Instagram’s new app has captured people’s imaginations. But does Hyperlapse live up to the hype?

Photo by Nito/Shutterstock

If you spent much time in the tech Twittersphere Tuesday, you probably were barraged by a flood of “my first Hyperlapse” videos. The new app, just released by Instagram, uses nifty gyroscope technology to steady mobile camera shots, which allows users to shoot time-lapse videos.

Hyperlapse seems to have caught people’s imagination more than Bolt, Instagram’s first standalone app release. In much the same way that Instagram’s filters made every average Joe feel like a professional photographer, Hyperlapse’s steadycam time-lapse turns the masses into mini Hollywood producers.

It’s a new form of storytelling: Speeding up shots 2x, 4x, or even 13x injects new feeling into previously drab video footage. Playing with time changes the sentiment of a clip, from comical to serene to harried. There’s even already a roundup of the 20 most creative Hyperlapses (creepy bugs and dance routines abound), and the app has only been out a day.

I immediately knew where I wanted to test Hyperlapse out –my favorite spot in all of San Francisco, a tiny pier off the Embarcadero. I had tried to capture the beauty of the view before by video, but it’s not particularly exciting for people to watch a static shot of water and some sailboats. Time-lapse could bring it to life.

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Not exactly Spielberg, but I was still proud of it.

As you might expect from a product of the Instagram shop, the user interface design of Hyperlapse is elegant, simple, and self-explanatory. After the app walks you through setup and permissions, you’re prompted to hit the record button and take a video in the normal way. After you finish, the app previews the clip for you and you can experiment with different speeds to see how it changes the look and feel of the video. Once you’ve selected your desired speed, the app saves the now-time-lapsed video to your camera roll and gives you the option to share the video on Instagram or Facebook.

Shooting Merv on Hyperlapse (left: record video, middle: choose speed up rate, right: share to social networks)

Shooting my cat Merv on Hyperlapse (left: record video, middle: choose speed up rate, right: share to social networks)

Time-lapse makes a video far more dynamic. It’s an easier way to capture things that might otherwise be boring in motion: Beautiful scenery, movements of crowds, an animal perusing its surroundings.

I could see a feature like this increasing the frequency with which people shoot video to share with friends. The only downside to Hyperlapse’s technology is that the video is downgraded to a rather grainy quality, making shots look cheap, like something out of a 1990’s home video.

But just because the app is a cool little feature that makes video storytelling more fun doesn’t mean it will necessarily succeed with the masses. Instagram followed the current trend of app unbundling, deciding to release Hyperlapse as a separate experience instead of incorporating the feature into the current Instagram app and cluttering up the user experience. It makes sense, but without appearing automatically in the 200 million monthly active Instagram users’ apps, Hyperlapse will have an uphill battle to fight for gaining mindshare.

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