Housed inside a former World War II submarine base in Bordeaux, France, Bassins des Lumières (“Pools of Light”) claims to be the largest digital art center in the world, with more than 13,000 square meters of projection area to back up that claim. But the immersive exhibitions of classical and contemporary art aren’t just a visual experience, as each program is accompanied by a complementary and equally thrilling musical score. For precision-controlled, full-fidelity reproduction in highly reverberant spaces, Bassins des Lumières relies on zoned distributed systems of more than 80 Meyer Sound loudspeakers, including, for the most problematic acoustics, 36 loudspeakers. CAL 32 column array speakers with advanced digital beam steering.
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All the video, audio and lighting systems of the Bassins des Lumières were designed and installed by the French integration company CADMOS. The project manager and sound designer was Philippe Wojtowicz, aka Wojto, who worked together with Best Audio, Meyer Sound’s French distributor, on the audio side of the business.
A Meyer Sound system was put forward as the preferred solution for several reasons, according to Wojto. First, because all the loudspeakers are self-powered, it would avoid long loudspeaker cables and eliminate amplifier heat build-up in the control room, where ventilation is difficult due to the brick walls. thick, bomb-proof concrete. Another factor was the precision variable coverage provided by the CAL 32 column array speakers.
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“With the water and the flat concrete walls, it’s an extremely reverberant environment,” Wojto noted, “yet we had to cover all the places people would be standing with even sound levels. It would be almost impossible with conventional loudspeakers, but with CAL 32 we could concentrate the sound only where it was wanted. Depending on the placement, we adjusted the beam between 10 and 15 degrees with a tilt between 7 and 20 degrees, which gave us a defined range of around 15 meters.
Several other locations requiring wider coverage patterns with very high quality sound are served by Meyer Sound’s ULTRA-X40 speakers, with a total of 12 deployed. “We use them for the dock spaces and are very happy with the performance,” said Wojto. “They are powerful, precise, but discreet.”
The audio systems also include 10 UPM-1P slim speakers and, for low-frequency extension, 33 USW-210P subwoofers.
“The management of Bassins des Lumières was very satisfied with the rendering of the sound, especially given the extremely difficult acoustic spaces,” said Wojto.
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Visually, the artwork is displayed with brilliant intensity and sharp detail by 95 Barco projectors, with content sourced from more than 30 Modulo Kinetic media servers.
Bassins des Lumières was created by Culturespaces based in Paris, operating under a lease agreement with the owner of the premises, the City of Bordeaux. Transforming the bomb-damaged structure into a stellar art showcase required an investment of over 10 million euros by Culturespaces. Construction began in 2018, with the first pandemic-limited exhibition – featuring the works of Paul Klee and Gustav Klimt – debuting in June 2020. Currently on the program are Venice, the Serenissima; Sorolla: Promenades by the sea; Entropia recoding; and cell immersion.