Titanic Belfast Light Show – Event Review

RMS Titanic was originally built in the Harland & Wolff shipyards of Belfast. After crashing into an iceberg, Titanic sank into the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

April 15th see’s the 100th Anniversary of the ship sinking. Since James Cameron’s 1997 movie, Belfast has once again been proud to be credited with it’s part in the Titanic story. This year from 31st March to 22nd April Belfast City Council and The Northern Ireland Tourist Board have created a huge festival to commemorate The Titanic story and create an ongoing legacy.

Over the Easter weekend, there were a series of special events. The highlight of which was a spectacular Light Show held on Saturday 7th April at 9pm, commissioned by the leading arts and technology collective, Seeper. Last week we featured an interview with Creative Director Evan Grant who discussed the production of the show in more detail.


Photo Credit - NITB

Although open already for about a week, the Light Show officially launched the new iconic visitors centre – Titanic Belfast. Europe’s biggest visitor attraction. Constructed in the shadows of the Harland & Wolff shipyard cranes and right in the middle of the new Titanic Quarter of the city. Belfast is now the only city in the World to have 5 quarters!

The building itself has been constructed to represent the bows of Titanic. Some sceptics around the city believe it to look more an iceberg and have nicknamed it The Berg. I disagree but however you think of it, it is an impressive building.


Photo Credit - Belfast Telegraph

Around Belfast City during the day, in the build up to live show the atmosphere was palpable. Tickets to the Light Show were the hottest ticket in town, and they were free!

Once the sun had set for the day, the crowds began to gather. They were split into three viewing areas around the slipways. Total attendance is believed to be around 30,000. The show itself consisted of Projection Mapping onto the different sides of the building, Pyrotechnics, Fireworks and Soundtrack.

After a short delay of around 20 minutes the show was under way. This first section represented the construction of the ship. It began fairly modestly with the effect of spotlights roaming across the building, highlighting silhouettes of the Belfast skyline including the H&W cranes.


Photo Credit - BBC NI

This first sequence graphically looked ok, but it was not a great start to the show. After the initial wait, the crowd expected the show to kick off with a real bang. It looped for around 5-6 minutes without much variation. Obviously it was the start of a slow progression to crescendo at the end but it didn’t really work, it was far too long. It would have been better to follow the format of any good gig or concert – kick off with something awe inspiring, grab people’s attention then dip down to the slower pace and begin building up again from there.

The construction phase did improve dramatically with the next sequence. This involved metal girders, cogs and pistons sliding into position. This looked great, and this also signalled the introduction of the some pyrotechnics, the crowd began to cheer and engage a bit more. Along the top of the roof and dotted halfway up the main building surface were flare-like flames sitting on top of the projected metal plates. Fireworks shortly followed. A very good look.

The show progressed with a complete Titanic – with it being celebrated and paraded ahead of its initial launch and maiden voyage. The audio complete with fanfares, this was Titanic at its peak – brand new, a true technological wonder and tragedy far from anyone’s mind. Very colourful, plenty of fireworks and a spectacular send off for the ship.

Normally a projection mapping show like this, would have ended here. Usually lasting for only 10-15 minutes or so, this one did not, there was a lot more of the story to tell. The total run time for this show was around 45 minutes – and rumour had it among the crowd, that the show itself was going into the book of Guinness World Records as the longest show of its type to date.

The next sequence was all to do with the ship hitting the Iceberg and subsequently sinking to the bottom of the Ocean. It was a family show but it lacked a real impact when the ship hit, more could have been done to make this more exciting/terrifying. It became almost dreamlike and ethereal at this point.

We then drifted down through the Ocean and glided past plant life til reaching the bottom. From here the final sequence began, which was all to do with the memory of Titanic, it’s resurrection if you like – it’s continuing legacy and the re-generation of Belfast. This was arguably the best part of the show visually, musically some heavier beats and bigger fireworks too. Some really great graphics, proper architectural mapping of the component parts of the building and superior fireworks on display. However it wasn’t really clear what this was supposed to represent, most people in the crowd seemed a bit bemused as to what this was relating to.


The show was truly an awesome spectacle to behold. The multiple sides of the building being simultaneously projected was amazing. The fact that there were 3,000 pieces of building, with 2,000 of them unique – all of them designed to reflect light provides all sorts of technical problems. To overcome those is really a huge feat. However the show did have its issues. The main problem being to keep the crowd engaged for the whole duration. There was not enough architectural mapping – the sections where everything becomes 3D. This only really came into its own during the middle of the show. The majority of the sequences were just straight video mapped onto the shapes of the building as a whole.

After learning much about the Titanic over the last few days and the reasons why it has lived on in peoples consciousness for 100 years is not the fact is was a great ship, it is because of the people on the ship. Perhaps difficult to get that message across with projection mapping – it was not really possible to get that impression from the show.

Around the world, Belfast has long been known for the “Two T’s” – The Troubles and The Titanic. Thankfully the days of the troubles that plagued the city for around 30 years now seem a thing of the past now and for Belfast it’s time to move forward.

This show was a spectacular way to do that. Events like this capture the imagination of the people, yes i’m sure it cost a lot of money and yes there were certain sections that didn’t quite work. But this show was not all about the prowess of the animators, coders and designers – it was about the launch of an iconic building, giving people something to inspire them and to promote the re-generation of Belfast. All of these were achieved to great effect. Whoever commissioned the show must be applauded for daring to be different and helping to put Belfast back onto the world map for the right reasons.


Were you there, or have you watched the full video? Let us know what you think by posting your comments below.


Titanic Belfast
Northern Ireland Tourist Board – ni2012.com

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