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Filmmaker brings Seaport cranes to life

Lex Piccione

What: Time-lapse footage of the Seaport building boom in the video installation “No Planes, No Trains . . . Just Cranes.”

Where: Boston Children’s Museum, through May 15. Museum admission: $16, 617-426-6500, www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org

The slow, steady business of the cranes outside Andrew Neumann’s window sounds so much more interesting the way he describes it.

“We all know the Flintstones had a dinosaur that lifted up things for them, so I treat these cranes as if they were man-made dinosaurs,” Neumann says. “Their one specific function is to lift steel up into the air, like living, breathing machines that shoot up into the sky.”


Neumann, local filmmaker, artist, and Guggenheim fellow, sat his Canon on the sill and shot the beasts over the course of about three years, capturing in high speed the Seaport’s bloom of steel and glass from the window of his Fort Point studio. The result, besides more footage than he has plans for, is a five-piece time-lapse video installation at the nearby Boston Children’s Museum, “No Planes, No Trains . . . Just Cranes.”

“Although the camera may be on all day long, it’s only capturing about 20 seconds of video, because I’m taking a frame every minute, as opposed to 30 frames a second,” Neumann says. “It depends on my mood, and some of it’s just pure experiment.”

Though Neumann has been able to use the footage for other projects, the Children’s Museum exhibit specifically uses five looping feeds — two projectors and three monitors — of everything from storm cycles to freaky crane shapes made in post-production, all using the same crane footage from the same studio window. The work is meant to mesmerize the young and old, Neumann says, but it’s not without its deeper meaning, even for video of construction.

“It’s also about the evolving neighborhood that had sat dormant for so many years, before all of a sudden this building boom started five years ago,” he says. “So it’s almost like a diary video of what’s progressed over the years, from one angle from one window.”


Now that the boom is moving out of view, taking the cranes with it, Neumann sees himself closing up the camera sometime soon. That doesn’t mean there’s not more left to build with the materials he already has, though.

“I keep coming across such gold, such beautiful footage, that I’m just remolding it, as if I were working with clay,” he says. “Eventually I’ll put it to rest. Eventually.”

Joe Incollingo can be reached at joe.incollingo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jk_inco.