Eight Ideas For Starting Out With Real Estate Video

September 6th, 2010

I talk to a lot of agents and real estate photographers that are struggling to get started using video to market their listings  and themselves in a meaningful way.

I’ve been talking to to John Sembrot the last couple days who was generous and brave enough to share his first try at doing video with us. John is still working out which video editing application on windows to use and other aspects of why to use video and what the best way is to use video.

Notice that John has both a Featured tour and a Video link on this listing. I was struck by the difference in marketing impact between the tour and the video. The tour makes a strong marketing statement about this property. I had to watch the video several times to convince myself that it was even the same property. I then realized what the primary problem was. The tour stills were shot with a standard wide-angle lens and DSLR and the video was shot with a point-and-shoot video camera (a Casio  EX-F1 to be specific). The Casio has and 35mm (35mm effective) focal length lens. So the video is very cramped feeling compared to the spaciousness of the still tour of the same property because the lens being used it probably twice the focal length. John tried a wide-angle converter for the Casio but you don’t want to see the results. It is much worse quality than the Casio without a wide angle convereter. Then of course there’s the camera up and down movement of the walk through. John knows that this is a problem and is thinking of solutions to that.

I would like use Johns video and tour as a jumping off point to propose a set of principles for starting out with real estate video:

  1. Use a focal length between 16mm and 24mm for real estate video: The same focal length rules apply to real estate video that apply to real estate stills for all the same reasons. Virtually no point and shoot video cameras go wider than 24mm. The obvious answer it one of the newer DSLRs that do both video and stills.
  2. Lens quality matters: Many point and shoot video cameras have wide-angle converters but most are poor quality compared to a good wide-angle glass.
  3. Home walk-through videos difficult: If you are going to do walk-throughs you need a camera stabilizer. I personally don’t care for the walk-through video but I realize that’s just a personal opinion. Fred Lignt is an advocate of the walk through and does a good job at it. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to do well.
  4. Ken Burns panning with still photos is way easier to pull off than walk throughs: Most video editing applications allow you to insert still photo and control panning direction and extent and timing. The result is almost impossible to tell from doing the same thing with real video.
  5. Use video for things that move: Examples of things that move are agents talking about a property, water features and neighborhood overviews.
  6. A video can be a composite of stills and video clips and audio: So for shooting things that don’t move, like kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms use stills and for things that move like people use video and edit them all together into a composite video.
  7. The purpose of a video is different than a tour: This is the “Fred Light Principle”. Fred says that videos are for home buyers that have figured out that they like the property, and want to see more than the set of stills shows. A good video can relate more information because of the audio track.
  8. Videos can be powerful agent branding devices: An agent talking about a property conveys as much about the agent as it does the property. These kind of videos need a script and unless the agent is very talented a director to bring out the agents personality. This is harder than it looks.

Thanks again John for letting me share your first try a real estate video. I’m sure readers will have more ideas on this subject.

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11 Responses to “Eight Ideas For Starting Out With Real Estate Video”

  • I have to agree that videos can be powerful agent device, When it used properly video posting could lead to a lots of leads.
    Check out our blog post and learn something about the real estate business and find out the great things about real estate.

  • The branding video of an agent is different than video for marketing the property. The question is one or both? Can the video replace the still slide show? Would an investment in a video slr, steady cam set up, software and hardware for production, to produce a better quality video, replace a still slideshow. Or are they both complimentary to each other? The presentation of a voice over with video to share the homes features is an added value, but is time consuming.

    The still slideshow is viewable on the mobile platform, but the video is not. The still photo’s offer more detail and a larger display.

    Why, is the big question for me. Why use video as a photographer or agent on The information can not be branded in any way or have any contact information in the video, excluding it as a branding vehicle. I understand that technology has a curve of acceptance, features and feasibility. The first virtual 360 tours were less than ideal with distortion and plug in issues. But they offered more than a simple still, but they have decidedly disappeared on

    As someone who early adopted the 360 tour paradigm, I am struggling to commit to video if I can not see why it exists for the marketing of Real Estate on

  • John, The video in this post was branded as well as the tour on The tours I upload to are also branded. Our local mls however, does not allow branding.

    After doing my first video tour with a non-HD video camera, I realized I had made a mistake thinking HD was worth the additional cost. My first and only video tour at this time was done with a combination of video and still shots using the Ken Burns effect. It was in combining those two parts that it was very obvious that the video camera was not up to the task.

