This Week In Real Estate Video #108 – Getting Started In Property Video

May 2nd, 2014

I’ve been getting many questions about getting started in property video. Probably stirred up by the video contest. Many folks want to get started but don’t know where to start in video or how to expand from shooting stills. So I thought a discussion about how to get started shooting property video would be appropriate. Here is a list that Allan MacKenzie helped me put together for a post on this subject several years ago. Here is the updated list from that old post:

Essential Gear

  • Wide angle lens: When shooting real estate video lens considerations are the same as when shooting stills. A wide angle lens is one of the most important pieces of gear. You need a wide angle lens that has an effective focal length between 14 and 24mm. See the PFRE lenses page for all the options. Unless you are using a full frame DSLR the Sigma 10-20mm is a good choice. It has good quality for a very reasonable price and it’s available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Samsung and Sony. Note that the Sigma 10-20mm is only appropriate for use on cropped sensor DSLRs. If you are using a full frame DSLR check out the PFRE lens page for appropriate lenses.
  • DSLR: When shooting video aDSLR that shoots high ISO (3200 or 6400) is essential.  Two recent DSLRs that work nicely for video are the Canon D70 and the Nikon D7100. You’ll find that many people shooting DSLR video are using Canon 5DMKIIs or 5DMKIIIs because they have good high ISO performance but a 5d is not essential if you are just getting started.
  • Fluid video tripod/Head: When shooting video you need a tripod with a fluid head. Something like a Manfroto 504HD,546BK Video Tripos with 504HD head. This kind of fluid head allows you to do nice smooth pans. Regular still tripods are just not made to do those nice smooth movements you want to do when shooting video.
  • Slider: When shooting video you want to be able to make the camera movements that are different than and pan and zooms. You do this with either a slider that mounts on your tripod or a dolly that slides along the floor. Allan recommends a simple slider bar that mount on you tripod. Something like the Glidetrack 39 inch HD Simple Slider. Another alternative is to build your own dolly. Update: this is the 1/2 meter Glidetrack that I believe Malia recommends.
  • Variable ND filter: Something like this  – variable ND filter.

Lighting
Allan says, “I shoot all my real estate video using available light and do some tweaking in post if required. Lighting would be nice however you need to be able to acquire the budgets to equal the setup time for lighting. This is not to say we are not on the lookout all the time for what lighting products that are coming into the market to make the use of lighting to be productive, efficient and cost effective for day to day bread and butter real estate video and I’m sure the day will come if it’s not already here now.”

Audio
If you are just going to use a music track or drop in a professional narration you don’t need an special audio gear but if you are going to have the people in the video do the talking, like agents and home owners you’ll get best results if you record the audio independently with something like a Zoom H4n using lavalier lapel mics and then sync the audio with the video during editing.

Post Processing Software
Allan suggests that Premiere Elements (Win/Mac) or iMovie (comes with all Macs) are a good video editing applications to start with and then move up to Adobe Premiere Pro CC  or Final Cut Pro X (Mac) as your skills and needs increase.

Learning The Craft
This will take some work. There are many resources around to just learn shooting video but a very few focused on property video. Malia Campbell has had workshops in the past and may have more in the future. A great way to learn would be to convince an experienced property videographer to let you come along on a shoot to help out. Editing video is a subject unto itself. There are pretty good tutorials at lynda.com.

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36 Responses to “This Week In Real Estate Video #108 – Getting Started In Property Video”

  • Although from 2012, a good blog post by Malia Campbell on Video Gear to get started http://maliacampbellphotography.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/video-gear-getting-started/

  • @Christian – Thanks, I’d totally forgot about that one!

  • Saw an interesting comparison between the Galaxy Note 3 and 5D Mark III regarding video capability just yesterday where the reviewer puts the Samsung ahead of the Canon. Can’t wait to see what the Hero 4 can do.

  • 2 pretty big issues with the Note 3 for Real Estate video shooters, 1 lens and terrible/unusable in low light. Not to mention how un professional it would look showing up at a shoot and pulling a cell phone out, my guess is you wouldn’t be in business too long.

  • Of course! However, DSLR manufacturers had better take Note before they’re left behind (www.google.com/search?q=dslr+obsolete) and agents find they can take their own. What other standalone technologies have mobile phones taken (or are taking) over?

