Tag Archives: google streetview

What the heck is Hyperlapse?

(once every few weeks I contribute to a short newsletter for my blue hive colleagues about cool things in digital.  this is my most recent article)

I’m betting that you or one of your friends has probably already freaked out about Instagram’s new video app, hyperlapse. Why is it so cool?  Well, Hyperlapse elegantly solves a primary problem with smartphone video — the shaky cam.  Mobile phones may now contain ridiculously high resolution camera equipment, but until now, phones have not had the physical features or processing power to smooth out the videos that users shoot into something people actually want to watch. (sorry Vine)

Simply put, hyperlapse the APP is awesome.  But instagram didn’t invent it out of thin air.  So I thought I’d share part of the short and colourful story behind hyperlapse the technique (and the word).

The modern era for hyperlapse photography appears to start with a filmmaker named Guy Roland, in videos like this one.

Kino Citius from Guy Roland on Vimeo.

Cool, right?  They created video by combining time-lapse photography with a moving camera position that covers long distances.  If you read the description, they also didn’t know what to call it.

The technique caught on fast. Another filmmaker, Dan Eckert, coined the term Hyperlapse while making some pretty cool videos himself.

HYPERLAPSE World in Motion from Dan Eckert on Vimeo.

So here’s where technology gets involved and things get interesting.  Canadian UX innovators Teehan+Lax mashed up the idea of hyperlapse with one of the largest existing sources of moving-camera still images: Google Streetview.  Here’s an example of what they created with some javascript.

Google Street View Hyperlapse from Teehan+Lax Labs on Vimeo.

Remember, they didn’t take the photos, or even visit the location.  They wrote code that asked Google for photos, aligned them, and compiled a video.  You can do it yourself with any road available on google street view! Go try it out yourself.

In the last 6 months or so, Hyperlapse has become a thing in digital video. My client Ford used it extensively in the 111th anniversary video released in June (which is awesome, if you haven’t seen it).

Just a month ago, Microsoft Research took Hyperlapse even further, showing how, through image mapping algorithms, they could stabilise shakier footage — say from a GoPro — and create hyperlapse from almost any footage.

This represented a theoretical shift from ‘hyperlapse built from expensive and time-consuming shoots’ to post production processing from nearly any video source.  Watch that last video through to the end and they’ll demonstrate how it works.

Which brings us back to instagram, who, separately (it seems) has sewn all of the above ideas into one simple-to-use and brilliantly engineered app.  I’m not proposing that the above is the exhaustive history of the technique, nor linear at all, but let us marvel a bit at how quickly this technique has earned a place in digital culture.  It is also a truly remarkable feat that instagram’s engineers managed to package all of this capability into a mobile app. 

So where are we now? I’d say we’re about to see a revolution in the quantity and quality of consumer-created digital video appearing online. It’s already started, check out this awesome hiphop video:

Are you hyperlapsing yet?