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My Quest For The Perfect 360 Real Estate Tour

November 9th, 2008

Ever since I started shooting 360s in 2000, I’ve been on a quest for the ultimate, elegant real estate 360 tour design. For a long time I worked at designing my own. This was my last effort, but I’m not totally happy with it so I’ve never got around to converting it to Flash.

There have always been ready solutions for displaying a single 360 like Immervision, FPP, Garden Gnome, and others but as soon as you want to put together a series of 360s, or a tour that presents stills and 360s you have to get neck deep in HTML, XML and Javascript. For the great majority of real estate photographers this is not an option.

Within the last year, do-it-yourself hosting providers have started to provide inexpensive do-it-yourself hosting for 360s and stills. Tourbuzz.com is an example. This is a tourbuzz.com tour I’ve built by just uploading my stitched panoramas. I’ve talked to several other hosting providers that will be providing mixed 360 and still DIY tours in the very near future. They look very promising. If you shoot 360s for real estate these kind of hosting services make your life easier. All you have to do is upload stills and 360 images and you have a tour.

But what do you do if you need to tailor a tour for a particular customer, or you want your tours to have a unique look?  Sylvia Guardia a photographer and PFRE reader has this need and showed me two tours that she created using 3dvista.com products. One is for Grupo Kativo (a paint store in San Jose) and the other is for Cala Luna Hotel in Playa Langosta. Notice that the Grupo Kativo one has links to still photos (click the little cameras). The Cala Luna tour links together a number of 360 images with hot spots. For these tours Sylvia used the 3dvista Show and Publisher products. I like Sylvia’s results on these tours. It looks like 3Dvista is a very flexible frame work that allows you to build unique, elegant tours that combine 360s, stills, floorplans and video, all without coding. I’ll have to say that 3Dvista products are the closest thing to what I’ve been looking for.

After seeing Sylvia’s work on these, my inclination is to jump right in and start using 3Dvista.com but their software is Windows only. I get all cranky when I have to turn on my 5 year old HP Windows machine. Oh, well I guess my quest continues. All this talk is getting me interested in updating some of my old 360 tours to Flash.

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27 Responses to “My Quest For The Perfect 360 Real Estate Tour”

  • 360’s seem to be getting a little better, but I still can’t stand the distortion when it moves around. Watching these things still makes me dizzy, and I have heard that complaint from 95% of the agents I shoot for. But there are still a few folks that really like them.

  • Larry-

    Nice post, and thanks for mentioning TourBuzz. It’s interesting to see you dedicate a post to this topic, as we have had more and more requests from customers lately to be able to do custom designs and layouts.

    Technically, it would not actually be too hard to add to TourBuzz. In fact, our Showcase Web Sites product, which is a do-it-yourself website tool for agents and other small businesses, including some photographers that use TourBuzz, offers very flexible graphics options, as you can see from the samples page for Envision Virtual Tours at http://www.getmytour.com/19/dsp_agent_page.php/52825.

    We didn’t originally include this level of customization in TourBuzz on purpose, since most of the tours posted were “normal” real estate tours in the $100-$150 range, and that’s not enough to pay for graphic customization.

    However, due to the quality of presentation of our tours, we have attracted interest from many customers doing high-end tours for real estate and general commercial work.

    I would be interested to hear from you and your readers a little bit more about the actual functionality and workflow you’d like to see in a product to help you create completely customized tours.

    Do you want a WYSIWYG designer? A place to customize HTML and CSS? How much control do you want over layout? Do you simply need to be able to customize colors, header, footer, etc, or do you want to be able to have a lot of control over thumbnail positions, sizes, etc?

    As for Tom’s comment about distortion; if you make the tour window square in proportion, you pretty much eliminate distortion. For instance, click on the TourBuzz tour linked in the article, and resize the window so that the area with the pano displayed is square. Distortion is essentially eliminated. Unfortunately, most people prefer the look of a wide-screen format, and that will force *any* proper panorama viewer to distort somewhat around the edges.

    Looking forward to your ideas,

    Alan Pinstein
    TourBuzz

  • Take a look at one of my recent virtual tours (360’s). I think it looks tons better than “this was my last effort” listed above.

    Have a look here:

    http://rtvpix.com/RE-6144-5UETMX-01

    And let me know what you think.

