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Audiovisual mecca: Arenberg Creative Mine

A historic industrial complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Arenberg has become a center of excellence for audiovisual research. Aim: serve the film and television industry of tomorrow by designing, developing and deploying techniques and tools that harness image and sound.

"Arenberg is a powerful tool for media arts, film and television. It offers possibilities you can’t find anywhere else in Europe!"

Costa-Gavras, filmmaker and Arenberg Creative Mine sponsor

From coal pit to digital technology

Long before it became an audiovisual mecca, Arenberg was a coal pit, opened by Compagnie des Mines d'Anzin in 1899. It quickly became the company's most productive site, but after years of prosperity, was hit by economic crisis and finally closed in 1989. Arenberg then began its second life as a popular backdrop for directors, who incorporated its striking visuals into their films—and a new future emerged in image and sound.

Now, after 17 months of construction and over €20 million in investment, the former coal mine has become Arenberg Creative Mine, a cutting-edge center for media arts research, high-tech equipment, training—and soon for start-ups.

Research laboratory

The Arenberg complex includes DeVisu, a university lab dedicated to innovation in the audiovisual and digital media sectors, technology transfer and lifelong learning. Staffed with some 30 research professors and doctoral students from the University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis, DeVisu has a compact screening room with sensors to measure emotional and physiological impact—essential tools for creating innovative prototypes and assessing them with test groups.

The latest equipment

Arenberg Creative Mine has the latest technology, including:

  • a test center with a motion control system and a variety of film equipment, as well as lighting and a cyclorama for top-quality audiovisual recording;

  • a television studio with 100% LED lighting and five high-definition (HD) digital cameras for audiovisual recording, plus a TV control room where researchers and students can produce talk and variety shows. The studio also features a motion-capture system. 

Arenberg Creative Mine also offers individual visual and audio recording equipment, including:

  • hand-held HD television cameras
  • a 4K motion picture camera with a selection of lenses
  • a single-lens reflex camera and two GoPro cameras
  • a lighting pack and microphones
  • a sound studio equipped with multi-track facilities to record music groups, for example, or fine-tune sound engineering and produce final tracks. The studio also features an audio unit with high-quality microphones.

A cutting-edge lab—LEAUD (Laboratoire Expérimental pour les Audiences et Usages de Demain)

LEAUD is a multi-purpose facility featuring a 300-seat screening room with a 4K digital projector and 7.1 sound. Researchers can use it for high-definition color grading and multi-camera HD audiovisual recording.

The lab also includes a second six-seat screening room where researchers can display images and study viewer reactions to them.

The Pictanovo audiovisual cluster

Arenberg is a core component of Pictanovo, a cluster that brings together film, television, video game and digital media professionals to promote and grow the image industry in Northern France. Pictanovo’s main resources are the Arenberg audiovisual complex, the Serre numérique multimedia site in Valenciennes, and La Plaine Images, a center of excellence for the digital arts in Greater Lille. Together these three facilities are spurring sector growth in Northern France, making it one of the top ten European regions creating new images, new formats and new business models.

The Arenberg project was sponsored by the Communauté d'Agglomération de la Porte du Hainaut and the University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis, with financial support from the European Union, the Nord-Pas de Calais region, the Nord département, and the Communauté d'Agglomération de la Porte du Hainaut.