Lumiere Films

Lumiere Films are constructed according to the following rules:

  • 60 seconds max
  • Fixed camera
  • No audio
  • No zoom
  • No edit
  • No effects

Lumiere films have a tension between being succinct, poetic, and powerful works or not being films at all (just banal, unedited footage). At the point of filming it is not always clear that the resulting footage might be a lumiere film. It is in the reviewing of clips of footage that the film might appear, and meaning (in the mind of the viewer) is either made, or not made.

Lumiere film techniques

  • Composition – the lumiere film is essentially a moving photograph – the same issues of composition and framing that exists in photography apply.
    • The alignment of elements to the frame, and the relationship of elements within the frame, should be carefully considered.
    • The positioning of the picture plane in relationship to buildings/structures, and the perspectival vanishing point should be considered.
    • Keeping the camera perfectly vertical will keep the vertical lines parallel and the horizon in the centre of the frame.
  • Layering – close, middle and distance can be employed to structure the space and action within the frame.
  • Pace – there may be some variation in pace, a balance between waiting and action. Alternatively the piece may be more consistent in pace, consisting of a mesmerising shifting image.
  • Time – the work should allow time to become “visible”, and the dimension of time should add something to the image (even if subtle). If the piece would work just as well as a static photograph then it should be one.
  • Subject – what is the film “about”?
    • This may not be evident until the original footage is viewed – the watching of the film may create new meaning (even for the maker).
    • This fragment of “narrative” may be human, but it may also be architectural, environmental, political, social, etc.
  • Detail:
    • the film may be about revealing/exposing a particular moment.
    • Individual or series – the film may be a one-off, but may also be part of a series, designed to be shown in sequence, or simultaneously, or over a period of time as part of a developing practice.
  • Format – the film can be horizontal or vertical – it doesn’t need to conform to the regular film/TV horizontal format.
  • Duration – try to make the film as close to 1 minute as possible – this gives time for the viewer to ‘settle in’, perhaps get slightly bored, and then start to really look.
  • Exposure – mobile phone cameras will adjust the exposure automatically, which should be stopped if possible. This may be done through third partly camera apps, such as ‘Filmic’.
  • Tripod – ideally you should have an absolutely still camera;
    • if the footage is shot hand-held even a small shake/waver will be evident. When watching the film this will become a significant focus of the viewer’s attention.
  • Image quality (pixel dimension and compression) – if the footage is too small or compressed the pixels or compression artefacts will dominate the visual experience. Ideally the film should be HD quality.
  • Edit & effects – while the lumiere rules stipulate no edit or effects, several uses of video editing software can prove useful (and are not visible as manipulations in the final film):
  • Shooting more than a minute, reviewing the footage, then choosing the minute that becomes the lumiere film;
  • Straightening a slightly skewed shot – it is difficult to perfectly align/frame the shot in camera, especially if using found surfaces as tripods.
  • Eliminating camera shake – the Warp Stabilizer Effect in Premiere Pro (CS6) or AfterEffects (CS5.5 or CS6) can remove camera shake with some success.
  • Moving vehicle – A film shot from the window of a moving vehicle is NOT a lumiere film, although it is a variation on this format and an interesting technique in its own right.