What Instagram Did for Photos, This Could Do for Videos

Experimenting with Hyperlapse, Insta's latest iPhone app

The Center for Photography in Woodstock, New York, launched a new exhibit this week. It's called "The Space Between: Redefining Public and Personal in Smartphone Photography," and it considers the cultural impact of photography's new ubiquity. The core idea of the exhibit, as explained by the show's curator, the photographer and filmmaker Henry Jacobson, is that smartphones have brought a shift in the purpose—and, actually, the nature—of photography itself. "Photography has always depended on technology," Jacobson told TIME, "and every change in technology has affected the history of photography, but the smartphone, in its nature, is a device that is not for photography. It’s a device that is for communication."

Documentation to communication. If you want to see that shift in action—literally—then look no further than Hyperlapse, the Instagram-created video app that was, like "The Space Between," unveiled this week. The app uses algorithmic processing to create both tracking shots and time-lapse videos—on an iPhone. (An Android version of the app, Instagram says, could come if Android phones adapt their camera and gyroscope APIs.)

Hyperlapse is notable not just as another photography-and-video app. It's also, potentially, a leap forward in the evolution of amateur videography. Just as Instagram's filters brought sophisticated photo-processing capabilities to the average smartphone user, Hyperlapse brings sophisticated video-editing capabilities. In the past—meaning, you know, Tuesday—creating a viewer-friendly time-lapse video required expensive equipment: a Steadicam, say. Only a small handful of people had the means—or the inclination—to invest in that gear.

Hyperlapse, on the other hand, makes use of the gyroscopes that are built into iPhones. Traditional image stabilization—the kind you'd find on Final Cut and other video-editing software—requires desktop-level amounts of processing power; Instagram's engineers, however, made use of the phone's hardware to stabilize images shot on the phone. The app's algorithm is able to map from frame to frame, creating videos that, overall, appear steady to the viewer.

And that saves users time as well as money. Getting the kind of footage Hyperlapse creates used to involve a complex process of downloading footage to a computer, processing it (ideally via a pricey-and-not-always-reliable stabilizing program), and then re-exporting it. Hyperlapse has that editing—the correcting, the processing, the stuff that makes for viewable video—built in. Download the app, and all that work is done in your phone. The result of all that? Videos that won't make you dizzy or ill, but that will do what time-lapses do so well: conveying movement through time itself. Videos that document, yes, but that also communicate.

For a sample of the kind of art Hyperlapse allows you to create, check out the video above—shot by The Atlantic's video producer, Sam Price-Waldman. Sam captured the video while moving around Washington, D.C. on his feet and on his bike. And, most importantly, on his phone.

Presented by

Sam Price-Waldman is a senior associate video producer at The Atlantic. More

Price-Waldman's documentaries have been featured by Vimeo Staff Picks, on PBS, and at film festivals including AFI SilverDocs and Full Frame.

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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