Tour of the Studios de Paris with Didier Diaz

By Eric Guichard AFC, Jean-Noël Ferragut, AFC, and Vincent Jeannot, AFC

par Eric Guichard, Jean-Noël Ferragut La Lettre AFC n°223

[English] [français]

Before our meeting with Didier Diaz, CEO of Transpalux – an associate member of the AFC –, regarding the recent opening of the Studios de Paris at the Cité du Cinéma in Saint-Denis, he took us on a tour of the new facility that he directs.

Very first impressions
I went on this visit of the Studios de Paris with my head full of memories and my heart full of emotions. Nearly 30 years to the day before, Luc Besson was filming his first film,
Le Dernier combat (The Last Battle), in this abandoned power plant, with Carlo Varini, AFC, doing the lighting. It was also the first time I was working on a feature film as a focus puller. It was a great adventure, rewarded by two prizes at Avoriaz, which really set Luc Besson’s career rolling. I hope that the good electricity fairy who watches over this building will shed her blessings over the cradle of these studios in order to guarantee them the same success.
Vincent Jeannot, AFC.

On the left, the Cité du cinéma, and on the other side of the street in the middle, The Studios de Paris

Tour of the Studios de Paris, 1 August 2012, led by Didier Diaz

We entered the Cité du Cinéma, which was built in a former power plant in Saint-Denis. The central nave is 200 metres long and 30 metres wide, for a total of 6,000 m2 (656 feet by 98 feet, total approx. 65,000 sq. ft.). This location will be rented out for events.
The building on the left of the nave is the Louis-Lumière National Film School, which will be open for the beginning of classes in September with its three studios and their outbuildings.
Next come the offices for the production studios and suppliers who will move in over the course of this year.
Next, is the screening room, which is a beautiful, full-size cinema that can seat up to 500 professionals. It will be used for events like premieres open only to the profession, and will not be open to the public.
Then a tower that will be occupied by Europacorp. On the same side, there is a cafeteria with 5 different buffets, table service, the ability to accommodate up to 1,000 people per hour, and the option of eating outside on a terrace.

Layout of The Cité du Cinéma
Euromedia Document

Now we are outside, between the main building and the studios. Here, the studios were built from the ground up. The 9 studios are each empty spaces with a floor area of 2,000 square meters (approx. 21500 sq. ft.) each. The center studio can be accessed from both sides. The others are shared between spaces of 1,400 square meters and 600 square meters, 1,200 square meters and 800 square meters, etc. A studio with a green background is planned but hasn’t been installed yet.

Entrances to the studios facing the main building
Building a set in Studio 5 (2,000 square meters)
Catwalks in Studio 5

Generally, heating and cooling machinery is placed on the roof ; but to heat and cool all of the studios together, the architects had the brilliant idea of putting all of this machinery between the buildings, which is much more aesthetic and “design”. It is important to point out that the soundproofing of the studios is, evidently, the best possible, beyond current mandatory standards.

The heating and cooling systems between two studio buildings

6 of the 9 studios have 3 metre deep pools, and the one in the big 2000 square metre studio is 21 meters long by 22 metres wide. The floors are made either out of wood or concrete.

In the center, the location of one of the pools in a studio

We developed an innovative system for running electricity around sets in each studio. We created movable electric cabinets on wheels that enable us to bring power exactly to where it is needed. This is the first studio with such movable cabinets : it is the end of cables everywhere !
We have 9000 kilowatts to feed all of the sets. For us, this electrical system will simplify cabling and reduce headaches ! It’s an idea to make electrical wiring more logical and easy. Each cabinet has 200 kW of power, and use Power Lock plugs to plug into the power stations located at different spots in each studio, in the walls, in the floor, and even hanging ones.

A movable electric cabinet plugged into a power station in the wall
Detail of the Power Lock plugs

This is a major advantage for power shortages : when you don’t have enough power, the next power station is usually located at the point furthest away from where you’d like it to be. So with this system, we can bring the power exactly to where we need it. Of course, we are going to have to train the gaffers, best boys, and sparks on how to use them. It’s also much simpler to rehearse using rolling power stations than fixed ones. And during filming, it’s an enormous advantage. We designed and manufactured these cabinets ourselves in our Transpalux workshop.

The technical staff is located across from the studios in the former power plant. On the ground floor, meaning in the basement in relation to the nave, are located the carpentry department with its receiving station for wood, the painting shop, the mock-up shop, the ironworks, the lighting shop, the camera shop, the machinery department, the builders’ offices, the production offices (which can also be transformed into a dressing room). The actors’ dressing rooms and the roomier VIP dressing rooms will be located on the floor above. Across from the dressing rooms are located costume, makeup, hair, the costume sewing workshops, and further towards the centre of the building are located the storage rooms and postproduction (Digital Factory).

Set entrances behind the buildings

The Studios in numbers

- 9,500m² of studio space

- 9 studios from 600 to 2,000m² equipped with technical catwalks
- 5 pools (from 150 to 420m²)

- 12,000m² of offices and services dedicated to cinema

La Cité du Cinéma

- 6 hectares of land

- 2,200m² of screening and reception space

- 6,000m² of covered street under the great nave

- 3,800m² of shared services (restaurant, cafeteria, reception…)

Every set has :

- a technical catwalk over its entire floor area

- heating and air-conditioning (2 chilled water stations redistribute cold or hot air to all sets)

Set annexes
- Offices
- Dressing Rooms
- Parking
- Pre-Cutting Workshop
- Painting Workshop
- Carpentry Workshop
- Ironworks
- Sewing Workshop
- Storage Space

Services Available

- Digital Printing

- Digital Cutting

- Shop

Services - Cité du Cinéma

- Extra office space
- VIP Dressing Rooms

- Restaurant

- Screening Room