Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for the ‘Virtual Tours’ Category

Turning Real Estate Still Photos Into Ken Burns Style “Video”

Posted by larrylohrman on December 4, 2007


I find it interesting that tourfactory.com is promoting a new service of creating “video” from still shots you send them. An example of one of their new video tours is at the bottom of this page. Yes, I guess this could technically be called video because you could post it on youtube. But more accurately this is panning over still photos, a technique popularized by Ken Burns in the movie The Civil War.

The Ken Burns approach is actually very effective. Sharon Nyman, a Realtor in Key Largo, FL that shoots her own photos told me that when she purchased a TV spot on spotrunner.com, spotrunner sent a well known professional videographer down to Key Largo to shoot her video. But after the video was edited the Spotrunner decided to do the Ken Burns thing on photos that Sharon had taken. She said in the end everyone in the process agreed that panning over her still photos made a better TV spot than the video that the professional had shot. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

360VR Flash Player Implementations Compared to QuickTime

Posted by larrylohrman on December 2, 2007


Several people have asked about which of the 3 major Flash player implementations are the “best”. Since it’s been my experience that the image displayed and the size of the equirectangular image used plays a big part in how the image looks I thought it would be instructive to do a comparison of the different Flash players all using the very same image as input.

For the comparison is used a 360VR image above of my grandson Morgan standing beside the Spruce Goose, SR71 and Atlas missile at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Since I originally prepared the image for QuickTime I decided to include the QuickTime image. This image that was used as input to all of the players below is a 3600×1800 JPG file that is 1.15 MB. Here’s how it looks in each of the players:

QuickTime from: Apple
Pano2VR from: Garden Gnome Software
Immervision from: Immervision
FPP (Denis Chumakov) from: Flashpanoramas.com

By looking at the same image in all 4 players you can get a feeling for any differences in the load time, rendering or smoothness of these players. I have a hard time seeing any differences between the 4 different players. I’ll let you be the judge of the quality of the different players.

Another factor, which I haven’t compared is the ease of use of each of these players. My general assessment is that Immervision is probably the most involved and Pano2VR is probably the easiest. But there are other strong and weak points of each of the Flash players. I’ll have to leave that for another post.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

Vrmag: A 360VR Photography Online Magazine

Posted by larrylohrman on November 29, 2007

VRmag issue 28 is now online. For those that haven’t seen it before VRmag is a online 360AVR magazine with articles (45 articles in this issue) on panoramic photography show casing the work of some of the best panographers in the business. Here are just a couple of items I thought my be of interest based on recent posts and comments:

  1. PTgui Pro 7 Article by Pat St. Clair : There was a question about PTgui Pro 7 in the last post and this article is I think a particularly good look at PTgui Pro 7 and how it works.
  2. Flash Interior panorama by Patrick Cheatham : This is a link to a pano by Patrick Cheatham that illustrates a great high quality interior Flash pano. Also of interest is the tour template that Patrick has built for Flash panos.

Posted in News, Virtual Tours | 1 Comment »

Lightroom 1.3 Update Feature/Problem Summary

Posted by larrylohrman on November 26, 2007


I was glad to get the Lightroom 1.3 update just for the fixes it had to Leopard on the Mac platform. However, the Lightroom 1.3 update had a good deal more than just fixes so it would behave well on Leopard. Martin Evening over at Light Room News has a couple of posts in the last week that explain some of the new features in 1.3:

  1. The new export dialog – There are fairly extensive improvements here as well as the release of an export developers SDK so developers can build custom export applications.
  2. More Airtight galleries added to the Web module – I’ve talked about the Airtight galleries for Lightroom in previous posts. Now Adobe has included the Simpleviewer, Postcardviewer and Autoviewer in the 1.3 distribution.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Lightroom, Virtual Tours, Workflow | 1 Comment »

eSiteTours.com – A Newly Launched Virtual Tour Provider

Posted by larrylohrman on November 24, 2007


My friends Kevin and Matt in Bellevue, WA have just recently launched a new virtual tour service. Their website is eSiteTours.com. This new tour service has two types of tours:

  1. A full service to tour where eSiteTours will shoot, create, and host 360VR Flash tours for you. These 360 tours are shot with HDR, use Flash and expand to full screen. Also included in this package is up to 20 still shots presented both as stills and as a “Ken Burns” style slide-show.
  2. A basic tour where you just send your photos to eSiteTours and they will enhance them, if required, and create a Flash based “Ken Burns” movie style slide-show tour. This tour is designed for busy Realtors that want an elegant tour with out having to spend a bunch of time creating the tour. See their service page for a full description and comparison of their tours.

