Digital Factory thrives in French forest

Besson boasts popular post-production complex

Luc Besson doesn’t do ordinary. Digital Factory, his audio post-production complex in Normandy, is based in a 17th-century chateau nestled within its own private forest. It comes across more like a luxury hotel than a place of work.

Yet it’s equipped with every state-of-the-art technical toy a filmmaker could want to record soundtracks and mix movies. It’s the largest residential facility in Europe and one of the most elaborate, but all done in the best possible taste.

The complex opened in 1998. Besson clearly wanted to build the most creatively inspiring environment possible for himself, to the benefit of anyone else who happened to use the facilities.

Most post-production houses and editing suites are beige and soulless places, where function dominates design and technology doubles as decor. The philosophy behind Digital Factory is different, and most dramatically displayed in its flagship Audi IV dubbing theater, which opened in 2005.

It’s the largest dubbing theater in Europe. When the Euphonix System 5-F console was installed, it was claimed to be the biggest in the world, with 620 channels and 144 faders. But what’s truly striking is the room itself: a vast space decorated like a Parisian theater from the Belle Epoque, with elaborately decorated pillars and ceiling.

Aside from the Audi IV, Digital Factory has three other mixing theaters — one for movies, one for trailers and commercials, and one designed for soundtracks and albums. It also has two recording theaters and digital color grading facilities.

The chateau has 40 rooms and the extensive leisure facilities you’d expect of a country-house hotel — tennis courts, swimming pool, fitness and games rooms, and gastronomic restaurant. All of this is an hour’s train ride from Paris, where Digital Factory has its picture editing suite in the heart of the city on the rue du Faubourg St-Honore.

The large turnover of EuropaCorp films here means the site doesn’t need to do a hard sell to attract other business and therefore maintains a relatively low profile. But it is regularly used by other producers.