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Walk-Through Video Is Kicking My Butt--How Can I Improve?

Published: 20/03/2019

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Mike in Florida says:

Video is kicking my butt. See an example here (or to the right). Mixed lighting is the primary reason. In Florida, we are closer to the equator and everyone has film on their windows to reduce unwanted interior solar heating. The films are all different but generally reduce the red. In addition, the beachfront condos tend to be long with windows on the far end and dimly lit on the opposite side--usually with incandescent or fluorescent--or most typically, a mix.

The customers want a walk-through to show the flow, but the lighting dictates separate sequences for different temperatures--which is not what the customers want. Even with separate sequences, it is often impossible to have a single-color light source. I usually will reduce yellows in post-processing, but this can give a dull lifeless image in many cases. The best I have been able to do is to start with an outside view and then turn around to the room with the White Balance set to Auto. This sometimes gives okay results but is often not the quality I want to provide. My video camera is a Sony A6300.

I'm sure you will get lots of reader advice, but here's mine:

  1. I don't think your video is that bad. Certainly not as bad as you describe it in your description above.
  2. I don't think you should expect to shoot a walk-through video like this with your exposure set the same for off the deck as the interior. It appears you've chosen to keep the exposure settings the same for both the inside and outside which was a compromise for both. As a result, the outside video is overexposed while the interior is underexposed. I think it would work better if you used an outside exposure (for the view) and a different exposure for the interior, then edited the two together.
  3. I don't find the mixed color balance to be that bad... it looks fine to me.
  4. I find it very ineffective to not have narration that gives information about the property. If you haven't already, I think you should look at Joe Zekas and Fred Light's work to get examples of what walk-through video should look like.
  5. I think you should drop all the stills (4:25 to the end). I don't think it's effective to mix video and stills.

What advice do others have?

Larry Lohrman

12 comments on “Walk-Through Video Is Kicking My Butt--How Can I Improve?”

  1. I agree with the above - i'm also preparing to move from slider style video to walk through video soon.

    Definitely different exposures for inside and out so both look good - you want that amazing view to wow people.
    Also agree color is ok.

    I asked to reshoot one of my first videos as I wasn't happy with it and a film grad I knew gave me some tips.
    The place was empty like this one so no homeowners to disturb - my client didn't mind giving me the keys to
    go whenever the best light (he also took the opportunity to add some basic furniture and lamps - and decor, but I would have
    gone either way) . There's nothing wrong with reshooting when you are learning new equipment - or to ask the client if you
    can reshoot some of the video during better light.

    What stabilizer did you use?

  2. What you're asking is a challenge for any video camera. In term of dynamic range, and color balance -- shooting with a camera that does RAW would help you segment the clips to adjust white balance and exposure as you go to the balconies. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is $1299 and gives you RAW (if you can find a smaller camera shop locally -- eBay they're charging outrageous prices). You can pull some additional dynamic range with the highlight recovery feature in DaVinci Resolve (included free with the camera).

    Personally I shoot on a RED cinema camera, but I also have the BMPCC4K which I use on low budget videos where I still want control over the image and the ability to adjust white balance and exposure in post. I don't really see any other camera giving you the flexibility for a challenging lighting environment in the price range.

  3. When I shoot a property with a view, I always start with the view. The walk-through is a straight walk-through, not jumping around and repeating views as in Mike's video.

    I've recently been experimenting with my new phone (Galaxy S10, which has a wide angle), and getting what I consider pretty good results. Here's a video of a vacant property with mixed lighting shot with the phone ...

    Weather was overcast. Added brightness in software when I stepped inside.

  4. Asking a video camera to fix everything it sees automatically is asking too much. Even $100,000 pro cameras can't do that.

    When you're dealing with an imperfect shooting environment, I suggest putting the camera in auto-exposure, as some of Mike's shots were under-exposed, while others were over-exposed. In addition, there are compression problems, which give the video is blocky look. Something went wrong with the compression somewhere which can also lead to to the color issues Mike was pointing out.

    Joe's videos have charm, due to the narration. But the off-mic nature of the voice makes it hard to understand. Hooking up a real microphone to a cell phone would make a major improvement. Your average viewer does not like off-mic voice. Viewers want clear audio.

    If a realtor is paying good money, give him good quality. Views are much more pleasing if the camera is on a tripod or gimbal. Audio recorded by cell phone is bound to sound roomy and unclear. Look at this way: if the viewer can't understand the voice because it is off-mic, he is going to turn it off. Clear audio is mandatory, IMHO. Viewers will overlook problematic video before they will overlook audio clarity. Think about a feature movie. There is nothing worse than dialogue that's hard to understand. It's not hard to hook up a mic to any camera; it takes a minute.

  5. Just some thoughts - my opinions, grain of salt included:

    1) "The customers want a walk-through to show the flow,". Ask yourself if you accomplished this. Does this really feel like a "walkthrough video?" At the 2 minute mark, we are still in the main living area. Thats a lot of time to be there. If you literally walked the path a customer would take with an agent, I think you started out right. Straight to the view. Then what? They turn around, take a quick tour around the kitchen, and move on. You might consider building around how someone would walk the home. Once you do that....

    2) Don't ask so much of your camera. Watch some HGTV, and see how they do their edits on a property. Now, they aren't winning oscars, but they are dealing well with the cards they are dealt. They generally will film to a single light source, then cut and re-frame to another source if more than one dominates a room. In your case, you sort of tried that with your opening still. Perhaps more effective might have been starting on the deck (with some narration or titles to explain why you started there) on an entrance with a zoom transition straight to the deck. Expose the first shot for the room and let the deck blow out, then zoom to a properly exposed deck shot. May effectively create some drama...

