The 51st Eurovision Song Contest held in Athens is remembered fondly for introducing the world to Lordi and giving Finland their first ever song contest victory.
And now fans will be able to relive the magic of the 2006 contest with new never-before-seen high-definition footage.
On Saturday 31 July, the Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel will broadcast the Eurovision 2006 HD cut.
The ‘HD cut’ was considered forgotten until discovered in a storeroom at the Greek broadcaster ERT‘s headquarters.
Eurovision Song Contest 2006 in Athens in HD
Until recently, the high definition footage was considered lost. But in 2019, staff at the Athens Broadcasting House unearthed a box labelled ‘ESC 2006 Final’. The tapes found within were shipped off to the Netherlands to be digitised. And now the EBU are finally sharing the never-before-seen HD footage from the Athens Olympic Indoor Hall.
The HD footage was never intended to be broadcast. So fans can expect to see a number of differences between this new cut and the original show. Not all of the cameras in Athens were capable of filming in high definition, therefore there are some jarring differences as the picture quality jumps from HD to SD. However, this is a testament to the power of HD technology and how far Eurovision has come since its black and white days of the 1950s. Get ready to see icons including Lordi, Dima Bilan and Anna Vissi in crystal-clear HD!
Elsewhere, the on-screen graphic overlays and postcards are missing. But now fans will get to witness some never-before-seen footage of the transitions between acts. Ever wondered what happens on stage between performances? How do the stage hands clear away all the props? Now you can find out!
The history of high-definition technology at Eurovision
Hardcore Eurovision fans will remember the 2007 contest in Helsinki as the first edition of the show to be broadcast in full HD.
But as it happens, the 2006 show hosted by Sakis Rouvas and Maria Menouno was also filmed in HD as part of an experiment that helped pioneer the technology for use in live television events.
Hans Hoffman, the EBU’s Senior Manager in Technology and Innovation, explains to Eurovision.tv:
“We’re always looking for ways to innovate and the Athens shows offered the opportunity to push boundaries. We started experimenting with HD around 2002, investigating in detail the potential that HD television could have for broadcasters in order to enhance their audience’s experience.
In Athens, we worked very closely with the research and development labs of the IRT (Institute for Broadcasting Technology) in Munich, as well as Rai R&D (Italy) and the BBC R&D (United Kingdom) laboratories, and with our combined resources, teams and equipment, we were able to gain and share editorial and technical experience and insight.
This was translated into specifications and recommendations for the EBU Members to carry out for their own HD strategic planning and to make the right decisions in their investment strategies. So Athens 2006 was a huge, important experience with a lasting impact on the television industry.’
The test material that we generated at the time was used many times in large scale investigations throughout the whole scientific research community. For example, the footage was used to help design the compression format H.264 and for production codecs, which is still in use because the results were so fantastic. It’s great that the entire broadcast community could benefit from the Eurovision Song Contest in this way.
The Athens project allowed us space to ask questions about everything from what’s the best distribution and production formats, to investigating the new types of compression we’d need and the production workflows including optics of the camera. And that’s not forgetting there was a big battle at the time between progressive and interlaced scans to display video. Today it has been proven that the EBU findings by promoting progressive scan was right.”
Nowadays, the research has shifted towards UHD (ultra high definition) and HDR (high dynamic range). And as the Eurovision Song Contest continues to grow and develop, audiences can expect to see new innovations gracing their screens at the courtesy of Europe’s favourite TV show.
Watch Eurovision 2006 Full Show Online in HD
The Eurovision 2006 HD cut will be available on the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel on Saturday 31 July at 21:00 CEST (BST + 1).
What do you think? Are you excited about the new discovery? Will you be tuning in to watch the Eurovision 2006 HD cut? Let us know in the comments down below.