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Here is A Look at the Future of 360VR Virtual Tours

January 22nd, 2008

Today I was browsing through the PanotoolsNG forum which is where all the top panographers in the world hang out. (Not that I’m in that class but I love to keep up with what’s going on in this field and this is were all the important stuff in this field is discussed).

One of the postings to the PanotoolsNG forum was of a Virtual Tour of Rio de Janeiro was by Ricardo Araujo of www.tourvirtualbrasil.com.br. Ricardo was posting it for feedback on how it worked on various browsers. He said it is still not finished and has 34 360VR views all linked together in a long movie like tour. But of coarse this is not a movie. It’s a series of automatically linked 360 panoramas.

I was stunned by the beautifully designed auto-play feature. You basically click on the play button and if you give it enough time and don’t take over control, it will automatically play through all the 360 views. To display the controls click on the little logo in the bottom right. At any time you can take control of the panning or use the drop-down in the upper right to select anyone of the 360 views. When you want to go back to auto-play with the controls up, click on the play button. This interface simple, intuitive and takes full screen Flash panorama tour navigation to the next level. I’ve not seen full screen panorama navigation this nice before.

I immediately contacted Ricardo and ask him about the technical details. He said: “ Tourplans is the company that hired Tour Virtual Brasil (my company) to produce the Rio de Janeiro virtual tour. To produce this tour I used FFP (www.flashpanoramas.com). You will need some programming skills to create this kind of auto tour, but is not that hard…

I want to figure out how to do this for my 360VR!

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20 Responses to “Here is A Look at the Future of 360VR Virtual Tours”

  • I’ve seen some of the tours on their. I’m a virtual tour photographer myself, but am getting more into standard real estate photography with the help of this blog. I’ve seen stuff from flashpanoramas before… amazing stuff… also good looking is:
    http://www.immervision.com/en/multimedia/index.php?cat=multimedia

  • beautiful, what equipment did you shoot with? I can’t find the seams!! I can always find a seam. πŸ˜‰

    /kelly thomas
    SIHomeTours.com

  • @ Larry – you can find the necessary means to customize FPP at the following. It’s not the most simple to implement, but not super difficult. The Google Maps isn’t a plugin, however; Ricardo told me that was custom.

    http://flashpanoramas.com/forum/
    http://flashpanos.com/

    I seriously question a suggestion on a RE-specific blog to take VRs to the next level w/ this stuff. It’s not bad by any means, but the real estate market can’t expect this to become common practice, IMO. It’s increasingly more expensive and time-consuming for RE photogs to beef up what they offer, yet realtors generally won’t want to pay anywhere near what this is worth, even for the more expensive listings. I have realtors who balk at spending $250-300 on photos for $1-3M listings, no lie. That price includes well over 50 stills + a dozen or so stitched panoramas.

    After finally spending thousands on gear, hours of educating yourself, and refining workflow, if you can’t be pulling in more income hourly from your customers than the kid at starbucks can, then there’s something wrong. Some of us don’t have a RE agent as a wife for extra income. πŸ™‚

    Look at http://virtually-anywhere.com/pricing/nexus/ for an idea of what this is worth on a commercial level. Similarly, the guy who wrote the dropdown menu selector for FPP (http://cheathamlane.net/ – a friend of mine & fellow IVRPA member) won’t touch any VR work for < $400/VR.

    None of this is “the future” for 360VR tours. It’s already here. It’s just not practical for RE photography, which is why you don’t see it in the mainstream.

    @ Kelly – go look @ my RE site. All of the panos there are stitched… and batch processed. You’ll find the occasional seam from when the tripod was bumped, but visible seams are few and far between. πŸ˜‰

  • (tried posting this earlier; didn’t go through?)

    @ Larry – you can find the necessary means to customize FPP at the following. It’s not the most simple to implement, but not super difficult. The Google Maps isn’t a plugin, however; Ricardo told me that was custom.

    flashpanoramas.com/forum
    flashpanos.com

    I seriously question a suggestion on a RE-specific blog to take VRs to the next level w/ this stuff. It’s not bad by any means, but the real estate market can’t expect this to become common practice, IMO. It’s increasingly more expensive and time-consuming for RE photogs to beef up what they offer, yet realtors generally won’t want to pay anywhere near what this is worth, even for the more expensive listings. I have realtors who balk at spending $250-300 on photos for $1-3M listings, no lie. That price includes well over 50 stills + a dozen or so stitched panoramas.

    After finally spending thousands on gear, hours of educating yourself, and refining workflow, if you can’t be pulling in more income hourly from your customers than the kid at starbucks can, then there’s something wrong. Some of us don’t have a RE agent as a wife for extra income. πŸ™‚

    Look at virtually-anywhere.com/pricing/nexus for an idea of what this is worth on a commercial level. Similarly, the guy who wrote the dropdown menu selector for FPP (cheathamlane.net – a friend of mine & fellow IVRPA member) won’t touch any VR work for < $400/VR.

