Welcome to the Hyperlapse

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

On August 9th, Microsoft shared a new product they’ve been working on called Hyperlapse with the world. Only problem was, no one could actually use it yet. But the results, which took relatively unimpressive Go Pro footage and turned it into fluid tracking shots was astounding.

A little over two weeks later, (aka yesterday) Instagram releases their new app, which is also called Hyperlapse. What does this rad little application do? It takes shaky cell phone time lapse footage and turns it into watchable, even beautiful, quality film.

I’m betting Microsoft started talking about their to-be-released version of hyperlapse early because they knew Instagram’s announcement was coming, but it introduces a truly astounding evolution for video creators and filmmakers about the next big wave of media consumption.

Instagram ushered in an era of manic selfie taking via filtered imagery. In many ways, GoPros made it possible for people to film themselves doing just about anything. Eventually, the cameras turned around and we started seeing some pretty astonishing stuff coming out of both platforms. In a way, Hyperlapse is the natural evolution of these things, especially as video becomes more and more prevalent.

The big question for media creators in the future will obviously be usability. Instagram’s Hyperlapse is really simple and smart – it uses the internal gyroscope on the iPhone to essentially equalize the shaky motion while the footage is being shot and after it’s recorded, it uses the oldest trick in the book by cropping the frame slightly to center the area of focus and smooth out the rest. All this on a smartphone, no less. But will we give up expensive rigs and really well-thought out planning for an iPhone and an app the next time we need a timelapse. It’s hard to say, but initial tests seem promising.

By comparison, Microsoft’s Hyperlapse is much more complex and will undoubtedly require the processing power of a computer. My guess? They’ll simplify in response to Instagram, but hopefully they also figure out ways to integrate into current video editing software, so the tool can be used for broader applications than smartphones. Because while the stabilization is hugely important, oftentimes the detail of the shot, especially at night, can determine whether or not it really captures a viewer or works in an edit. A bigger sensor and quality lenses will always trump an iPhone lens.

But all this news is worth serious celebration, either way. Whether on mobile or in software, advances to video like this make our worlds infinitely easier. Stabilization was once so impossibly difficult, it required days and days of editing and processing to get it right. Just a few years ago, Final Cut and Premiere improved their built-in tools and yes, stabilization did get better. But thinking backwards to hardware and knowing this kind of quality is possible from a smartphone suddenly makes filmmaking less of a problem solving proposition and more of a creative process again.

For video hobbyists, Hyperlapse will be a fun new thing to try out in their free time, but for people like myself, it’s more of a gift, because it makes me want to go out and shoot things. And that’s freaking awesome.