Both kinds of tours have Google map links for the property and they are in the process of adding information tabs for links to schools and other community links.
Kevin and I have been following the emerging use of full-screen Flash over the last 18 months and been excited by the fact that viewers of 360 tours now have the ability to see full screen tours with a technology that is on the majority of machines. Kevin and Matt have designed a tour interface around the latest Pano2VR Flash player by Garden Gnome Software. I really like their interface design that integrates 360, full screen 360, stills and Ken Burns style slide show. It gives you an integration of all of the latest tour styles in one clean interface.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

A Template For Full Screen 360 Flash Tours

Posted by larrylohrman on November 19, 2007

This post has nothing to do with B17s except that I’ve used some images from my B17 360VR series as examples in this tutorial.

I get a bunch of questions on how I create full screen Flash panoramas and how to put a number of 360 views together into a tour so for a long while I’ve been working on a tutorial on making full screen panoramas and an HTML template with instructions on how to make a multi-view tour.

In the tutorial I explain how to download the the HTML for this template and turn it into your own tour. This HTML may look a little “scary” to someone who’s not used to hacking HTML but you don’t have to understand what it’s doing unless you want to make significant changes. All you need to make your own tour from this template is a text editor, a place on the web you can FTP to and a FTP application.

Have, fun and let us all know about improvements you make to this template. The basic design of this template is thanks to some collaboration I did with Ted Barrow of Fort Worth, TX. He suggested some rearrangements of the tour design that I started out with.

Posted in Panoramas, Virtual Tours | 6 Comments »

Floor Plan Based Virtual Tour Using Highslide JS

Posted by larrylohrman on November 13, 2007


Yesterday Pablo Glorioso of Marbella, Spain showed me his floor plan based tour that he just built for a home near Valencia. Click on the image above to go directly to his tour. I like the simple, straight forward design. Pablo used the Highslide Java Script Thumbnail software by Torstein Honsi. Although there is a little delay the first time you click on each of the links I find the navigation of Pablo’s tour very intuitive. I like the way Pablo has included a regional map, close-up map and a high (birds-eye view). Note that you can find a birds-eye view of most properties at maps.live.com

You need to be able to do some basic HTML work to make use of this slick little Java script package. This is another example where being comfortable working in HTML can be very useful in creating a virtual tour product that you can include with real estate photography services.

Posted in Resources, Virtual Tours | Leave a Comment »

Photographing VR Panoramas – Talk by Scott Highton

Posted by larrylohrman on October 27, 2007


Scott Highton, VR pioneer, gave a talk recently on photographing panoramas. If you are at all interested in VR photography this video gives a nice introduction to the subject. Scott worked at Apple whey QuickTime VR was first introduced. In this video Scott discusses the technical aspects of shooting and stitching cylindrical and spherical/cubic panoramas.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Excellent Real Estate Photography + Excellent Presentation = Big Results

Posted by larrylohrman on October 24, 2007


Rick Miner’s just passed on an example of the big results that are possible when you use great real estate photography and great online presentation. Rick says a week ago a he sold two adjoining condos on alki point in Seattle: www.alkibeachpenthouse.com and www.AlkiBeachPenthouse2.com to the same buyer. The buyer found these properties themselves online shortly after they went on the market after the buyer’s agent failed to show the buyers these condos. The buyers plan to combine these two condos into a single mega-luxury-condo.

I think Rick’s results nicely demonstrate what is possible when you use a professional real estate photographer (Aaron Leitz) and present the images well.

Kelly Hachtel, Rick’s webmaster, confirmed that Javascript was chosen for the purpose of displaying a slide-show of big photos of each of Rick’s listings because a Javascript slide show is faster and more efficient that other forms of slide shows.

Thanks Rick and Kelly for the inside story on this great piece of real estate marketing.

