In 2011, Alex Karpenko figured out a way to use a smartphone’s gyroscope to stabilize video recordings and started the company that would become Luma, later acquired by Instagram. Thomas Dimson, who’d worked at Luma, suggested applying the technique to time-lapse video. From their collaboration, alongside designer Chris Connolly, came Hyperlapse, the hit app from Instagram that empowers iPhone and Android users to create their own time-lapse vids with just a few finger swipes. “Encouraging that experimentation is probably the reason we ended up having mass-market success,” Dimson says. While the duo won’t release user figures, a number of brands have pounced on the technology for their Instagram feeds.
Posted a sped-up image of whirling teacups from Disney World’s famous Mad Tea Party ride.
Treated fans to an 8-second unboxing and sneak preview of the new Nike Kobe 9’s.
Showed how customers “Quieren Taco Bell” with a real-life drive-thru run at breakneck speed.
Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?
Thomas Dimson: I think it’s from films that I see and definitely being inspired by the creative people that I follow on Instagram. Quite often they are employees of Instagram. Instagram is a fairly creative place to be. I think I draw a lot of inspiration there. I’ve definitely become a better photographer since I’ve joined.
Alex Karpenko: I like going to computer graphics conferences–they are great for inspiration. You see cutting-edge research. A lot of that actually blows your mind.
What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?
Dimson: I think it would surprise people the level of diversity that we have at Instagram of people. My team has probably eight or nine PhDs on it. We have engineers that have absolutely no college experience, we have people that work in creative writing, we have all these different jobs.
And I think that it’s actually kind of interesting to see all the different things that go into making it such a successful company. It’s not just like great engineering or it’s not just great management or whatever. It’s really like there’s just such a level of diversity in terms of experiences that I find that’s pretty surprising to me.
I can give you one example. So John Carmack, the creator of Doom–this is a very strange example–but the creator of Doom works at Facebook now. And one day I was just sipping coffee and he was outside, so I was just kind of watching him, saying like, ‘Oh I work with the creator of Doom. That’s very strange.’ And then a person, a creative writer who works at Instagram, came up to me and said, ‘What are you looking at?’ John Carmack. ‘Who is John Carmack?’ Well, he created Doom. ‘What’s Doom?’ So here I am admiring this amazing technical genius and the person next to me basically has no idea where he fits in in the world, and I think that’s really cool to see.
What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?
Dimson: I like David Guttenfelder a lot. He’s a National Geographic photographer. This is a cop-out answer because everybody at Instagram loves him. He brings a really interesting perspective. He used to do a lot of Instagram photography in North Korea, which was giving it a different perspective on the world that you don’t really normally see. So that’s probably my favorite account next to Instagram, of course, the Instagram account.
Karpenko: My favorite Twitter account is John Carmack. I have to say he posts the coolest, nerdiest stuff on that. It’s amazing. You have to follow him. For Instagram, I like [Guttenfelder and the Instagram account]. I also like Thomas’s account–he has really good Hyperlapses, you should check it out.
Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?
Karpenko: I can tell you Elon Musk; I look up to him a lot. That’s the benchmark, you know, of ambition. I think he is changing the world for the better. The work he does is very, very important. It would be awesome if more people were like him.
Dimson: I’m Canadian, I’m actually quite far from home, so the first thing that comes to mind is thinking of my family, my parents. I think they’ve been steady enough to allow me to experiment and move to a different country, take a career that is very far away from them, and having them as a steady rock has really helped me move on in my life. So I look up to them and I admire what they did for me.