Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Establishing shots in the Rizzoli and Isles opening

Establishing shots are neither subtle nor unique, but they're still the easiest way to show an audience where your movie or TV show is set. When you've got 20 seconds for credits - less than most TV shows, but increasingly common to make way for an extra ad or two - every shot counts.

One of my favorite shows currently on the air is ''Rizzoli and Isles'', which is awesome for reasons I've written about previously. Now that I know Boston pretty well, I decided to attempt to locate the establishing shots in the theme.

In the 21-second intro, there are only three establishing shots. Each shot is on screen for about half a second - enough for our minds to say "Boston" without getting a true grip on where it is. I've managed to track down the locations of all three, complete with a Google Maps street view. (The images were all taken with fairly long lenses; you'll want to zoom in a notch or two on each view.)

The first of these is a cityscape, centered on a small brick building in a concrete canyon:

This is the Old State House, the oldest public building in Boston, dating back to 1713. (It is also, to my knowledge, the oldest building that serves as an entrance to a subway station).

It's fairly easy to identify the location as well. It's a straight shot up State Street, looking west. The Chatham Row sign at right gives us a pretty good location, as do the distinctive green awnings. The tip of the tower is 106 feet tall; from the camera location it is equal in angle to three and a half of the umbrella-carrying figures in the left foreground, or 21 feet. That means the distance from Old State House to the figures (at the corner of State and Broad) is equal to 80% of the distance from the Old State House to the camera. The former is 720 feet; the latter is 900 feet, putting us about in front of 156 State Street:


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The second is an angled upwards view of a similarly famous building:

This is the 1798 Massachusetts State House, located on the edge of Beacon Hill next to the Boston Common. The photograph taken from the sidewalk on the south side of Beacon Street. By tracing a few lines between background buildings and foreground objects, we converge on 32 Beacon Street.


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The final location seems to be a bit more ambiguous, with Boston's characteristic brownstones on a steep hill:

There are a number of steep hills in Boston, with Mission Hill and Telegraph Hill among the most famous. But only one hill has the distinctive close-packed brownstones and numerous trees - Beacon Hill, home of a tony neighborhood sandwiched between downtown and the Charles.

After some trial and error, I found the location on Joy Street. This photograph was taken with a very long lens, which exaggerates the steepness of the hill. The reddish brownstone on the right is located at 37 Joy Street, but the photograph was taken from futher away. The white and green sign is for the Black Heritage Trail and is located at Pickney Street, thus, the photographer was located another half-block up the hill, around 10 Joy Street.

Street View from the camera location:

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Street View from near the subjects:

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