Posted in Marketing, Virtual Tours | 1 Comment »

Flash Panorama v2.2 Player Looks as Good as QuickTimeVR

Posted by larrylohrman on October 16, 2007


Last week Denis Chumakov over at flashpanoramas.com released an update (v2.2) to his Flash panorama player. I think this version of Denis’s player is very significant break through in panorama display technology. QuickTimeVR has always been the standard of quality for panorama players. Quality in panorama players is means how smooth the image moves as you pan around the image particularly when the image is being displayed full screen. As a reference point here is an QuickTimeVR image I took several years ago when my grandson Morgan and I were standing under the wing of the Spruce Goose next to a SR71 Blackbird. If you maximize this window on computers that are not too many years old and drag the cursor across the screen to pan the image it moves pretty smooth. Slower less powerful machines will cause the panning to be a little jerky. This image is a 1.1MB .MOV file (QuickTimeVR) this is why it may not load instantly.

One of the significant things about Denis’s new version is it reads the QuickTimeVR (.MOV) files. This means I can display any of the QTVR files in Flash. As and example, here is the very same image as above displayed with Denis’s Flash player. To display this Flash image full screen, right click on the image and choose “Go Full Screen” and then press “esc”. This Flash panorama viewer does require Flash 9 to be installed… It will tell you if you have a older version of Flash. Flash 9 was released by Adobe sometime in late 2006 and at the time of this post Flash 9 has 93.3% penetration.

When I look at the same image displayed by these two different viewers I can’t tell any difference in quality. To me this is the biggest break through! You now get the same quality with Flash 9 (with 93.3% penetration) as you get with QuickTimeVR (67.7%penetration).

The brilliant thing about Denis’s strategy of reading QTVR files is panographers can keep using all the same stitching tools they’ve been using for years to create QTVR.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

Smooth Slideshow 2.1 – A Free Javascript Slide Show

Posted by larrylohrman on October 14, 2007


Marc Lacoste brought up a excellent point in the comment discussion on the house boat slide show that I commented on last Friday. I was ranting about why it’s important not to use Java as a display technology for slide shows and Marc accurately pointed out that the slide show of Aaron’s house boat photos isn’t Java… it’s javascript. The way you tell is you Page source” while your browser is displaying the the slide show.

Since the whole point of which display technology to use is that you want to maximize the number of people that can see your slide show (or your client’s slide show). I’ve been promoting using Flash because Flash has 99% penetration. That is, 99% or more of the people looking at your slide show will have Flash installed on their machine. This little discussion about the house boat photos made me realize that javascript slide shows are at least as good, maybe better, than Flash because virtually all browsers support javascript and only a VERY few tech savy users will have javascript disabled in their browsers and they will know enough to turn on javascript if they want to see your slide show.

I did some research on the net and found a free little javascript slide show you can download for free if you are willing to do a little HTML/javascript editing and you have web space to host the slide show. Here is my example. For this example I’ve downloaded the free code available at SmoothSlideshow.JonDesign.net and implemented it on a simple page. I kept it as simple as possible. I just followed the instructions that Jon has on the download page. Feel free to use my example as a starting point for a slide show of your own.

Bottom line is that either Flash or javascript is the preferred display technology to use if you want EVERYONE to see your slide shows.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

Free Flash Gallery or Slide-Show That Displays Full-screen

Posted by larrylohrman on October 4, 2007


Jim Dhaem over at www.DVD-tour.com pointed out a dfgallery, a free Flash slide application that he likes. The interesting feature with this application is that it will display a slide-show full screen if you give it large images (1600×1200). You can see it in operation at www.DVD-tour.com. To get it to show full-screen click the little icon on the lower right side of the control bar at the bottom of the slide-show.

With this slide show you have to edit an XML file with a text editor instead of using it from within Lightroom like the last two Flash slide-show applications that I pointed out. Another unique feature is that this slide show can get it’s images from picassa or flickr albums.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Simpleviewer an Alternative Simpler Slide-Show Template for Lightroom

Posted by larrylohrman on September 28, 2007


We had a new listing this week so I thought “ah ha, an opportunity to eat my own dog food” and use my newly discovered Lightroom slide-show template (monoslideshow). So I did. Here’s what it looks like (click here). I was pressed for time so I haven’t integrated the 360 images that I always shoot with the slide show. My wife Levi is partial to the 360 shots that I always shoot for our listings so she always promises them to the sellers. So there is a link from the monoslideshow to the 360’s and back. I’m really not happy with this solution but it’s all I had time to do.

