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How Do You Make Doors Open by Themselves in Real Estate Video?

Published: 06/03/2019

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Oliver in Southern California asked:

I am starting out in real estate videography and I had a question about a specific effect in post-processing and filming.

In many real estate videos, I see doors and sliding doors opening without any assistance. It is as if the doors were operated remotely or by ghosts. As interesting as that may be, I doubt that is the case and I assume it is most likely an effect created by creatively filming and compositing a shot to make it look as such.

A great example is this video I saw. You can find the scene with the doors opening unassisted at 0:31 in the video. please give me some insight on how this effect is produced and the best way to go about reproducing this effect?

Great question! Yes, it would be possible to create a sequence in Photoshop like this and insert it in the video to it look like the doors to the patio are opening by themselves but that's not worth the effort for the videographer.

I contacted the crew at Finally Free Media and here is their explanation of what they did at 0:31:

The door is actually manual. One of the crew members was laying on the floor opening both doors at the same time when we filmed. The couch was in a perfect position to disguise him. The things we do for the perfect shot! Lol - Roman

I have to admit that having the doors open by themselves is attention-getting but since you can buy automatic doors (see this door ad) I would be concerned that some potential buyers may feel that this misrepresents the property.

What do you do in property video to open doors?

Larry Lohrman

9 comments on “How Do You Make Doors Open by Themselves in Real Estate Video?”

  1. Trained monkey.

    For doors, a long stick to push it open, just keep it out of the frame. Generally you should only show part of the opening sequence and a cut or fade works well

  2. That video was pretty well done overall. I guess that the way they opened those doors was by taking time lapse. i.e. move the doors one inch, step out of the frame, then click a still. Then move them another inch, step out of the frame, then take a still. Take 72 of those stills and convert to 3 seconds of video @ 24 frames per second. One tip off is that you can see the doors moving frame by frame, inch by inch, so maybe they really just took 36 frames and then ran it at 12 frames per second and then converted that to 24fps later. That would account for the stuttering issue.

    Personally, I don't care for it. It's like a magic trick that takes away from the authenticity of the video. It's subtle, but the viewer kind of thinks, who or what is moving those doors? It's a distraction, IMHO.

  3. @Bill Jones Trunk Monkey? (search for those commercials on YouTube and don't be drinking anything when you watch)

    The beauty of shooting 4k is you could open the door while hiding inside (hand, string, stick) and do a push in by throwing away some pixels if your are delivering in 1080 or 720. That gets you the camera move along with the movement of the door. A form of stop motion animation is a possibility, but it's a lot of work for a a simple effect.

    Other options are using a tighter shot as the door is approached to use a person to open the door unseen or even a dissolve from a closed door to an open door as you move in.

    The problem with this type of thing is it gets to be too cliché after a while. Do something fun like having the door just crumble away or turn into water and drain off. I'm not saying those won't be even more tricky, but just one little effect like that in some of your videos will get you talked about and make them fun. I don't think that anybody will start believing that the home's front door just turns into pixie dust when somebody walks up.

    It takes too long to pick a lock so in "Pen Testing" so it's better to look for ways to just bypass it.

    Anybody ever get Voodoo to work on a problem like this? Shooting with a mirror and getting an undead to open the door? Just thinking outside of the box.

  4. Simple solution is using a coil surf leash, tied on the other side of the door. f.ex.
    And thin almost invisible fishing line to keep the door closed.
    Just made a quick example video with my Osmo pocket (don't bother the quality).
    This is just a quick test and I didn't have a fine fishingline. A better solution would be tying the line on the bottom of the door instead on the handle and keeping your foot on the line yo keep the door closed until you start filming.
    Just be creative 🙂

  5. I keep some 8lb test monofilament fishing line in my case with the gimbal. Usually can't see the line at doorknob level but had one door - dual solid clear glass with clear sidelights - that tied at floor level to floor lock. At any rate, consciously aware of the path where even homeowners have assisted 'behinds the scenes' from the next room and avoid that angle when filming to keep the fishing line out of view.

  6. If I have assistance, I go the fishing line route. If not, I use my thin monopod down low and out of sight. Usually takes a few takes to get it right and I shoot it at 60 FPS so I can slow it down if needed. But I don’t always use a door opening since I think they are a bit overused.

  7. Thanks so much for the response! The mono fishing line sounds like a fantastic solution that is often used in photography and I never thought of using it with video as well.

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