Imagine Belfast 2008
Friday, 15 March 2002
Fifty mile an hour winds and driving rain didn’t deter the spectacular industrial light and visual show - Nightlights - that launched Imagine Belfast 2008 - the City’s bid to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Nightlights ran for a week and involved projections onto Goliath, one of the two giant cranes at the Harland & Wolff shipyard that dominate the Belfast skyline. It was produced by Production Services Ireland for the Imagine Belfast 2008 organization, with projection by E//T//C UK and lighting by Searchlight Ireland.

The idea of projecting onto the crane evolved as several circumstances fell into place. Imagine Belfast 2008 did an ‘ideas’ postcard mailing to everyone in the city which received an overwhelming response. Thousands of inspirational phrases and slogans reflecting people’s hopes and aspirations for the future of Belfast appeared on the returned postcards.

They wanted to use some of these for the campaign and they also wanted to do ‘something’ with the cranes. Simultaneously, Harland & Wolff also made the historic decision to allow their cranes to be used for a non-industrial purpose for the first time ever.

At this stage, Brian Reilly from Production Services Ireland was brought onboard to co-ordinate the enormous technical and logistical effort needed to bring the launch together. Realising it was not possible to physically attach anything to the cranes, projection was the obvious way forward.

In turn, Reilly approached Peter Canning of High Resolution Lighting in Dublin. Canning has just formed another company, Searchlight Ireland, with Darren Wring from Fineline, the busy Bristol-based UK rental house. Reilly had used their searchlights on the Belfast Festival at the end of 2001 and seen the impact. Searchlight Ireland was founded to bring these weatherized mega searchlights to the Irish market.

For Nightlights, Canning and Wring hatched a lighting scheme involving six of their massive 7kW Diablo Xenon searchlights. For projection hardware and co-ordination of the show, they called in Ross Ashton and the team at E//T//C UK. Artwork for the text images was designed and processed by Dublin-based Willie Finnie and then sent to E//T//C to be converted into films for the two 6kW PIGI projectors, each fitted with PIGI scrollers.

Goliath’s beam span is 140 metres. His overall height is 96 metres and the underside of his bridge girders are 70 metres from the ground. The depth of the bridge girders is nearly 30ft. A site visit revealed that the optimum position for the projectors to fill an 80 metre span and the 30ft draft of Goliath’s bridge girder, was to be located 110ft up, 160 metres back (from the crane) on the roof of the shipyard’s Advanced Module Shed. By the time the images reached Goliath, also with a 22 degree lift, the projection distance was over 200 metres.

Getting the projectors into the right place was one of Brian Reilly’s biggest challenges. First the roof of the building had to be certified by a structural engineer so weight could be applied in the required area. To facilitate this, Reilly had a scaffolding load-bearing spreader platform built on that part of the roof. Then Reilly had to source a purpose-built projection cabin, supplied by a local firm - with large windows at the front, which needed craning up onto the roof of the building.

None of the dozen large cranes at Harland & Wolff was in the right position to help with this, so they hired a crane, which also lifted the mains cables from the deck to the roof of the building. Once in position, the cabin was battened down to the spreader platform with industrial strength ratchet straps - when the wind got up on the launch night, this was well appreciated! The crane also lifted 17 large cases full of projection gear - in a speedy hour and a half operation.

The Diablo searchlights were placed at the base of Goliath’s legs - three per side. The fully weatherized units were individually prog


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