Instagram has a new app out today. It's called Hyperlapse and promises to help iPhone owners shoot smooth, professional-grade video clips. You can speed them up and make time-lapse footage, or chose a slower pace to see Instagram's special image stabilization algorithms in action. To keep things steady, Hyperlapse relies on your iPhone's gyroscope rather than searching for traditional scene references like angles and high contrast tracking points. Having to compute all that information would murder your battery, and turning to the hardware's existing sensors is a clever way of avoiding the hassle. Best of all, everything's done through an incredibly simple user interface. There are no accounts to set up or sign into. Not an Instagram user? It doesn't even matter.
To get an idea of just how good Hyperlapse is at keeping things smooth, we took it for a walk through midtown Manhattan — a challenging place to keep a steady hand if there ever was one. Since all of Hyperlapse's promotional App Store photos are in portrait, I went against my better judgement and decided to shoot that way. A stroll down 7th Avenue was all it took to realize that Instagram's not bluffing. Hyperlapse really can put together some fantastic tracking shots that improve on the image stabilization already built into Apple's iPhone.
Hyperlapse delivers on its promises
I've got shakier hands than most, and the iPhone's native camera tries its best to make up for that. But Hyperlapse would actually make you believe my hands were steady as I did my best to navigate one of New York's busiest streets. They most definitely weren't, and yet Hyperlapse still came up with a pretty cinematic finished product. It's not altogether perfect; you can see the software at work if you focus on specific elements of a scene (lights, text, etc.). And you'll need to adjust exposure manually with a tap — almost certainly by design. But when you step back and watch the clip as a whole, it's pretty striking. Our video experts even ran the iPhone's handheld footage through Adobe's warp stabilizer, and it was still no match for what Hyperlapse produced. Below is a GIF of all the tracking points that stabilizer software normally tries to latch onto. Hyperlapse does a much better job, and does so using far less processing power.
We only tested Hyperlapse out for a matter of minutes and came away impressed. But Instagram is betting that iPhone videographers — casual, amateur, and maybe even professional — will all put its new app to the test and create stellar work with it. Lots of people already are, and you should definitely give it a try. It's one of those rare apps with a very real and immediate wow factor. Android users have reason to be envious; let's hope it shows up on Google's OS before long.
Ryan Manning contributed to this report.