    None of this is “the future” for 360VR tours. It’s already here. It’s just not practical for RE photography, which is why you don’t see it in the mainstream.

    @ Kelly – go look @ my RE site. All of the panos there are stitched… and batch processed. You’ll find the occasional seam from when the tripod was bumped, but visible seams are few and far between. πŸ˜‰

  • Scott,
    Perhaps I got carried away with my enthusiasm. I tend to do that with 360VR! I admit 360VR is not mainstream real estate. And it’s a lot of work for what you can charge. I just love doing it. I’ve done 4 to 5 rooms on every listing we’ve done in the last 5 years but we get the listing commission so I don’t have to make the economics work. When I do it for someone else it’s $500+ per tour. The interest from sellers is very mixed. Some think it’s close to sliced bread, but other don’t even notice it.

    As far as why I think Ricardo’s auto-play feature is significant; this is the first implementation for full screen Flash I’ve seen (there may be others) where you can play a series of 360 images with one click. I would love to use this to create a full screen multi-room walk through. One of the things that gets in the way of using 360VR for real estate is the view to view navigation. This is a great solution to navigation… do it for the user. Some viewers would think this is a movie.

    As far as FPP and how to do this; No there isn’t great documentation for FPP. I was going to try to get Ricardo to tell me more about how to do this… I think it may be done with Actionscript (although I’m not sure) FPP I know is controllable with Actionscript but I’ve never used Actionscript so at this point I don’t have a clue to what I’m talking about:) I’m going to see if I can figure out how to do this. The google map part is not difficult, there is plenty of documentation on how to use the google API.

  • Scott is right, I think I’m going to do all my future 360vr posts on my fullscreen360.blogspot.com blog. It just is not a main stream real estate photography subject.

    For those that are interested I think I’ve found out how Ricardo is doing the autopan and transition between 360 views. Patrick Cheatham and Zephyr Renner, FPP FPP evangelists have a site called: http://www.flashpanos.com/ that has a bunch of great plugins and documentation for FPP. In particular Patrick has a post on how to autopan at: http://www.flashpanos.com/content/simple-panorama-auto-presentation
    This site makes FPP a bunch more useable!

  • Regarding Immervision’s software; I dissed it as soon as I saw what FPP could do. Immervision is not professionally oriented (due to the splash-spam screen that is not removable… not even if one buy’s the Immervision “splash screen removal tool”).

    FPP is the best, but complicated for newbies, and it is disturbing for me to see new users offering others to do the panos for them, because they can’t get their head around the whole coding thing.

    I am in the category of users without any interest in spending my time on coding, so when I bought FPP, I hired a programmer to make a GUI (www.flashificator.com) for FPP, and when the full commercial version is released (february is the plan), non coders and panorama software beginners should have zero problems getting their work done, and advanced users should have considerably more time on their hands to shoot photos and find paying clients.

    Here is another good and plain explaination on how to do the auto-tour: http://flashpanoramas.com/forum/showpost.php?p=4697&postcount=2
    (the coordinants/parameters are written in the .xml file, so no AS3 or Flash knowledge needed there).

    /rant
    Trausti Hraunfjord

  • I think that the Future of Virtual Tours are actually here:
    http://imagemodeler.realviz.com/products/VT/spiv3d/application_antibes.html

    Now think if there is possible to link several panoramas together?! You get house walkaraound!!

  • @Trausti,
    Thanks very much for the info. I’m an ex-software engineer turned photographer and I was disappointed at it was such a struggle to get FPP working. Neither am I impressed with Immervision. Actually so far I find Thomas Rascher’s Pano2VR the easiest to use. Although after seeing Ricardo’s tour I’m taking another look at FPP! I’ll watch for your GUI… it’s much needed!

    @Jan,
    Your URL wants to load a “plugin” πŸ™

  • Very nice. Back in the “old” days, 1992 or so weused to call these “multinode” movies in QuickTime VR.

    Now Flash enables us to do cool effects like you see in that example. Very nice. You might want to check this out also:

    http://fieldofview.com/spv-gallery

    Click on the Seattle Space Needle – make sure you are not scared of heights!