    Michael

  • -Larry
    I have been using Tourweaver from Easypano for a number of years now. Here’s a tour I did not too long ago http://www.imaging360.net/brookwood/greateastern25383/.
    I spent a great deal of time researching the virtual tour formats, I was using Immervision for quite a while, but this meant coding every time I made a tour and it was quite an effort having to go from one tour to another but you could do some interesting stuff with it. Check this out http://www.vrmag.org/projects/immervision/papillons/.

    Tourweaver is quite like 3DVista, I chose tourweaver over 3DVista in the end manly because the support at tourweaver was far better.

    Neither do Mac version at this stage and I do all my post on mac and then open windows on virtual machine just to use Tourweaver and nothing else. I have contacted them recently and they say they a in the process of make a mac version.

    Great thread. I too am hanging out for a mac equivalent.
    Brent

  • Extreme Wide Angle: Unfortunately, your example is what gives 360 Virtual Tours a bad name.

  • -Wide Angle- I see a lot of RVT in use but it looks dated. Initial screen is small for my taste and if I’m going to take the time to do 360 images I want to have the option to allow users to go fullscreen.

    -Tim- Yes, about 25% hate 360s, 25% love it and the middle 50% don’t care. That’s why one should not base your total business on 360.

    -Brent- I tried Tourweaver along time ago when it first came on the market and it seemed bloated and slow. I should go back and look at it again since there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. And yes, you are right, I could make use of the fact I can run windows on my Mac and not be so inflexible.

  • Oops, sorry Larry I just spotted that for my example of a tour I did recently that I copy and pasted the wrong link, it’s just a shoot I was working on at the time.
    Here’s the tour I meant http://imaging360.net/replus/riley3230/tour/.
    Shouldn’t work and play at the same time?

    Cheers
    Brent

  • […] Source and Read More: photographyforrealestate.net […]

  • Colin: Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind when my clients call me to say how much they like the tours.

  • Extreme wide angle – your tour is awesome. I have no idea what Colin is talking about and it would be helpful for all of us if he could provide some specific criticisms to support his statement that it gives 360 panoramas a bad name. If there is distortion – where is it? The color, contrast and clarity are all beautiful. Colin, please send us to a link that you say gives them a good name.

  • Sorry, I should be clear about it. It’s good that your client likes it, it’s wonderful but as web designer / photographer, I can see flaws that other people don’t see. It’s just my opinion, you’re entitled to your own opinion. Your photos and 360 are ok – maybe too much HDR and need some brightening on some photos. I’m pretty sure you’re aware of some converging verticals. But let’s focus on virtual tours which is the topic here. It’s the virtual tour that you’re using to present your photos/360’s that I’ve got problem with…

    Here’s the problems with the tour that I’m sure is not your fault as they are from RTV:

    – First thing when I loaded the page, it resized my window.

    – Small viewing area, no fullscreen option.

    – like Larry said, it look dated. (shadows and beveled elements in the wrong places)

    – text are not anti-aliased in the player thus looking very rough

    – ratio aspect of the viewing area should be 3:2 for the photos

    – not sure if it’s your photos or the way RTV resized your images, it look like quality loss is existed as there’s noticeable compression blur like going on with your photos.

  • […] photography by unknown « A CowGirls Journey of West Meets East: run.jpg Blue Crane on Flickr – Photo Sharing! […]

  • Hello,

    I enjoy all of the comments above on virtual tours. I have been a professional photographer for several years: weddings, school pictures, stills, etc. and just recently decided to give real estate virtual tours (photos) a try. Can any of you give me any suggestions on getting started with a real estate company (the best way to present my services to a realtor in my community that I do not know) and what should one charge for this service? Do you charge by the hour or the size of the home? I love homes and really enjoy showing them in the best light possible. Thank you. Frank

  • Colin: Thanks for the clarification. But you must understand, a virtual tour is a whole different animal than still photography. Of course there is going to be some compression and loss of detail – there has to be or the tour would take forever to load and run. Verts are not going to be perfect due to the nature of the medium. It’s the nature of the beast.

    I’ve been trying to get RTV to make the viewing window larger but I don’t know if that will happen. A full screen view would be much better, I agree.