  • Sorry Samsung, even in the small YouTube video, I can see better performance with the 5DMk3. The reviewer didn’t get the settings correct on the DSLR for the best results. I would have also gone with a Canon L series prime lens or a Zeiss prime rather than the Sigma zoom.

    I like Avid Media Composer for editing. A nice little trick for sync’ing audio is to record a scratch track on the DSLR and use PluralEyes to align the audio from the Zoom. If there is a noticeable delay from shooting at a distance, it’s not hard to add some offset. A hand clap at the start of the clip works if you aren’t being all “Hollywood” and using a slate/clapper board.

  • When looking for tripods, make sure you get one that you can add some weight to. To get a nice smooth pan, you need to dial in some “drag” and if the tripod is too light, you’ll drag the tripod over. There are some sandbags made especially for video tripods where it isn’t usually possible to hang the weight from the center.

    Be sure to look into Canon’s line of digital cinema cameras as well as other manufacturers such as Red and Blackmagic. If you plan to be shooting mostly or exclusively video, a camera designed for video production will have useful features that won’t be available on a DSLR. If you are shooting Canon DSLRs and looking to go into video, Red and Blackmagic have models that use Canon EF mount lenses.

  • The Glidetrack 39 inch slider seems to have been discontinued. Do you have another that you’d recommend?

  • This is a great list. My first tripod and fluid head was cheaper, but resulted in unstable/jerky shots, so I got much better (and heavier) Manfrotto gear which I’m very happy with. Caleb Pike has awesome reviews on everything DSLR-video related. Here’s a review of sliders – http://dslrvideoshooter.com/category/reviews/sliders/

    You learn that getting good sound is incredibly hard. Starting out, I would focus on shooting, editing and overall workflow, and then add sound. It takes a lot more time to add a model, client or do any on-site audio. Audio (and everything else) in Heath Cowart’s (http://residential-photography.net/) videos are amazing — something to aspire too.

    Picking a camera body is tough since there are so many new products coming out. The Panasonic GH4 looks like a fantastic video camera, although I worry that that the 4/3 sensor won’t be ideal for low light and wide angle shots needed for real estate shots. Sony has a full-frame mirror-less model, etc. Going with Canon was a no-brainer a year ago. Not so sure now.

  • @Greg I Use Konova Slider and really satisfied with it.

  • @Ken

    Sory but i gotta ask, Do you even shoot video for real estate? I ask because some of the advice you are giving is just way off unfortunately.

    Why on earth would someone starting out if real estate video look into a RED Camera? I believe the lowest priced one is the Scarlet and its like 15k. Even the black magic line is not one that I would suggest someone think about when starting out. Both of those those are way down the list on cameras that are being used by most for real estate. I actually only know of Brett Clements using a RED and his his production/sales is in a different league altogether.

    Avid Media Composer? 99% of those doing real estate video are using Premiere or Final Cut Pro. I would strongly advise that anyone starting out use one of these 2 so if you need help with setting etc you have a wealth of people to ask (forums, etc)

  • This is a great list. My first tripod and fluid head was cheaper, but resulted in unstable/jerky shots, so I got much better (and heavier) Manfrotto gear which I’m very happy with. Caleb Pike has awesome reviews on everything DSLR-video related. Here’s a review of sliders – dslrvideoshooter dot com, look for slider reviews.

    You learn that getting good sound is incredibly hard. Starting out, I would focus on shooting, editing and overall workflow, and then add sound. It takes a lot more time to add a model, client or do any on-site audio. Audio (and everything else) in Heath Cowart’s (residential-photography dot net) videos are amazing — something to aspire too.

    Picking a camera body is tough since there are so many new products coming out. The Panasonic GH4 looks like a fantastic video camera, although I worry that that the 4/3 sensor won’t be ideal for low light and wide angle shots needed for real estate shots. Sony has a full-frame mirror-less model, etc. Going with Canon was a no-brainer a year ago. Not so sure now.

  • For video beginners is it recommended to shoot in RAW video?

  • @Tony,

    I would say no. Getting used to the camera, shooting settings, workflow etc is hard enough.

    Best bet is to learn the basics, get a workflow down so you are able to come up with a final product that is priced right based on that workflow and more importantly that are you are able to sell regularly.

