Instagram's Hyperlapse Is A Beautiful Algorithm, But It Makes No Sense As Its Own App

Released today, the new video app is another example of Facebook's prime directive gone wrong.

Hyperlapse is a standalone new app from Instagram that speeds up and stabilizes videos into professional-looking steadicam shots.

Available now on iOS (an Android version is tentatively planned), Hyperlapse is undeniably impressive stabilization tech--just look at this Hollywood-caliber effect of the run I made to buy beer before writing this post!

Using Hyperlapse is dead simple. There's barely a UI to speak of. Load up the app, and record a video as normal of whatever you're pointing your camera at using the single on-screen button. Hit the button to record, and tap it again when you're done recording. Those are your only options. When you're done recording, the algorithm at the heart of Hyperlapse takes your footage, smooths out all of the shakiness so it looks natural, and allows you to speed up the footage up to 12x with an onscreen scrub bar. You can then choose to save the video and post it to Facebook or Instagram, where you can also apply filters or trim the video down to 15 seconds in length. But despite the lack of flashy UI elements, Hyperlapse is still slick, making good use of transparency, blur, and typography to give it a finished feel.

Hyperlapse is slick, and a cursory look at Instagram's #hyperlapse hashtag shows you that people are already doing cool things with the app: not just the inevitable first-person walking shots, but also stabilized, sped-up selfies, and mime-like skits. In addition, Instagram's 15-second video length has always felt more or less arbitrary: Unlike Vine's six-second videos, it's too long to breed creativity, but still too short for capturing more meaningful events. For Hyperlapse, one benefit is that it can be used to cram more video content into 15 seconds. Posting on Facebook, though, there's little benefit you get from using Hyperlapse short of filtering a video through the lens of stability and speed.

But while the app is cool, it's also weird that Hyperlapse is its own app at all.

Facebook has been trying to break up its service into a number of discrete, single-serving apps for the past year or so: most recently, the company forced everyone who was reading or sending Facebook messages to install the standalone Facebook Messenger app.

Hyperlapse, however, is not much more than a pretty interface wrapped around an impressive algorithm; it's not a service in and of itself. And you can't easily export Hyperlapse videos to other services outside of Instagram or Facebook.

Built into Facebook or Instagram, Hyperlapse could become a useful and well-explored videography tool. It has just as much merit as any Instagram filter. But released on its own, Hyperlapse is just another app to drag to your smartphone's "Photo + Video" folder and forget about. It makes about as much sense as Instagram's "Hefe" filter becoming an app of its own.

Which is a shame, because it means that as cool as Hyperlapse is, there's a good chance no one is going to be using it a few weeks from now. You know, like some of Facebook's other single-serving apps like Paper and Slingshot.

[Images: via Instagram]

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15 Comments

  • bkuehl

    Totally agree that Facebook is dumb to split messenger out of the main app. People go to Facebook to do Facebook-y things, including sending messages. So taking it out makes no sense. But to make this time lapse app separate makes excellent sense. It is to me a process that has more use than just in Facebook or Instagram. In my photography folder I may or may not forget about it, but in the Facebook app I definitely would forget to use it for anything else.

  • Brandon Cameron Nygård

    dissagree. Facebooks paper is incredible UI . hyperlapse has a great deal of value. it solves a great problem of shrinking long form content down to 15 sec creates an incredible strong effect that allows people to create a very different type of narrative.

  • It rarely happens, but i disagree with FastCo here.

    Of course it serves a great filter on Instagram or Facebook. But as a standalone service it allows people to try out the technology (as Pascal Pfiffner mentions) and explore various usecases for Hyperlapse without being bound to current expectations of IG or FB as a product, or to the social expectations of your friends list.

    As an app add-in, hyperlapse is a no-brainer. which is exactly why the alternative should be explored. If it fails, you can just chuck it into the existing apps

  • Wojtek Kowalik

    well, it's better to own full home screen on a smartphone than just one or two apps ;)

  • I'm glad I don't need to create an account at either of the social networks just to use my camera with a great stabilization algorithm. So, no, it makes sense at least for me to not force this into either Instagram nor Facebook.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    I don't know. Seems it's time for Instagram to branch out of the one app. They are already stuffing alot in there, another app when we are already used to doing something in a separate app (think VSCOcam), isn't that far fetched a business plan.

  • Wojtek Kowalik

    you can do it easily by changing you iTunes address to some random us address. sure it might mean a little mess in the apple's stats later on... but that's most people I know in the continental Europe have done.

    also I think it dramatically changes the way you use Facebook... somehow :) and for the better ;)