In June 2020, Culturespaces Digital inaugurated the largest digital art centre in the world: Les Bassins de Lumières (The Ponds of Light). Installed in a former World War II submarine base in Bordeaux, France, the venue offers a spectacular immersive art experience. The new digital art center relies on solid technology with more than 30 x Modulo Kinetic media servers at the cornerstone of the AV setup.

Since 2018. Culturespaces Digital has been working on a major project to develop and enhance four basins at a former World War II submarine base in Bordeaux, France. In addition to the restoration work, the revamp of the whole site – including floors, tanks, foundation, electricity, soundproofing etc. – and the creation of technical areas, such as offices, production room, servers, Culturespaces made the decision to develop the site in order to improve the visitor experience – with the aim being to offer a spectacular, immersive art experience like no other.

The work has resulted in Bassins de Lumières becoming largest digital art centre in the world, with a total projection surface reaching 14,000 sq metres. Overall, the venue consists of four vast ponds – 100 metres long, 22 metres wide and 12 metres high – all of which are dedicated to the main art exhibitions.

To complete the visitor experience, additional areas were created, including an immersive tank, a cube dedicated to contemporary immersive art, a museum space and an educational area.

After a seven-week delay due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the newest digital art centre was inaugurated in June 2020. Bassins de Lumières is the fourth venue created by Culturespaces Digital following the tremendous success of its other digital art centres, including the Atelier des Lumières in Paris.

To make the initial plans a reality, structural works began in May 2019 with restoration of floors, tanks, foundations, electricity and more. This was followed by the AV installation, which started in October 2019 and handled by French integrator, Cadmos.

Augustin de Cointet de Fillain, Director of Culturespaces Digital and Bassins de Lumières, explained: “This project came with two major challenges: the huge size of the venue and the humidity conditions. As we are in a former submarine base with water ponds, we had to deal with unfriendly conditions.”

To ensure a seamless projection of art exhibitions across the monumental canvas, more than a hundred video projectors were required, including 71 Barco F80-Q12 and 24 Barco G60-W10. All of the venue’s video projectors were mounted within waterproof enclosures to be protected from potential water infiltration from the building’s roof.

As well as the visual element of the exhibition within the venue, the audio also played a huge role in capturing the immersive experience that the team were aiming for from the beginning. However, this led to a new challenge for the Bassins de Lumières team. With the venue being made of concrete and home to large water ponds, reverberation was very high. To offer a quality listening experience free from reverberation, 80 Meyer Sound CAL 32 loudspeakers were installed to provide a 5° vertical beam focused on the areas where the public is walking.

As for its other digital art centres, Culturespaces Digital chose the Modulo Kinetic media server by Modulo Pi. “The system is steady and user-friendly. As we open more and more sites, we’re in a logic of scalability. Working with the same media server solution allows us to significantly anticipate the processes and media creation,” added Augustin.

To feed the video projectors, there are 31 Modulo Kinetic media servers were installed, with three Kinetic Designer and 28 V-Node servers equipped with four outputs each.

Modulo Kinetic was instrumental throughout the project workflow, including study, simulation, edge blending, warping, playback and show control. The compositing tools embedded in Modulo Kinetic helped to deal with the challenges that came with this unique venue. As an example, the water in the ponds rises and falls by 1.5 metres daily due to the ocean tides. Video projection is set on low tide and some dynamic masks in Modulo Kinetic create a gradation to ensure a smooth image transition when the tide is coming in. Thanks to the Graph Editor receiving the measures of a laser meter in Modulo Kinetic, the masks’ position automatically changes to follow the water level.

Moreover, the compositing tools in Modulo Kinetic allow colorimetry adjustment wherever needed on site.

Augustin explained: “The projection rendering often comes with colorimetry issues because a wall may be darker than expected, for example. Modulo Kinetic gives us the flexibility to fix any colorimetry issue which is much valuable. That saves us from doing the media and exporting them once again.”

For a seamless projection across the spectacular venue, edge blending and warping is another major step in the workflow. The process was handled by the Modulo Kinetic, thanks to the system’s 2D and 3D warping tools.

“The venue comes with very different spaces. You have uneven walls, some cylindric surfaces. Relying on a user-friendly tool that allows fine-tuning the mapping for each architectural detail is really helpful” furthered Augustin.

To speed up the process and ensure the best result, several technicians could use the Modulo Kinetic Warp Remote application to warp simultaneously from their laptop, while being close to the area they are warping.

In terms of the lighting, 167 Anolis LED architectural lighting fixures were installed to enhance the unique architecture of Bassins de Lumières between show projections.

The company, 4eleven, oversaw the lighting design for the project. The light show was encoded in a grandMA2 console by MA Lighting, while the playback was done through Modulo Kinetic.

Nicolas Valette, Lighting Designer on the project, explained: “Modulo Kinetic captured the DMX data of our nine universes to play them. We needed a flexible playback process to avoid the installation of a dedicated lighting console. This way, daily management would be simplified for the technicians on site.  Modulo Kinetic could adapt to our constraints as lighting designers. It now works as a replacement of a lighting console for simple playback functions.”

As for the light during shows, LED mapping through Modulo Kinetic offered show designers the ability to control lights through DMX, so that video and light could perfectly harmonise.

To further simplify the venue’s control room, Cadmos and Culturespaces Digital took advantage of Modulo Kinetic’s show control capabilities. All video projectors are controlled directly through Modulo Kinetic. Using the media server’s UI Designer, a custom show control panel allows technicians to easily handle different actions such as turning on/off the video projectors, launching shows, lights and so on

Other user panels were created in the UI Designer, including a version for the reception desk to control service lights and see the daily schedule of exhibitions hours, as well as the next show start and end times. The information is retrieved from Modulo Kinetic’s Graph Editor, which is configured to calculate a dynamic countdown.

A lighter panel version is also available on smartphones for service lights. With Bassins de Lumières being available for private booking, several Modulo Kinetic V-Node servers are equipped with live capture cards. Using Modulo Kinetic’s embedded live mixer, it is possible to display camera feeds and PIPs.

Augustin concluded: “Thanks to Modulo Kinetic, technology is no longer an issue. We have a stable and reliable system that frees us from many technical aspects and allows us to focus on what’s essential: art and creation”.

After its opening, and despite the special modalities due to the COVID-19, Bassins de Lumières has already welcomed more than 30,000 visitors who could enjoy the first exhibitions dedicated to Gustave Klimt and Paul Klee.