    The greatest video in the world is useless unless you can convince agents to spend the $$ needed to cover your time (and make a profit)

  • Thanks Hugh, I’ll look into it.

  • We love our Canon 16-35mm lens for video. We find most of our footage is shot at 24 and that leaves plenty of room for a small zoom in and a small zoom out. That with a good video pan head and a small manual slider is really great for real estate video. Pan/Tilt and slide are the easiest techniques to learn to use. We find that we don’t use or require a steady-cam since we don’t actually do a walk through but rather a set of stills/video edited together for a 2 minute or less video. Sometimes we add a voiceover and sometimes music and sometimes both. But, since we use both RTV fusion and TourBuzz for our real estate delivery 90% of the time – we find 10 second clips to be best.

  • I always tell people who attend my workshops that if I ever catch them panning they’re no longer allowed to tell anyone they’ve been to my workshop. haha

    Larry – you’ve totally lit a fire under my tail! You can watch for a video series (similar to the http://www.LightingforRealEstatePhotography.com series but for property videos) coming soon!

  • @Christian

    I don’t shoot video for RE, there is no market in my area for it, but I do currently work with a production company shooting promotional, training and product videos. I have worked on and off in film/video production for about 30 years on both sides of the camera.

    DSLR’s for video is a compromise but can be a good choice for people and companies that shoot stills and video. For somebody that is planning to shoot video the bulk of the time, a true video camera is the better choice. It’s possible to shoot stills with DCC’s (Digital Cinema Cameras), but there are features missing that are useful for still photography. I’m not suggesting that somebody starting out buy a fully loaded Red Epic, but a Red One can be had on the used market at a very good price. I named the Red and BlackMagic cameras since they can be purchased with a Canon EF mount saving somebody the cost of another round of lenses if they are already invested in Canon glass. If somebody is going to use a camera that is a compromise, they should know what capabilities they are not getting. It could make sense to pay more money up front for a Canon C series video camera and spend less time in production and post. Another route may be to get a used prosumer video camera and spend more time and money on training.

    I’ve used Avid products for years and I am more comfortable and productive with them which is why I suggested Composer. Granted, it’s overkill for most RE productions. So is FCPX and Premiere. I was one of the people not too happy with Apple when they went from FCP to FCPX. It doesn’t matter if it’s better or not, it was a big change when the industry was hoping to see compatibility improvements and some long overdue missing tools. The learning curve means lost time until everyone is up to speed with the new interface and workflow. Apple’s practice of total secrecy is a problem when it come to planning major purchases. It would be so much nicer if they would publish what upgrades they are working on for the next release. I know some people that are very happy with Sony Vegas Pro on Windows and there are likely 100 more niche video editors on the Windows platform that will work in some fashion for RE. I suggest paying the increase for a mainstream application for support both on the software and the availability of third party training. Where did you get a uptake percentage of 99% for FCPX and Premiere being used for RE video production? Wild guess? I would guess that more people are using consumer editors such as iMovie. They’re cheap, easy to use and YouTube is rife with tutorials.

    For somebody starting out in video for RE the proper course is to spend time learning the basics before spending any real money on hardware. A basic camcorder or the video capability of a camera they already own can provide a good tool to start learning with. There are the added dimensions of camera movement and audio to learn over still photography. Lighting techniques and equipment are different. Post production is far more complex for video. Getting into video is going to take some time. There is no instant video production boxed kit of hardware and software that will take somebody from novice to producing market ready clips that can be purchased off-the-shelf. One needs to know WHY they are selecting one piece of equipment over another.

    @Mailia
    Looking back, how long do you think it took you to go from complete beginner to producing product of a reasonable market quality? Did you get guided into buying gear that was overkill or too limiting? Do you recommend jumping straight in or spending time learning first?

    Most people that have been making photos or videos shudder when they look back at the work they were doing when they first started marketing their services. I am pleased looking back that my work continues to improve. If the images I make today weren’t much better than when I started, I’d be in real trouble.

  • @Ken – I suspect most of the people who are wanting to jump into video for real estate already have a background in interiors photography so hardest part (composition) is mostly taken care of. Learning the video stuff isn’t too hard. It didn’t take me too long to have a pretty competent product for clients (a couple months maybe?).

