Plaine Images at Tourcoing in France is a five-hectare site wholly devoted to the creative industries: video games, AV, augmented reality, film, animation, rendering, 3D, touch/gesture interactivity, serious gaming, and all the other new formats.
Within this unique neighbourhood, buzzing with no fewer than 65 businesses and 1,050 workers all wholly engaged in image-related work, is L'Imaginarium: an 8,000m2 space housing artistic projects, enterprises, training units and research workshops – all sharing and working together in this creativity-fostering, content-generating place.
"L'Imaginarium could be described as the town square of Plaine Images, or a laboratory where we bring together creative industries, academic researchers and artists all fired by the same ambition: innovation and experimentation to do with images," explains Laurent Tricart, L'Imaginarium coordinator. "What that needed was a space where the image would have a central role – and of course we soon realized that projection was an obvious requirement."
So naturally L'Imaginarium turned to Alive Integration, an Alive Group company and Christie Partner based in the Lille region, which had anyway been involved in the Plaine Images project since it began. Given a detailed specification for performance requirements, flexibility and cost, Alive Integration advised L'Imaginarium to install ten Christie LWU505 digital projectors.
As Laurent Tricart explains, choosing the right projector was crucial to getting this hybrid site to work as it should. "We organize a great number of events every year: exhibitions, workshops and professional events. So it followed that we needed a modular solution that was flexible but also robust, one that could readily be tailored to the various different configurations offered by L'Imaginarium."
With a WUXGA native resolution (1920 x 1200) the LWU505 is a low-cost ultrabright LCD projector delivering 5000 ANSI lumens of power, perfectly matched to L'Imaginarium's requirements. The LWU505 is Full HD compatible and has a 16:10 aspect ratio, 2000:1 contrast ratio and 10-bit image processing for greyscale rendering and artefact-free images.
The Christie LWU505 can work happily at ground level, on a table, fixed to a pillar or enclosed in a cabinet. L'Imaginarium's Technical Director Nicolas Hennebo is enthusiastic about its dependability and robustness. "Our shows sometimes go on for months, with projectors running from morning to night. Now these projectors are absolutely central to our exhibitions; so we really needed kit that was stable, flexible and powerful. Since we got these projectors we've had no technical worries; and maintenance is no more than changing the filters and lamps – which last a remarkably long time."
The Christie LWU505's technical features are just as outstanding. The motorized lens shift and zoom lens give customers the ability to fine-tune images for optimal viewing, while its mechanical lens shutter instantly blocks all light instead of simply blacking the projected image – ensuring crisp and bright projected images.
"The WUXGA resolution is designed for HD video and high resolution data for use with personal computers, laptops, and the newest touch and tablet technologies. We mainly use the VGA and HDMI inputs, and it's reassuring to have this flexibility of connection methods since we never know what upcoming exhibitions will use."
Gerald Dancoisne, Business AV Technical Sales Adviser for the Alive Group, explains: "We'd been in touch with L'Imaginarium since the building renovation stage, and when they wanted to arrange their inauguration at the start of 2012 they came to us for the sound and visual installation. Apart from the LED screen itself, L'Imaginarium wanted every part of the AV solutions to be movable. We knew – because in the past we'd provided Christie projectors to a customer putting on peripatetic exhibitions – that the LWU505 would be just right for L'Imaginarium. We also set up a custom mobile sound system with a flight case containing a CADAC mixing deck, a system of Kanguro amplified speaker enclosures with a microcable HF mike and a Tascam SS-R200 digital audio recorder."
To match the standard lenses that come with the Christie projectors, Alive also provided ten Christie 1.25-1.70:1 wide-angle lenses to cater for the centre's widescreen projection needs, and a 6mm-pitch 380x230 LED wall permanently installed in portrait mode facing visitors as they arrive in the entrance lobby. In a recent video games exhibition that LED screen showed a giant Nintendo Game Boy display which visitors could play.
Another exhibition, "Play Again: the Pop Videogames Museum" from March to July 2013, gave visitors the chance to relive the whole history of video games including no fewer than seven generations of games consoles, from the first retail gaming console (the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey) to the Wii U, by way of the Amiga, the NES and of course the PlayStation. Its cross-generation appeal made Play Again a huge success: over 20,000 spectators flocked to L'Imaginarium to see the exhibition, where young and old were able to play the great classics such as Mario Bros, Gran Turismo or Zelda on the big screen, alone, in pairs or even in bigger groups.
"We got emulations of historic video games off the Internet and put them onto 35 PCs and Macs, all linked by Ethernet, so we could start them simultaneously each morning with a single click," said Nicolas Hennebo.
As well as two floors dedicated to the programme of events open to the public, L'Imaginarium houses a free-access co-working space, a research-innovation-development space run by three universities (Lille1, Lille3 and the CNRS) – the only one of its kind in Europe. This platform supports scientific research in the field of Visual Studies, a discipline that takes in every type of image or visual artefact as well as everything associated with the ideas of sight, visualisation and visual worlds. It is open to the site's various users, and offers advanced equipment such as a virtual tour platform, perception/action lab and artistic experimentation workshops. These two floors are also for use by businesses in the Image industry, offering idea incubation space and start-up nurseries.