    3) Google "180 rule".

    4) I think this is about 4 minutes too long. The idea of the video is to get someone through the door to a showing. There is nothing wrong with showing the entire property, and its plausible that a buyer for this condo could be remote and purchase based on the media. But those kinds of folks don't see the property cause they are rich, and rich people don't have lots of time for this kind of stuff. Everyone can use a scrubby slider - give them all the information concisely, and let them rewind and pause on the stuff they want to see more of.

    In the end, I really think the camera work is quite good. Pacing is consistent, you and your gimbal are working well together. From a technical side, you seem to have the skills knocked. In my estimation, your concerns could be alleviated simply with different shot selection.

    Just one idiots opinion. Keep us updated on your progress!

  6. The video is not that bad. You got a little of exposure pull from the windows and it seems really steady. You should recut it. It should be 2 minutes tops. No one is going to watch a 6 minute video. Take out some of those exaggerated super long pans. They slow the pacing down and are boring to watch. Movement is great but no long pans are necessary. Just needs a fresh recut. Keep it up. Dave.

  7. Honestly, I think you're focusing on the wrong things here. You need to work on making a more compelling video - either present your visuals in a more thoughtful way or add some narration (or both!) (probably both). Once you get the fundamentals down then you can start nitpicking things like color casts from practicals.

  8. You need to develop a workflow that is predictable. That means:

    -Shoot with the same basic settings every time. Only adjust ISO and/or aperture. Shoot in LOG. It's OK to us auto-color balance when shooting as long as you watch what it's doing carefully. If it screws up, you light have to adjust manually for that shot.

    -Watch for lighting color changes between rooms. If you're going from incandescent to daylight, most cameras won't shift color balance mid-clip. That means you have two choices. Either shoot 2 different clips, or you can do an adjustment layer in Premier and shift the balance while the clip is running.

    Basic starting camera exposure should be: ISO 4000, 7.1, 1/60th, LOG, From there, make sure a histogram is on your screen while shooting. Adjust ISO and/aperature only to put the histogram middle or slightly right. If you go too far right, you won't recover, and if you let if fall left, you'll have hellacious grain. Try not to shoot above ISO 6400, or below f4.

    -Before you start editing, figure out how you want your video to look. Take one of your LOG clips into PS CC, and do a set of adjustment layers until the clip looks like what you've envisioned. Then create a LUT. The LUT should be applied in the Creative section of Lumetri in Premier. For some reason, if you apply the LUT in the Basic section, it will F-up the program and you'll be miserable. And in the Creative section, you can adjust intensity of the LUT, something you can't do in the Basic area. Then use the Basic section to finesse the look. Once you get right, turn that Lumetri into a preset. I've found that once I did all that, the preset I created works for 99% of everything I shoot, with very minimal adjustments, which then considerably speeds up the entire process. If you do the PS part right, you will have already minimized your yellows and reds in the HUE/SAT adjustment layer, but you can reduce them further in the HLS Secondary panel in Lumertri if necessary. You can even create special LUTs in PS for very problematic clips.

  9. I haven't done any real estate videos yet, however, based upon what I saw, I would recommend less time on the walk-through and supplement the video with interior / exterior stills. The stills look great. The repeated pans of the same view from the balcony aren't very interesting.

    The walk-through could be accomplished much faster and though I watched the video in its entirety, I thought "Here's the same kitchen again". I know the only interesting thing in the apartment was the kitchen, but walking shots towards the kitchen could be done from 2 angles max. Any more than that of the kitchen should be of the details. Make use of the sink by running water.

    As for color casts, unless you can overpower the natural sunlight with continuous lights, or replacing all the bulbs with 5500 k led's would help, but who carries 25 various light bulbs or wants to bring pro continuous unless you are making $$$$.

    Just my opinion.

  10. Yep, too long. It's a small apartment with a very open plan so the length of the video should be pretty short. If you feel you needed to bulk it up to make the customer happy, video of the amenities would have been great since they can be a big part of the sale. I would suggest trying to go with either a single clip walk-thru or breaking down the video into more clips for a consistent feel to the production. You can even have done a stills montage with dissolves, but all three doesn't work. The footage also seems to be pretty soft. The first sequence going to the main windows, you could have had the door already open so you could walk straight out. Panning again outside from the bedrooms is redundant. We've seen it already. Audio is important. The sound track increases in volume when you transition from the video to the slideshow. Watch out for reflections of you filming on things like the shower/bath walls. What you made isn't terrible, it just needs some tightening up so you are hitting the high points in a short video without rushing the flow.

    For this pretty plain-jane apartment, the agent would have been better off having you do some virtual staging of the stills rather than making a video. I don't see the video as exciting a buyer too much. It's not a tremendously exciting space. I'm just getting into virtual staging myself (outsourced) since there is finally some interest in the area and it really does perk up a vacant house. In fact, it's even better since the furnishings are matched to the rooms rather than the haphazard ways that homes are usually furnished. I expect to be needing to do videos by the end of the year and I'm brushing up since it's been decades since I worked in video production.

  11. Besides all of these other comments, I would also suggest two things. Some sort of stabilization rig, even for the cell phones, and clean your sensor and lens. When you are outside panning, you can see dirt specs and artifacts on the lens. I have my camera bodies cleaned at least once a year by a professional as well as the as needed cleaning I do on my own.

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