    For the majority of real estate video a dslr is more than enough. I’d suggest to anyone looking to jump in to use your dslr and if/when you’re ready for an upgrade you’ll know it. Same goes for editing software – I spent the first couple years using iMovie.

  • If you’re just starting in video, I would highly recommend going the inexpensive (or free) route for cameras, tripods and editing software (like a Canon 60D, T4i, T5i or similar), a decent yet solid tripod with a decent fluid head, plus iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or Premiere Essentials. See if you LIKE shooting and editing video before you go down the rat hole of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), because it can be super expensive! Microphones, powerful computers, mixers, hard drive storage out the wazoo, etc. It’s mind numbing. (I currently have 30 TB of storage – almost all full! And it’s almost all due to video. You can’t store it in ‘the cloud’.)

    See if you ENJOY the process. It’s NOT the same (or even similar) to still photography, and in many ways is far more difficult and absolutely more time consuming and expensive. Personally I love it, but I know many still photographers who despise it. It’s really not just still photos that are now “moving”… it’s an entirely new skill set, new equipment and new software to learn.

    Once you have the basics, and have determined it IS something you actually enjoy doing, the most important next step is to establish your workflow. This business is all about time vs. money, and if you drive an hour roundtrip to drive to a property, 4 hours to haul your equipment in to a home and shoot, and another 4-5 hours to edit that video, you had better be charging a fair amount for that work or you’ll be very unhappy in the end. And if you want to charge $1000 for that video because it took you all day to shoot, does YOUR market support that price point? There’s no magic answer to that question, but it is one that you need to figure out sooner rather than later. If your market supports a price point in the $300-$400 range, you need to figure out a workflow that will make sense for that price point. A days worth of work for $300 makes no sense – you’re almost better off flipping burgers and taking time to enjoy your family! You also need to factor in equipment costs, insurance, gas, vehicle wear and tear, extra help, etc. People forget those little expenses. My gas tank gets filled at least once every single day of the week. It adds up!

    Do you have good marketing skills? If you think marketing professional still photos to Realtors is difficult, you will find marketing video to Realtors MORE difficult in virtually every market. Trust me, it’s definitely getting better (better than 8 years ago for sure!), but it’s still a very small percentage of agents who will opt for pro photos AND video.

    If marketing is not your strength, it’s an uphill battle for video. For many years, I have received phone calls and emails 3-4+ times every single week (literally) from people all over the world, from South Africa to Australia to Missouri wanting information and advice on real estate video – because THEY CAN’T GET AGENTS TO BITE. Even for free, they’re coming up empty. It’s not a local issue, it’s a real estate industry issue. You’d better be good at marketing yourself and be able to market and justify a substantial upsell from still photos (because most agents who do video ALSO pay for professional stills, whether from you or someone else).

    This business is a blast and can definitely be rewarding both financially and creatively, but only if you really enjoy what you’re doing. I was in a car accident 6 weeks ago and broke my hip. I have been out of commission since, and I can tell you my clients are going NUTS without me and without video. They KNOW it works, it IS their brand, and they’re 100% sold on the many benefits of doing video. Doing video is clearly not an afterthought for them, and even in this hot real estate market where homes sell the first weekend, they are chomping at the bit for me to get back to work. I think they realize now they NEED video for their business. It’s a wonderful thing. 🙂

  • Samsung vs Canon 5DMark3 (substitute Nikon, Sony, etc.)
    Whatever, this seems to be an argument similar to type of camera, type of light, type of ____fill in the blank. We use Canon Lenses – others use Sigma lenses. We use canon flashes – others use more inexpensive flashes from China. Samsung vs Canon 5DMark 3 – I won’t even go to that one because although we would never use it, there are some who would and I would never want to take away from their business model if it works for them. However, I do believe the DSLR cameras are changing rapidly and that the mirrorless model will be more prevalent in the next few years.

    Ken:
    I am in total agreement with what you have said. Training, equipment and software are essential along with the ability to understand that you are telling a story with video rather than just shooting off still images of a location. The most successful real estate video professionals are the ones who have invested heavily in the training and the constant practice. Success comes from practice and skill. I do not agree with Malia’s response to you – I believe that composition is quite different for Video than Still and you have to be constantly thinking cutting in/cutting out and what would help me in my transitions. My opinion is that in video a poorly composed but well edited piece will be acceptable, whereas a greatly composed poorly edited piece will not wash well with a viewer. Video = motion+story Stills = composition+light …Just an opinion.

