Andy's Photography Blog
When is a Virtual Tour Not a Virtual Tour?
- Andrew C. McGibbon
When I first started as a Realtor, I remember seeing the phrase “virtual tour.” When I would go to look at these “virtual tours,” what they really turned out to be was a PowerPoint presentation with music. To me, a virtual tour is something that a viewer controls, that allows them to walk through the property at their own pace, putting their focal point wherever they want. With a series of connected 360° panoramas, it gives them complete control over where to look in the room and which direction to walk. Doesn’t that sound more like a virtual tour? Doesn’t that sound more interesting?
Both products are still used, and I offer both a musical real estate slideshow with the extra capability to use an embedded floor plan of the property, and a 360° virtual tour using panoramas.
How is It Created?
Frequently when I show someone a virtual tour they assume it is video, but it isn’t. A virtual tour is a series of extremely wide-angle photographs taken in a circle. There are twelve photographs (sometimes more) combined to make a panorama. The images are post-processed using a technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR) where three photos of the exact same location/direction will be shot at varying exposure rates. Those three are then combined into a single photograph. The photo has been processed to allow for better balance between the highlights and shadows. This makes it so that everything in the photograph is processable by the human eye. HDR brings the photo to vibrant life. Each HDR image is then stitched together with the next series of images that are shot in four directions, each at a clock-wise 90°-degree rotation.
When these are post-processed and are presented in a viewer such as a website, they create a smooth transition from panorama to panorama as well as within the panorama itself, thus creating a “virtual tour.” You can even view virtual tours with virtual reality glasses.
How Long Does It Take to Photograph and Process?
A home can be photographed in 1-3 hours. This can vary at either end of the property size spectrum. The post-processing time on a virtual tour is 24-72 hours.
Once My Tour is Complete, Where Can I See It?
Your tour is accessible via a website URL (address). This can be done in both a branded and an unbranded way. Having the unbranded virtual tour allows your virtual tour to be linked to from your local MLS.
Depending upon how your own website is set up, you can frequently embed the virtual tour directly onto your own website to showcase it.
Here’s What a Musical Slideshow looks like with our dynamic floor plan:
Here’s What Our Virtual Tour looks like: