Participation leads to inspiration, so whenever a new social tool comes out, I test it myself before introducing it to clients. While I was at a photo shoot in downtown L.A. this week, I took some time to play with Hyperlapse, a new app from Instagram that lets you convert video to time-lapse. Here are some things brands should keep in mind when using it.
There is a brilliant novelty to this app, and it makes it much simpler to do time-lapse than by traditional means. But consider the job of time-lapse in video and film and how that fits into your brand’s visual storytelling arc. Time-lapse is a transitional element, an interesting way to connect two scenes through the passing of time, but on its own, it may not have the power to carry the narrative. Hyperlapse can make a guy walking into a building look awesome at 12x speed, but in the end, it’s still a guy walking into a building. Brands should look to redefine the element of time-lapse, rather than simply use Hyperlapse to re-create it.
When you open the app, you have one choice: record. That’s a brief learning curve, but the simplicity inherently produces limitations. The app works best when you set it to capture movement, preferably at least 10 to 20 feet away. The longer you film, the more interesting the final product could become, especially with a dramatic passage of time. But a long video session eats away at memory and battery life. And even if you have the memory to capture the video, it may not render, forcing you to delete items off your device to finish. Once a video is complete, you have the option to preview at speeds ranging from 1x to 12x, then share to Instagram or Facebook. Super simple.
Time-lapse looks best when your camera is stationary, on a tripod. It’s also important to have a consistent light source or one that gradually changes, for example, to show day turn to night. My first test was rigging my phone to my rear-view mirror and driving through a parking garage. As the light source changed, it severely affected the video quality, and was unwatchable. In subsequent tests, using a stationary camera on a tripod in a different setup produced much better results.
It’s important to do a deep depth of field, rather than a shallow one. In other words, don’t try close-ups, especially if other elements (like hands) enter the frame. The camera cannot process a change of focus so quickly, and your video will come out blurry and unprofessional. Stop motion, as is done in Vine, allows you to go frame-by-frame, adjusting focus and exposure on the fly. In Hyperlapse, for better or worse, you simply set it and forget it.
Anecdotally, I don’t like videos on Instagram. It pulls me out from the simplicity of the feed. There is an expectation to the content on Instagram. More heavy-handed filmic techniques, like time-lapse and stop motion, seem to thrive more in the world of Vine. Hyperlapse also gives you the option to export to Facebook. It’s possible that audience may be more accepting of the technique, because the Facebook newsfeed is already so soupy. Regardless, if overused without a concept surrounding it, this technique will get old quickly.
Unlike Vine, which gives you a square preview and format to shoot, Hyperlapse shoots full-frame, vertical or horizontal, but does not necessarily export to those dimensions. When you are ready to post, Facebook will allow for the widescreen landscape format, but Instagram constrains the export to the square format. Keep that in mind as you are shooting. There are no guides to establish action-safe areas, so you must eyeball it as you frame your shot, keeping the subject in the center. Remember, an equal portion of your video will be cut off on both sides upon upload to Instagram. During the posting process, you can also adjust (but not crop) the video within the square frame, making this in-app limitation less limiting.
J Barbush is VP, Creative Social Media Director at independent agency RPA.