The University of Texas at Austin
  • Arts & Humanities

    Video: You’ve Never Seen Austin Quite Like This

    By Tracy Mueller
    Published: Oct. 9, 2013

    University of Texas student creativity

    This is the first story in a year-long series on student creativity.

    Andrew Takano’s fascination with the sky is obvious from the opening moments of “Sleepwalking Austin,” a time-lapse video postcard of the city shot by Takano in the middle of the night last spring that has notched nearly 30,000 views on YouTube.

    Set to a dreamy synth-pop soundtrack, the clip opens on an inky expanse salted with stars before giving way to neon jets hurriedly descending upon Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

    It’s a fitting image considering Takano is earning his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. He specializes in orbital mechanics, or, simply put, “how things fly around in space and how to control how things fly around in space.”

    Takano produced the video with a technique called hyperlapse, achieved by taking still photographs from a tripod and moving the set-up a few inches in between each photo. He then edits the photographs into a video using the computer programs Lightroom and Sony Movie Studio. It’s a tedious process that relies on precision and concentration, not elaborate equipment or trick shots.

    “Nobody wants to believe that the secret ingredient to anything is hard work,” says Takano.

    Sleepwalking Austin

    Austin’s Pennybacker Bridge, as captured in aerospace engineering student Andrew Takano’s “Sleepwalking Austin” video.

    He first experimented with time-lapse photography when trying to capture the Comet PANSTARRS that was visible over Austin in March. He started the “Sleepwalking Austin” project in order to give himself a break from 70-hour study weeks for his Ph.D. qualifying exams.

    He found that stepping behind the camera freed him from some of the structure that comes with lab work.

    “In engineering, there are physical laws and constraints like budgets and hardware limitations that conspire to drive you toward a certain solution. There is not a lot of room for your aesthetics,” Takano says. “But for photography, there aren’t really right or wrong answers. It all comes down to how I want it to look. So it pulls from this creative side of me that I don’t use in engineering so much.”

    Last week Takano posted his second hyperlapse video, “Spectral Austin.” Shot during the summer, it captures the city at all hours of the day, including several stunning sunrise and sunset sequences.

    Some online commenters have complained the videos will only encourage more people to move to the rapidly growing capital. Others criticize Takano for not filming much beyond downtown, but he says his goal was to capture the most recognizable parts of Austin and scenes that captured his interest, not the entire city. Meanwhile, he is licensing footage to KXAN News and other local entities.

    Takano has a new project in the works, but he’s not yet ready to reveal what it is. One job he does have on the horizon: finishing his Ph.D. in the next two years.

    • Quote 2
      Sara S said on Nov. 7, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.
      Just watched 2nd video. Excellent. Reminds me of being a kid and watching the clouds go by. One of my first experiences of Austin was downtown around Christmas taking photos; the buildings and trees all lit up. There's a balance of towers and sky; and he can show what he likes. I think its great. Oh and if you like this look up koyaanisqatsi it has music by Phillip Glass and was made in a similar way... but its much longer.. and goes all over the world.
    • Quote 2
      photojennette photography said on Oct. 13, 2013 at 12:21 a.m.
      This is amazing! Nice work and congrats on this project!
    • Quote 2
      Tawnee said on Oct. 12, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.
      Hey Andrew, great job. It's unfortunate you are receiving the negative feedback! No where in this article does it depict or claim your video as art. People say it's not a clear picture of Austin - cause Austin doesn't have (very small) skyscrapers or underpasses or cars driving along roads. I loved my time in Austin and I think you did a wonderful job of capturing an additional perspective. Frogs on walls and Barton Springs aren't the only things that make Austin great! I'm proud of the work you put into this and your PhD. Can't wait to see the next PROJECT!
    • Quote 2
      pedro gutierrez said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 11:27 p.m.
      great video. I would like to know how long it took you to make sleepwalking Austin? best regards & Cheers!
    • Quote 2
      modi said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.
      Breath-takano-ing! Breathtaking photography = breathtaking Austin. Congrats to Andrew!
    • Quote 2
      Kerry Jones said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.
      That is Awesome!!! :)
    • Quote 2
      Ash said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 7:33 p.m.
      It’s easy to criticize art. The artist has a goal or message, and its expression is influenced by the artist’s experience. Finding joy in art is connecting with the art itself, and, if the planets are aligned, with the artist and the message, too. It is relating your experiences to the imagery you perceive, to the emotion, sound, and aura. If the purpose of art is to move people, then a piece that resonates with anyone, even one person, has served its purpose. But art is both universal and personal; there is an inevitable gap between what the artist tries to convey and what the viewer perceives. Closing the gap is secondary, not necessary, and criticizing its existence under the guise of identifying flaws in the art or the artist is naive. A city is a complex environment with many facets and intricate machinery. The choice to capture all or some of these aspects in a series of photographs is up to the artist. The absence of what someone believes to be the most important characteristic of a city is not relevant, as this feature may not have been the focus of the artist’s theme. Even if the artist intends to depict the most significant characteristic, who’s to say anyone will agree that the artist attained this goal? There is no right or wrong answer to what defines a particular city, for it is not just the city’s vibe and atmosphere. It is also your memories, weaved from adventures and interactions with people and culture. If a city has skyscrapers and freeways, then they comprise one component of that city. To claim otherwise is to pretend that they don’t exist and to blatantly ignore their positive connotations of community and economic strength. Personally, I find skylines beautiful because each is unique; I admire the history and architectural triumphs contained within. Of course, they tend to look good at night, too. To capture articulately in a series of images all imaginable components of a living, breathing city, from the towering and conspicuous to the minute and subtle, to the personal, without breaking the theme or mood, would be quite a feat. To do this while appeasing critics from all corners of the world --- not art.
    • Quote 2
      Rudy said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
      How do I get a copy of this video? It's awesome, some of you need to get a life.He's not comparing Austin to any other city, where did you get that idea. You don't know Dallas if you are comparing cities. Awesome job!! can't wait for the next project.
    • Quote 2
      Kat said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
      Very cool...
    • Quote 2
      JeanE said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.
      Lovely work. The city feels like an organic entity; a whole with many changing and evolving parts. Thanks for giving me a new and different way to see my city.
    • Quote 2
      Amy said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.
      Super Cool!
    • Quote 2
      Alex said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
      I think it's sad that people are negatively viewing his videos just because of the way he captures downtown Austin. Who cares? Is a video really going to make someone move from one city to the next? Austin is becoming more and more commercialized due to all the success businesses, restaurants and events have had in recent years. No one is at fault. It has nothing to do with videos like these. If you really don't want Austin to "look like Dallas" (which is I don't understand how that's a bad thing, Dallas is a great city), you'd have to cut it off from the rest of the world. I'd rather not live in a city that prides itself on being unique like North Korea does. The videos are beautiful and props to Takano for making Austin look as great as it does.
    • Quote 2
      Larry said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 8:12 a.m.
      While I applaud the interesting photographic work it doesn't depict Austin in a very good light. It basically makes us look like Dallas or any of a hundred large cities. We're not about skyscrapers and freeways. This guy doesn't get Austin.
    • Quote 2
      Michael Hart said on Oct. 10, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
      Absolutely amazing. Loved it!
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