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How Scott's dream lit up Giant's Causeway with Euro 2016 soccer stars

By Ivan Little

Published 11/06/2016

Rocking out: the Northern Ireland crest is projected on to the Giant’s Causeway
Rocking out: the Northern Ireland crest is projected on to the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant's Causeway is illuminated
Celebration time: Michael O'Neill and his staff salute a goal

An ex-Ards rugby player is one of the tech experts responsible for an amazing football video presentation.

A former Newtownards rugby player, whose career was cut short by injury, helped set the ball rolling for the production of the amazing video of Northern Ireland's footballing heroes whose pictures were projected on to the Giant's Causeway for the naming of Michael O'Neill's squad for the Euros.

For Scott Millar  is one of the technical wizards behind the Projection Artworks company who thrilled the Green and White Army with their eye-catching presentation at Titanic Belfast as the list of the France-bound players was read out.

IFA communications manager Neil Brittain contacted the London-based firm, who specialise in interactive digital technology for the inside and outside of buildings and other well-known locations after a conversation with Scott's father George, an ex-president of Ards Rugby Club.

One of the firm's most famous jobs was projecting 3D images onto the roof of the 02 Arena in London during the Rugby World Cup last year and Scott Millar played a major role in its development.

It was the largest-ever projection of its kind, with a total of 68 projectors and more than 144 moving light fixtures attached to the interior and exterior of the 02's masts to deliver the images.

A massive Twitter wall was also created for fans to send their messages of support to their favourite teams along with photographs.

Projection Artworks' portfolio scored big time with Neil Brittain, who says: "As well as their work at the O2, I saw some amazing projections they had done for commercial companies like Laphroaig whisky on the Island of Islay and I thought they could provide us with something special to accompany the squad launch."

Rachel McLean, senior account manager, said the firm was delighted to offer its expertise to the IFA.

"We've been industry leaders in projection mapping for 10 years now," she says.

"We work in all sorts of sectors, from retail to conferences and parties along with sporting events like the rugby. Our digital mapping is a digital technique to map animated artwork around a building, set, or object.

"It gives us the freedom to use virtually anything as a canvas, from vast industrial landscapes to models in miniature."

The very nature of the Giant's Causeway presented its own challenges, but after the National Trust gave the green light for the IFA to use the iconic site, a small group of highly-skilled technicians were sent from Projection Artworks to Northern Ireland to carry out a feasibility study on projecting the players' pictures and some footballing action onto the rocks.

And at the end of April the Projection Artworks team, armed with two projectors and a number of cameras, arrived to record the pictures of the footballers and highlights from the European qualifying games.

The projection team had to wait until darkness fell over the Causeway before they kicked off their operation to beam the images onto the basalt rocks.

Neil Brittain was present at the late-night/early-morning shoot. And the former UTV man was intrigued to see how his fantasy football idea was turned into an exciting reality.

"I supplied the firm with images of about 30 players, because we didn't know at that stage exactly who would make it into Michael O'Neill's final squad," he says.

"They were all projected onto the rocks by the firm's sophisticated machines which can light up virtually anywhere."

The Giant's Causeway has been used in the past for photoshoots for record covers, most notably for the sleeve of Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy album.

Several English rock bands and the late Belfast guitarist Gary Moore also recorded videos at the world famous interlocking columns which number over 40,000 in total.

But IFA officials are convinced that they've netted a first by using the causeway as a backdrop for a football production - especially for footballers they hope will prove to be giants in the European championships.

Former Regent House student Scott Millar (33) is senior technology consultant with the Projection Artworks company and, though he didn't return to Northern Ireland for the shoot, he worked behind the scenes to ensure that all the technical side of the operation ran smoothly.

"In the end the logistics were the most difficult aspects of the Giant's Causeway shoot. We had to get a large generator and all the kit down to the rocks and set it up to make sure that the content looked good on the Causeway," says Scott.

"We'd been a little bit worried about how it would all come out because we hadn't projected onto something like the causeway before. However, the end product looked really good and by all accounts it went down very well at the squad launch at Titanic Belfast."

Scott's brother, Richard, who plays rugby for Malone will be going out to France for the Euros and Scott once dreamt of progressing on the rugby pitch himself.

"Unfortunately, my career ended at the age of 18, when I tore my cruciate ligament. I had played for Ulster Schools and Ards' senior side when I was still at Regent House, but it all came crumbling down," he says.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was a big fan of the Giant's Causeway projections and enthusiastically came on board with Neil Brittain's plans.

O'Neill recorded the voice-over for the video in one take, reading out the names of all of the players in his original squad before he whittled it down to 23 after the 3-0 win over Belarus in a friendly at Windsor Park.

Belfast Telegraph

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