval act? A discussion with the Australian entry.


Auto-qualifier preview

  • Austria - no competition
  • United Kingdom - might do better than the usual entries
  • Spain - Céline Dion in Spanish
  • Italy - over the top and kind of cool in a bit of an Il Divo way
  • Germany - not a winner
  • France - oh my god, it's yet another French power ballad - you know half their musical output sounds like this
  • Australia - surprisingly good, maybe a bit too good for Eurovision?


The qualifiers

The executive producer says that the results are in and valid. This guy is no Stockselius (and can I still remember how to spell that?).

Okay. Enough. Here are the ten finalists in random order...

  • Albania - Oh God, you mean I have to listen to this again!? What's the unicode glyph for an unhappy smiley?
  • Armenia - the cloaks and the purple
  • Russia - not a surprise that she'll sing to an even bigger audience
  • Romania - pack those suitcases!
  • Hungary - the one I like is through!
  • Greece - the air hair
  • Estonia - film noir
  • Georgia - the goth chick
  • Serbia - this isn't a surprise that it was voted in
  • Belgium - the nice staging
I predicted all except FYR Macedonia and Denmark, so this is a result I'm happy with.


Semi-final number two is on Thursday night...


And a final word. Seen as I was skipping through the recording taking the screenshots. I really hope they weren't dumb enough to give the performer's real addresses!



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