Much to my surprise Levi doesn’t like the monoslideshow format. She thinks it needs instructions to explain how to stop the slide-show, go forward and backward and to go to any given image. I think this situation is instructive. There are many people out there that are going to be like Levi and find the monoslideshow interface confusing. I’m not one of them.. I love it and think it is elegant. It is everything I want in a slide show format. However, I’ve spent my whole life designing and building software and software interfaces. Levi is probably more typical of most real estate photography clients. She has spent her career in real estate and sales and not all that comfortable with looking at a slick new interface and seeing right off how it works.

My conclusion is that I’m going to have several Flash templates installed in my Lightroom web templates directory and do some research to find out what people like the best. A second, probably more intuitive interface is simpleviewer available free from theturninggate.net. Simpleviewer is the interface seen that the image at the top of this post. I’m thinking this is going to a clearer more intuitive interface. This may be an easier slide show to integrate with my 360 tours since it has thumbnails along the left side.

So which slide show format do you like best:

Posted in Virtual Tours | 10 Comments »

How to Brand Monoslideshow or Other Lightroom Galleries

Posted by larrylohrman on September 19, 2007

Cherie Irwin raised an important issue with my last post on creating Monoslideshows with Lightroom. That is, in the real estate context you’d really like to brand the slide-show either with your own contact information if you are a Realtor or your client’s logo and contact information if you are a real estate photographer building slide-shows for clients.

After thinking about it a bit and branding my example tour. I’ve come to the conclusion that the most straight forward way to add the branding information is after Lightroom generates the HTML and FTPs it to your site. To add the branding on my example I just used Dreamweaver to opened the index.html file in the directory that Lightroom generated and added some text and a link. If you always use the same size and spacing for the gallery that Lightroom generates and that spacing is designed for branding info to be added it should work pretty smoothly. You don’t necessarily need to use Dreamweaver. You could also use FTP and a text editor. I just added a line of text with a link but you could add broker logos, Realtor portraits and get as fancy as you want. This all works like this because only the slide-show is Flash and the Flash slide-show is encapsulated in HTML so you can add anything you want to the HTML and it will show above or below or along side the slide-show.

The problem with adding to the branding to the gallery template in Lightroom is that the branding will be the same for all galleries you generate which is OK if that’s what you want but I like to add the property address or something unique to each slide-show. If you are doing this for clients each slide-show will likely be unique.

Posted in Lightroom, Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Monoslideshow Template For Lightroom

Posted by larrylohrman on September 18, 2007


I’ve been looking for a nice clean design to use for my Flash slide-shows. My criteria is: I want to be able to control the image size, speed and all other parameters, have the slide-show run automatically if the viewer does nothing yet have a clean simple control that allows the viewer to see thumbnails of all the photos in the show and go to any particular one, go forward or backward. Another part of my criteria was that I was hoping not to have to hack HTML and XML to create slide-shows, rather I was expecting to generate them with Lightroom.

I’d seen the free Simpleviewer Flash slide-show and thought it might be the closest I was going to get to my criteria. In the process of installing the gallery template for Simpleviewer I noticed the Monoslideshow gallery at turninggate.net and decided to use it instead of Simpleviewer. It turns out Monoslideshow is everything I was looking for in a Flash slide-show and more! To see my sample Lightroom generated Monoslideshow gallery either click here or on the photo above.

There are two components you need to download to create this kind of slide-show in Lightroom: 1. The free turninggate.net part that integrates the control of the slide-show into Lightroom and 2. the Monoslideshow.com part ($19.95) which is the Flash slide-show part. Turninggate.net has a number of Lightroom gallery templates but Monoslideshow is my favorite.

On my example slide-show the navigation control is initially visible to reveal it’s existence. Then if you don’t click or hover over it, it goes away and hides until you hover over the bottom center of the slide-show (you can make it visible all the time but I like it’s hidden behavior). The navigation control allows you to see thumbnails go forward and back etc. The other thing I like about Monoslideshow is you can choose to use (or not) “Ken Burns” panning. You also have control 5 different parameters of the “Ken Burns” effects. You can also control virtually every aspect of the slide show including all the details of the navigation control all from within the Web module of Lightroom. I think Monoslideshow makes a great gallery to integrate into a website or if you are willing to do a little HTML hacking you could easily create a custom branded version of a Monoslideshow for clients. I’m impressed with Monoslideshow and am going to be using it for most of my slide-shows.