  • Fred:
    You must do your physical therapy! Feel better soon.

  • @Maila, a background in interiors photography is a big help for sure. Understanding light and composition are portable skills. Getting good audio might be a challenge for some as it’s a completely different monkey wrench. A couple of months sounds like you pick up new material fast or didn’t try to be all things from the start. I know agents don’t think for a second how much time it takes for still photos. I wouldn’t be surprised if they think they can get video presentations with professional narration, music, aerial takes and special effects for the same amount they pay for stills. We using the same camera, right? I love your work, btw. Very inspirational.

    I’ve been lucky to work with a wide assortment of modern video gear as the production company that I work with rents equipment on a per job basis and we’ve used DSLR’s to Arri’s. It always depends on budgets and needs. It’s been much easier for us to use DCC’s than DSLR’s for most projects. If the project is going to need one or two stills, we’ll do that with the DCC. If we are going to need a whole mess of stills for something like a training video, I’ll bring my DSLR and strobe/speedlight kit.

    @Fred, sorry to hear about your accident. I hate having to turn down work even if I’m near death with a bad flu. I feel like I’m letting my clients down. I have a bad GAS problem. I’d love to have video gear to play with, but my ROI will be zero and I need to keep myself focused. We’ve both commented about the need for good computers in the video world. Cheap just doesn’t output another format very quickly.

    What are customers asking for in file formats now? I expect that something for YouTube/Vimeo is pretty common. Tablets are very popular. One for those? Mpeg2 for DVD playback? Are you optimizing for small screens such as smartphones? Standard vs. Retina? I’m so happy I can provide two flavors of jpegs and be done.

    @Suzanne F – Composition is a little different for RE video as the camera is moving and you have to maintain a good frame throughout, but somebody coming from still photography will have experience relevant to achieving a good look. It will need definitely need tweaking, but it’s a good starting place.

  • @Fred – Hope you are on your feet and back in action soon!

  • I think one piece of advice any established real estate videographer will give you is that if you are going to shoot and sell video, shoot actual video….dont mix in stills with cheap pans etc. It just cheapens your whole product and makes it hard to justify the added expense.

    @Ken
    .MP4 is the standard for the web, plays on all devices. Youtube and vimeo encode the source file and creates multiple resolution and bitrates (hd 1080,hd 720, sd 640 and mobile)

  • @Ken I agree with you regards cameras however I did operate a commercial and corporate promotional video production business for 5 years that ran parallel side by side with our RE marketing business before I sold out this year and I have to say I used the same equipment in both businesses for which I gained clients locally and travelled internationally for work. In our promotional video business we created online business videos, created films and also supplied footage for TVC’s, etc

    mkii for all the above and I still do. Yes I’d love a Dragon, yes I’d love an Alexa and so on and so forth but as a director one thing I care about is getting the shot “Just get me the shot” I don’t care how you do it (Even if its a GoPro) What I care about is getting the shot that captures the inspired vision of what I’m seeing as the director and or DOP. I think vision is one of the most important elements of the filmmaking process, but hey that’s just my opinion and what has worked for me. At the end of the day what is the formula? The formula exists in us this is why in my experience it’s so hard to teach or replicate our knowledge all I can do is give insight into what I think I’m doing that makes it work? The art is not the camera, it’s the individual that is behind the camera.

  • Unfortunately what most people online want to talk about is camera’s, its easy to talk about the equipment, that’s why threads like this are so popular.

  • @Allan
    Well said and your work is top notch.

  • Obviously there’s no simple or right answer to what it takes to successfully and profitably produce RE video but I think a big mistake that people make is thinking that just because a DSLR can shoot both you can [or should] do both. They are completely different businesses and people who have an expectation that they are similar are in for a difficult time because they have the wrong expectation.

