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Derry man takes inquiry into realm of high-tech

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

Perhaps the most remarkable section of the Bloody Sunday exhibition at the International Center for Photograhpy is the “virtual walk-through” of the Bogside, a computer-animated re-creation of the location of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march and killings that took place on Jan. 30, 1972.

The walk-though is a computer program created by a Derry native Malachy McDade. It is an on-screen represenatation of the Bogside, both today and as it was in 1972.

McDade, senior multimedia developer for a company called CCEA, explained how the walk-through came about.

“It was commissioned by Lord Saville of the Saville Inquiry,” McDade said. “The brief from his team was to enhance people’s memories of the day, now that they are 30 years older and have very little of the original location to base their recollections on.”

Rossville Flats, for example, where several of the shootings took place, was demolished years ago.

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“Also, we were told to make it as easy as possible to use,” McDade continued. “You can therefore view the Bogside as it is today, as it looked in ’72, and then as an artist’s mix, as a hybrid of both.”

“Witnesses have a 360-degree view of the area and can draw ‘hotspots’ on the screen with their finger. A hotspot is were people were located on the day, where people were killed, where witnesses saw shots being fired or where soldiers were positioned.”

Every “mark” that a witness makes on the screen is captured and saved in the program’s database, along with his or her comments.

The impact of this technology on the inquiry has been dramatic, not least in its convenience.

“Without it, they’d be taking witnesses to the actual scene every day, to describe what they saw. With this technology, the scene comes to you,” McDade said.

Already, McDade has presented his program to the American Bar Association, as an example of how the technology could revolutionize court cases and inquiries.

“They called it ‘awesome,’ ” said McDade, who is deeply proud of the walk-through, especially the fact that the project, costing _100,000 came in under budget.

The walk-through will not be available to the general public until after the close of the Saville Inquiry. But it can be seen and used at the International Center of Photography exhibition through March 17.

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