By the way, I think this “Ken Burns” approach to video is far more effective for real estate marketing than using real video. The video effect in this slide-show is turned on with a couple of clicks in Lightroom.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 15 Comments »

Review of A New Benchmark In Property Sites/Tours

Posted by larrylohrman on August 31, 2007


I was googling around yesterday and ran across an interesting example of what I think is a state-of-the-art property site or tour. I think property sites and tours are morphing together into a single entity since it has become so inexpensive to purchase domain names these days. Why not get a domain name for a tour since it’s only a few bucks a year.

I want to point out a few points about these (i-Flyer) tours which are a product offered in the Seattle area by a company called Vistaestate. I did a post last March on an earlier version of this companies property site. At the time we had quite a discussion about the HDR only approach that this company uses so I won’t revisit that subject other than to say I think they do a good job of HDR and there only a few weird looking images.

I think this property site/tour has some significant features that are not unique but I keep seeing them over and over on tours I find appealing:

  1. The design is simple, elegant and straight forward.
  2. The navigation is clean and simple showing you thumbnails all the possible images and allows you to decide what to look at when instead of automatically marching through the photos and not allowing the viewer to control the slide show (I call this latter approach the Everett Fenton Gidley approach). Gidley’s contention is that it’s better to do everything for viewers. If they have to do anything they are likely to leave.
  3. The images are BIG. 800×600 or bigger. Big images can create more impact than small dinky ones. Small image tour and sites are a design left over from back in the days when bandwidth was a big issue. I just tested the effective speed of my Comcast connection and it’s usually around 6 megabits per second… so I want BIG images! Most real estate viewers are no different than I am.
  4. Notice that it looks like they are selling advertising to local companies… tasteful yes but still ads. Or maybe the business of a friend of the founder.

The images are by-in-large pretty good looking. There are some inconsistencies; the fourth image from the top has a serious converging vertical problem. This distracts from the otherwise very professional look of the images. A few of the image have the “dirty shadows” so characteristic of HDR images.

The last thing I want to rant about is the mixed use of portrait mode and landscape mode. I haven’t talked about this much but I’m becoming more and more annoyed by this phenomenon. I have nothing against portrait mode photos if used in an appropriate design that requires portrait mode, but I feel mixing them with landscape mode in a horizontal mode slide show frame is bad design. The horizontal images are displayed big and beautiful and the vertical ones are scrunched to fit the height of the horizontal frame. Yuck! The vertical mode photos are frequently vertical not because vertical is the only way to convey the image but because the photographer was oblivious to how the image was going to be used. I this particular slide show that has so many images I’d rather they just left out all the vertical images. Nothing would be lost and It would result in a much more pleasant viewing experience!

Posted in Propterty Sites, Virtual Tours | 13 Comments »

Full Screen Flash 360 Panoramas – Are They Worth It?

Posted by larrylohrman on July 16, 2007


I’ve had several questions recently about making 360 panoramas so I thought I’d visit this subject again.

There are some that think that the work it takes to do 360s is not worth it and there are many that think having a 360 tour can set your real estate marketing apart from the crowd. I’ve done 360s for many years and make it a point to talk to buyers and sellers to see if they’ve seen the 360s and ask them what they think. I’ll have to say that not everyone appreciates 360s and some plain don’t like them.

On the positive side we sold one home a few years ago in a very fast market where some out of town buyers saw only the 360s and stills before signing a contract. They, saw the stills and knew I was making 360s and waited till I posted them to sign the deal. The first time they saw the physical house was at the inspection. This is the home. These 360s were done back when I was using only QuickTime. The buyers were moving from California to Issaquah and had made offers on and lost 6 different homes before this one. Their belongings were on a moving truck… they were clearly under unusual pressure.

This clearly is an unusual situation for a home sale yet we repeatedly rent our furnished rental based only on the 360s. This happens about 30% of the time. So, there is good evidence that the full screen 360s that I use are effective.

