In 1982, monk-turned-filmmaker Godfrey Reggio wowed moviegoers with the maximalist art film “Koyaanisqatsi,” whose centerpiece was a 15-minute block (a portion here) of time-lapse photography — a camera trick that made various parts of urban life look like it was in fast-forward. It was a laborious and impressive undertaking. And as with most things wondrous and task-making, now you can do it with ease on your phone, for free.
The new app “Hyperlapse” was made by “Instagram,” who’ve already rendered professional photographers obsolete by giving everyone an army of photo-improving filters. With “Hyperlapse,” you don’t have to do anything but aim your camera at a thing you want to time-lapse — a setting sun, you zig-zagging down the street, a cat doing something cat-like — tap the screen once, then tap it again when you’re done. You don’t even have to keep your hand completely still; there’s an automatic digital stabilizer built-in. View our modest attempt at making our own (in, we now regret, vertical, not horizontal, which is prettier) below:
Is this evil, an offense to practitioners who’ve put in the time to do this for real? Yes. Is it cool anyway? Yes also. Some of the guilt out of normalizing a trick so spectacular — if, it should be noted, long overused, thanks to commercials and endless copycats — is lessened by the app’s time limitations. “Hyperlapse” only allows for just over five minutes of shooting, which boils down to about 50 seconds of video.Meanwhile, "Instagram" only allows shared videos to run 15 seconds.
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And despite being an offshoot of the social media app, “Hyperlapse” isn’t social. If you want to post and communicate with others you’ll still have to head over to “Instagram.” But you’ve still made a film. Why waste your masterpiece on your followers when you can post it on YouTube and let the whole world see your brilliance?
Sorry, Androiders: No 'Hyperlapse' for you (for now)
“Hyperlapse” may be coming to Google OS, but not anytime soon. If you really want in on this game, you can find non-“Instagram” alternatives. The best of these is the elegant “Framelapse,” which also allows one to do things like use “white balance,” to really bring out the colors. One can also go with “Lapse It” and “Overlapse.”
A brief history of time-lapse
The details of time-lapse are pretty simple: All one is doing is shooting less frames than one normally would; if 24 frames make a second, you’re only shooting one of those. As such, the technique has been around almost as long as cinema. Georges Meilies used it in his 1897 “Carrefour de l’Opera.” It was a fixture of avant-garde films and periodically employed in movies, such as “On the Town,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “Superman: The Movie.” “Koyaanisqatsi” made it ubiquitous, though few have used it as memorably as Peter Greenaway did in 1985’s “A Zed and Two Noughts,” which features time-lapses of animals decaying in fast-forward. (Note: “The Benny Hill Show” didn’t use time-lapse but instead sped up the footage — a sillier-looking technique.)
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