    Most people starting out in RE photography or video either recognize the need and benefit it brings to marketing property or they’re passionate about it and are looking for an avenue to express themselves. Either way I’d recommend that if you don’t own the minimum amount of equipment [a camera that can shoot video] then beg, borrow or rent something that you can go out and just start shooting. Shoot your own house or apartment, your parents, neighbors, whoever, and see what you come up with. If you shoot one, that’s a science project, if you shoot two you probably won’t have enough experience to make an informed decision so I always recommend that people shoot at least three. You’ll get a sense of what your up against, see whether you’ve improved or if it came out the way you thought it would and you’ll have a much better understanding of where your starting from so any advice you get on a blog will actually mean something.

    This isn’t totally applicable here but I thought this guy expressed himself well. It made me think “Oh yeah, that’s why I do this…”

  • Sorry, I forgot, @Christian, I disagree, stills can be used very effectively with video. In fact I see a lot of RE video where there’s nothing going on in the scene, other than maybe the faucet is on, and it might as well be a still.

    I don’t think RE video is about demonstrating my cinematography skills, or piloting skills for aerial, or photography skills, I use any and all imagery available to as completely as possible capture the look and feel of a property. If a still captures a high contrast vista better than video and the important thing to communicate is the incredible view than I think your better off using the still.

    So the “art” of this is to be able to integrate different media together as seamlessly as possible.

  • @Chuck

    You are correct, RE video is not “about demonstrating my cinematography skills, or piloting skills for aerial”. RE video is about providing additional information that the photography didnt, whether its giving a feel for the lifestyle or showing the flow of the house.

    Photos will always be the #1 thing a potential buyer looks at when viewing a listing. If after viewing the photos they still have interest in the listing they proceed to multimedia to gain ADDITIONAL information that the photos didnt give. Seeing the same photos they already viewed again, but with a different spin on them is really just a waste of their viewing time, you risk losing the viewers attention.

    Im pretty sure if look at the elite videographers work like Allan, Matt, Heath and Malia (off the top of my head), you will see they never (or very rarely) reuse their stills in their videos.

    So, the “art” of this is actually being able to come up with a video that provides more information than the photography already has, through the use of music, voice over and effects. Whether its a story you are telling, a feeling you are trying to show or a showcase of the layout and flow of the house, the end result needs to provide NEW information to truly be successful.

    With how powerful video has the potential of being, its such a shame to waste video time on stills.

    Imagine seeing a movie trailer with stills used? I would bet it loses its effectiveness of drawing the viewer in and making them want to see more.

  • I’m not suggesting that you use the same stills that are on the listing there are just some times when you might have a very high contrast shot where you could add additional lighting, come back for the shot when the light is better or if neither of those is an option shoot a still.

    It has little to do whether your an elite videographer and more to do with the physics of digital camera’s, you could use a video camera that shoots RAW with the additional time and effort and expense associated with it, omit the scene or use a still. It still communicates the same information and if you do it well most people won’t object to it and it doesn’t have to slow down the pacing.

  • @Chuck

    If you are not using the same stills you already took, why on earth would you take new ones for the video and not include them with actual photos?, it is a still photo after all no? Adding it solely to a video doesnt change what it is showing!

    I brought up the “elite” videographers because when shooting video, regardless of the scene or the “physics of their digital camera”, they always somehow manage to capture the scene with 24/30fps video.

    If you are going to charge the premium that many are for RE video, you should at least be able to provide them with 100% video.

    Unfortunately using a still photo in a video risks leaving the viewer wondering “did he/she miss that shot and subbing in a photo?” or “maybe he/she doesnt have the skill set to capture this scene in actual video”. Why take that risk?

    Video = multiple frame(s) per second, not frame per second.

    I guess we will agree to disagree 🙂

  • @Chuck – I have to agree with Christian. To me putting stills in a “video” cheapens it because there are so many tour companies (tourbuzz.net is one, but there are many others) that will automatically generate a “video” from a set of stills and automatically upload it to YouTube. So why would anyone pay a videographer a premium to do it when you can get a tour plus a YouTube video of the same stills for about $12.

  • Cheers Travis, love your work buddy!!

  • I mentioned using stills in video since I’m sometimes involved with training videos where it’s easier to make a still image of a part or assembly. I can recall a project where we produced a training video for assembling a cockpit dashboard and also made still images for hard copy standards manuals. We used some of the still photos (that I shot first) in the video.

    I agree that I can’t see the same incorporation of stills into RE videos. In fact, I can’t think of any good videos with static video shots. If you have motion, use it.

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