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10 Tips for Shooting Video in Boston

Posted by Rebekah Toth Burns on February 23, 2015

Boston offers diverse shooting locations, historic sites, and is the home to companies like Reebok, Gillette, and Boston Scientific. This US founding colonial city can prove difficult to navigate. If you are a Video Producer who needs to coordinate a video production in Boston or Cambridge, MA here are some tips from our local DP’s and Production Coordinators.

TEN Boston has good transit and is very close to Logan International Airport. “As a Producer flying into Boston, there is no need to rent a car if you are shooting downtown or in Cambridge. The airport is a few miles from downtown and is an easy taxi or train ride away. There is a very good subway system that will take you most anywhere you need if you are staying in a local hotel.  If you don’t know the city, you may find it hard to navigate in a rental car” says Producer and Production Manager Andy Jablon.

NINE This is one city where bigger isn’t better. Crews Control represented DP Doug Jenson says “When it comes to parking, Boston is one of the most challenging cities you are going to shoot in. Unlike New York, there are very few outdoor lots so you’ll need to park in garages.  And most of those garages are not big-vehicle friendly.  The average full-size van is too tall to even enter most underground garages, and Suburbans are almost impossible. The vehicle I recommend is a mini-van.  Having the tailgate plus sliding doors on either side can also be a big plus once you do wedge yourself into a spot.  If you’re going to be shooting at one of the hospitals or universities, have your contact arrange for a parking pass IN ADVANCE.”

EIGHT If you are traveling with your crew or are going to meet them at the location plan extra time. “Boston’s commuter traffic is awful and unpredictable if you are coming in from outside the city. Our rule of thumb is to add 30% more time to whatever MapQuest or a GPS says it will take. Sometimes you will arrive early and have to wait, but that is so much better than arriving even one minute late.  Give yourself 50% more travel time on Monday mornings in the middle of winter. Outbound traffic is the worst on Friday evenings in the summer. It seems everyone wants to get out of town for the weekend, If possible try to wrap by 3:00PM on Fridays. And even then, you will be stuck in traffic” says Doug.

SEVEN Doug continues to say video shoots with just a DP are tough. “Boston is not a city where you want to be working as a one-man-band if you’re driving.  Unlike New York, almost all parking is self-park.  So you can’t just pull up to a garage entrance, unload, hand off your keys, and push your cart(s) down the sidewalk to the location.  If you’re working alone in Boston you will have to self-park, load your cart, and then face the challenge of getting it out of the garage.  And during that process, you have just showed anyone who may be watching where your vehicle is parked.  So don’t leave stuff in the vehicle. Our SOP for Boston is to pull up to the location, unload all the gear at the front door, and then let my audio tech go park someplace while I push the cart in and begin working on the shoot.  Sometimes I won’t see the audio tech for 15-20 minutes because parking garages are not on every block like other cities.”

SIX Looking for that perfect Boston cityscape B-roll shot, timing is everything. Jablon says “The best Boston skyline and harbor beauty shots are captured in the morning near the Hyatt hotel close to the airport. Another good location is Rowes Wharf near Quincy Market and the Boston convention center.  For a different view of the city, the Back Bay skyline can be recorded in the afternoon from Cambridge across the Charles River near MIT and the Longfellow Bridge.”

FIVE Planes, trains, automobiles, and…boats? “If shooting b-roll, one interesting location is the BU Bridge. It’s the only place in the world where a plane can be over a train, going over a car, moving over a boat at the SAME TIME.  If you’re patient, it might happen” says Crews Control represent DP Bob Heim.

FOUR The Boston Film Bureau can offer Production Coordinators  help with filming locations, making arrangements with the police department for traffic control, securing filming permits, and act as a liaison for local and federal agencies.

THREE The state Massachusetts Film Office lists lots of great regional support organizations. Links to the Boston Avid and FCP user groups, filmmaker and production groups like WIFV New England and the Filmmakers Collaborative and other great resources can be found on their website.

TWO Harvard is a difficult location to get permission to shoot. Andy Jablon says “Harvard is very private, you must have permission to even step foot on their campus with a camera.  Don’t even think of shooting quick B-roll shots.  You might get away with it once, but if caught you may never shoot there again. Contact Harvard’s Office of News and Public Affairs to get permission. Parking should also be requested since there are very few public lots near the campus.  MIT is a different story, no one seems to care when you roam around with a camera.  However, the buildings and labs are not easy to navigate and parking should be requested when shooting there as well.”

ONE Don’t forget a filming permit for public Boston location as well. Heim says “If trying to shoot in the Boston Common or Victory Garden (Swan Boats) you will need a permit, calling the MA film office in advance can easily take care of that.”

Out of town corporate Video Producers don’t have the luxury of trial and error when executing important video shoots with high-level interviewees, finding the best locations for establishing b-roll, or navigating a new city.  Let us know what your shot list looks like and we’d be happy to help you plan a flawless shoot in Boston or Cambridge, MA. If you have additional tips for shooting video in Boston, MA share them on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ page, or LinkedIn page.

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