  • Hi Larry, excellent post! I’m glad so many people are sharing their tours and commenting too!

    Extreme Wide Angle: your 360’s are very nice, i do agree it would be much better viewed larger. and the pictures should fill the screen, as the tours do. the black spaces at the sides are distracting.

    in 3D Vista you have the option to design your own skins, that’s why you’ll never have blank spaces if you don’t want them; because you have complete control over the skin design (size, appearance, etc…)
    you also choose the percentage of image compression, (with an inmediate preview); that way you’ll know exactly how much you can compress each image without loosing quality.
    there are other options you can set before saving the tour, such as the 360 tour’s velocity and starting zoom, specific viewing time for the still images, transition effects, among other options.

    i hope you guys try it out, i’m very happy with it. i still have lots of options to experiment with… i hope i can show you guys more projects in the near future!

  • This is a great topic. I’ve been doing commercial real estate virtual tours for some time. I was interested in doing them for residential real estate, but have found that the prices are very low. I applied for a job at one of those virtual tour providers and they wanted to pay only $40.00 per shoot and didn’t include travel expenses.

    For now I will stick to shooting for commercial real estate.

    BTW, I do use Easypano’s Panoweaver to stitch. I have found that Panoweaver is very forgiving if you don’t have the nodal point exactly correct. Plus it stitches very fast. I also use Tourweaver for building tours. But I have found that most of my commercial real estate clients want their tours implemented into their existing website. Or they want me to build their site and incorporate the tours. So I have been using Panoweaver to make the Flash tour and I incorporate it into my Dreamweaver design.

  • Colin – I like your photos, they look natural and real. I’m seeing too many interior photos and 360’s these days with overdone HDR that don’t look real to anyone, even those without an interest in photography artists impression look as if they’re off the film set of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0339291/mediaindex ).

    I think if they were being done for the owner and not an agent I can’t believe they wouldn’t complain

  • The new skin editor of Pano2VR has some nice features, here is a first work in progress of a tour on a 85m sailing ship:
    http://www.hvweb.net/signoradelvento/camera.html

  • Thomas- Nice job! Looks like the Pano2VR skin editor is worth checking out.

  • Here are some video tutorials about working with the skin editor of Pano2VR: http://gardengnomesoftware.com/tutorial.php

  • Thomas- Thanks for the links. Wow, Garden Gnome has improved a lot since the last time I checked it out. I think I’m going to have to try it out!

  • Why didn’t anyone comment on the full screen tour from Johnny.

    That thing is amazing. Does anyone know of other full screen virtual tour apps like that one?

    Johnny,

    How did you build it?

  • Ok, missed Thomas’ post on Pano2VR, also incredible.

    Too bad they both load kind of slow but talk about feeling like your literally there.

  • This is directed mainly towards Colin and Michael (Extreme Wide Angle).

    I have to be careful and can’t really say too much about RTV. That being said, my loyalty is not to the software provider I’m using but ultimately to my clientele. I have roughly 1500 dollars invested in “credits” with RTV that are worthless because no one is wanting to use their format. They really need to step up their gameplan and do something new. In addition to that, I also know firsthand as a RTV dealer that they compress or “downgrade” the images to orders of magnitude. Some of the images I upload go from 1.2mb files to under 70kb, and the quality difference is grossly apparent.

    I’d like to plug Tourbuzz.net here, and highly recommend them for use by photographers. They are the most transparent system I have used so far, meaning that the photo you upload is going to be the photo you see. They don’t compress photos into hazy messes like many of the other VTs. As a dealer for several different VT companies, when given the choice most clients will choose the Tourbuzz format over others based upon the speed at which it loads and the fact that images are the largest out there. From a photographers standpoint they are very easy to deal with, the upload system is extremely easy to use, and they have regular updates as promised.

    I’m going to try the Quicksilver VTs that Terry Roden has released recently and test it out. Like I said, my loyalty is to my clients; and having a plethora of options to suit their needs is why they’ll choose me over one of the big cookie cutter companies.

  • Jim, the software that Johnny used/uses is Easypano’s Tourweaver. The loading bar is their standard flash loader. He has the pro version, like I do, and you can remove all branding and use your own. It’s a very technically deep program with a very detailed GUI, but great for someone with some design skill than can come up with there own design.

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