    I have since purchased an HD camera….what a difference. Now it’s finding some Realtors who are interested in trying something new – oh, and figuring out how to charge. The first was done for a realtor that left the business to work for the mls.

  • Hey Guys —
    This is my first post. Just wanted to post our new website
    We’re producing lifestyle films for real estate professionals on vancouver island.

    Go have a peek…we’re uploading two more videos tonight or tomorrow

    Thanks so much

  • The statement , (This is harder than it looks.) is a very true statement and even more to do it well. Even with the Canon 5D mark ÍÍ its difficult to control the windows as you cant control the f stop in live view mode. You need considerable light power to over come this. Good sound really needs to be perfectly synced if an agent is some distance away from the onboard microphone. As we are so used now to seeing high quality video in our programs, dolly’s and booms will also need to be considered for a stable panning.

  • @grape imaging Your videos are quite a production and very nice. Great combination of stills and video, they really look good. Is that the actual agents voice or do you do the voice over for them? Did you create the copy as well? Just for kicks, can you tell us what the labor hours for Bowser Island was? The aspect ration for the Bowser Island property is not available for I did not go their to see how you formatted the video for but I do not remember seeing a 16 x 9 ratio.

    The video on my property does have the agents name. I was cutting closely to the instructions on the video upload that said any “contact” information was not allowed. Henceforth “no phone number” tricky aren’t I 🙂 I had already processed it and figured I would wait for the NAR Police to call.

  • does allow branding… I’ve uploaded thousands of branded videos to We also upload every video to about a dozen other video sites, such as, YouTube, MetaCafe, and others… and all of those are branded. Agents receive new buyers and new sellers often from these videos which are circulating year after year. The only place the unbranded tour goes is the local MLS (yes, we create two versions – branded and unbranded).

    And as far as replacing still photos? NEVER. The first thing a buyer sees are photos. The quality of the photos, and of course, the level of interest in the property determines if they then choose to view the video. The video is the last thing people look at, not the first. Video is not a replacement for stills, and I don’t think ever will be. But it IS a replacement for these dizzying spin around, distorted tours that have been prevalent that last decade (people don’t naturally view space by standing in one spot and spinning around like a top!), and should be a replacement for the slideshows that many Realtors use which just repurpose the exact same photos the buyer JUST saw on the MLS into another format with bad music in the background. The only people that think this is a good idea are agents – buyers hate them because they’ve already SEEN those photos. A tour should offer something MORE, not the same thing they just saw. That’s where video shines.

  • Well, I’m not sure where video fits in except to say some of my clients have asked for it and have tried a few ideas. I really don’t think the “walk-through” style works for me. It takes a ton of talent to do that type of video. Not even all videographers do it well. It seems like a HUGE learning curve with little payback. For my own videos decided to do everything with a tripod and combine lots of stills. After doing a bunch of testing I’ve done two “real” videos for clients.

    As someone mentioned above, I’m also not sure what the market is for video is. I see two different concepts, one is a video virtual tour and the other is more lifestyle type of videos. (If anyone wants to take a look at my first attempt it’s here

    But, what does a video actually provide? I’m not sure a good floor plan and still photos wouldn’t be better. However, the current “hot” idea seems to be video and I’m thinking, as still photographers, will need bring more to the table besides our still photographs to stay in business.

  • First time posting as just launced my realestate photo site yesterday – but still working on pricing and tour page. Great article as “video” is on my to do list as i develop that skill. @grape and Jacob, nice videos and different styles. With the live voice and the agent on screen did you pre-script it. I do like the panned video and far smoother that the still tours that rely on stiched stills. Walk around is different.
    Wanted to share this with you as the extreme professional level of video tours (and unfortunately, my local competition). Ran across it as was doing local market pricing review for still RE photography. This site does list their pricing – link in body of the home page. Also they use high end cinema cameras as you catch a mirror glance at 3:20 in the featured video – which on the video page is #2. Looking at video #1 you get an much better view of the cameras. The other thing I noticed, they embedded stills and floorplans as .pdf pages that pause video as they open in another window.

  • The video for 460 Brinsmayd Ave is very poor in quality and creativity, the visuals are mushy, it shakes all over the place, the music is cheap canned stock and it was not very well planned. If you are going to go to the trouble to upload a video to a major MLS site the least you can do is take the time to create a professional-looking visual.

  • Another use for videos that wasn’t mentioned is as Open House visuals and DVD handouts to serious buyers. It is recommended the video be HD quality for large plasma TV screens and looped so it plays continuously. The music creates an inviting atmosphere in the home and acquaints visitors with local highlights.

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