    David

  • @ Larry –

    I’m certainly not trying to discount what you’re saying. I love the advanced VR work just as much, and it’s actually the reason I started getting into RE photography, as it was a “easy” market to tap into and make some money from to fund the hobby. What I didn’t understand at the time was indeed the economics. I quickly discovered how “cheap” many realtors were, and was consequently forced to downgrade my techniques and what I could offer. That was tough. My whole reason for bringing up the issues above was simply to encourage some caution in crossing the line into territory that isn’t worth the amount of time and effort for what RE clients are willing to pay for. I’ve come across many agents who expect the best for next to nothing, and if photogs give into that, they’ll ultimately get burnt.

    just my $0.03, adjusted for inflation. πŸ™‚

    cheers,
    scott

  • @Scott,
    My friend Kevin in Bellevue, WA launched esitetours.com in Nov and is offering 8 360 views along with 20+ stills in a package for $495. He is selling tours to upper-end top listing agents. The agents are getting a lot for that price. I’m interested to track is experiences. 8 360 views are a LOT of work!

    I try to never encourage RE photographers to do 360s as a way to make money!

  • hmm… might want to tell Kevin that his site is broken (just tested in Firefox & IE)… looks like a problem w/ the stylesheet.

    I agree with what you’re saying, and yes, it’s a lot more work than most folks realize, until they try doing it. πŸ˜‰

    I also wonder how successful one can be by offering a $500 package to realtors. Does he get much business?

  • @ Larry

    Install the plugin then. It’s worth of it!

  • Thak you Larry for the nice comments!
    Congratulations on your Web Site.
    Ricardo

  • Hi Larry.. remebre me? the Costa Rica guy???

    I will receive my Sigma 10-20 lens next week… also I bought your e-book today to learn more and more…

    I found your article of Ricardo Araujo absolutely interesting…. i would like to contact him if possible, do you have his email address???

    In my race to find training I found this courses in Australia… do you think any school or institute have this program or similar available in the US??? if not somebody can make big money training in this special areas…. i think the program is very special and perfect for begginers… the link is http://www.photography-courses.com.au fi you can check maybe you can send me your comments as always…

    I appreciate all your help and hope the e-book teach me all the tips necesaries for my trainning…

    Your friend

    Carlos

  • Just a little follow up. We are still working on the Flashificator Full version, and hopefully I can have it out on time (February 20th). I made a little demo video, showing how easily the advanced version is to get through, and embedded the video in a pano (pano by Denis V. Chumakov).
    Here’s the link:
    http://flashificator.com/1/ThisIs-A-Demo/ThisIs-A-Demo.html

    Click the “Open” button, and the video will fill your screen in acceptable quality. When the video finishes (less than 2 minutes), hit “Esc” on your keyboard to return to the panorama in the background.

    And here is a link to a good quality FLV, where details can be seen (you need a flv player on your puter to view it)
    http://flashificator.com/1/ThisIs-A-Demo/FullQuaity.flv (6.16 mb)

  • Wow, so many mentions by so many people.. Cool!

    I’m totally jazzed by the adoption and use of Flash by so many people, to display VR. And, by “VR” I mean 360Β° phtographic VR.

    Things like Shockwave (and SPi-V, like David mentions above) are great at displaying 3D models — which is what the Space Needle example is… it’s not Flash, David. But they’re not the best things for displaying PhotoVR.

    Flash may not be “the best” either — but it’s pretty darned close. πŸ™‚ I try to take into account the general ability of Joe User to access the content as much as I take into account the ability of the deploying technology to _display_ the content (and the market penetration of Shockwave in the United States is deplorable, when compared; likewise, VTour).

    Back in the “old days” QTVR was king — Apple really made it accessible to the masses, but then abandoned it (with good reason? The iPod and related technologies are doing them right, moneywise) — so the old school holdouts are being left in the lurch. Adobe’s revitalized Flash of late, and up next will be native hardware acceleration (OpenGL support, anyone?) and native 3D classes from within Flash. Who could ask for more? I’ll be out of a job, soon… πŸ˜› Flash is approachable, and apparently the API and IDE aren’t going to be abandoned anytime soon.

    Another one to look at is PaperVision 3D. It’s open source, and wholly extensible. Why get locked in to a display technology, no matter how robust, when you can extend another with no fear of reprisal?. There are many examples online of use of Papervision 3D to deliver 360Β° panoramas, and it is as fully featurable as Flash Panorama Player, and comes without the overhead or headache of being a closed developers’ loop — you can extend it yourself.

    My 2 cents,

    Patrick

  • Update:

    Flashificator free version is now compatible with Macintosh, Windows and Linux.

    The full commercial version is still in development.

  • Just to tie up this loose end, I can finally announce the commercial release of the full version of Flashificator, and people are loving it, even though it’s still in it’s early stages of “digital childhood”.

    Never before has it been so easy to make panoramas with FPP, and absolutely NO coding knowledge is required, but for those who know and prefer to use coding, life has become much easier.

    Visit the (still limited) video tutorial section, and see how things are done.

    Time to dust off your FPP and put it into good use!

    Thank you for your attention,

    Trausti

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