I believe that now that most of the real estate buying world has high speed internet access, large full screen 360s set the marketing apart much more than little tiny 360s. Notice the level of detail of a room that can be seen in a full screen 360. So much detail that it’s relatively difficult to control all the defects. Note you have to click on the X on the left-hand lower control bar to make this image go to full screen. This full screen 360 is done with Flash and demands that Flash version 9 be loaded on your machine to display the image. Flash 9 has new graphic features that make the display of full screen 360 spherical images practical. This chart shows that as of this date Flash 9 is installed on about 83% of machines so no download/install is required.

I’ve started to use only Flash for full screen real estate 360s. QuickTime is still some what smoother panning than the Immervision Flash Player that I use but not enough to risk have buyers needing to download and install Quicktime which is pretty big and ugly on Windows machines. Java is a pretty big download too and currently has about the same penetration as Flash 9.

The question that got me going on this post was about the 360 One VR which is a parabolic mirror that reflects a 360 image on one frame. This device is certainly quick and easy but the quality of the image it creates is low so you can’t easily make large 360 images. To me tiny little 360s were interesting 10 years ago but are yawners these days.

So how do you make full screen 360s? I have to apologize to those readers I’ve promised to finish my tutorial on how to shoot full screen 360s. I promise to finish it soon. To summarize briefly you need a fisheye lens and a panoramic head. The Nikon 10.5 is very popular (works on Canon too) or the Sigma 8mm is OK but not as high quality as the Nikon 10.5. The panoramic head allows you to take 3 to 6 shots rotated around the lenses aperture plane in a perfectly level swing so the stitching works well. The images are stitched together with stitching software (PTgui is may favorite) and then posted to the web with some HTML and player software.

The bottom line is that 360 VR is allot of work, requires added equipment and some practice to get it done right and quickly. The question is, is it worth the extra work and expense? It’s hard to tell for sure. Some buyers and sellers (usually the more geeky ones) think it’s fantastic while others don’t even get what its all about. I do it for all our listings mainly because I enjoy doing it and do it for other subjects than real estate… my non-real estate 360vr images are at www.fullscreen360.blogspot.com.

Posted in Panoramas, Virtual Tours | 30 Comments »

Buildatour.com Researching How to Offer DVD or CDs

Posted by larrylohrman on July 15, 2007

To highlight a comment from Brad at buildatour.com, Brad says:

We’re currently researching how to offer DVD format after your tour is built with Buildatour.com. As most of you know, saving to DVD format takes a WHILE. We’re not sure, at this point. how we’re going to accomplish this …. but rest assured, we’re working on it.

It’s funny, we thought that getting to the “Download to CD” stage (original plan was .EXE) would be UTOPIA!!! Of course, technology has advanced since we introduced Buildatour.com …. so, now the HD TV’s (generally flat … LCD or Plasma) are the norm.

Good News!!! We’ll have 18 new background music selections available this week.

Note that Brad has a blog that covers topics relating to buildatour.com tours.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Flash Slideshows Online with DVDs to Go

Posted by larrylohrman on July 10, 2007


Back in March of this year Jim DHeam over at www.dvd-tour.com made some sample DVDs of a couple of listings we had at the time. What Jim does is create a Flash slide show with listing photos that you e-mail him, he sends you the link to the slide show with in 24 hours and then sends you two DVDs with the slide show on it. Back in March Jim wasn’t hosting an online tour, thats a recently added feature.

Jim’s DVDs made a believer out of me! I was quite impressed with the tour on DVD concept. I’ve been making CDs of my tours for years so I’ve been aware of the excitement that giving tours on CDs to buyers and sellers generates. But I’ve always run into the problem that my CDs don’t run on Macs and for some non-technical people a CD that runs on a computer is a mystery. With a tour on a DVD it runs anywhere: PCs, Macs and living room DVD players. People can use it wherever they are most comfortable. What’s more, it looks awesome on large screen TVs that have become so popular the last few years.

If you are not into making your own Flash tours and DVDs Jim does it for $29.95 or $19.95 for just the DVDs or just the internet tour.

If you are up to doing it yourself there are a bunch software to create Flash tours and DVDs. Jim says he’s tried a number of products for making DVDs and likes iDVD on the Mac best. For making Flash tours again there are a huge number of alternatives but Jim uses Mono slideshow from www.monoslideshow.com. Readers have more suggestions for their favorite Flash slide show software over in the reader discussion on flicker.

I believe this combination of large (800×600) slide shows and DVDs to go is currently the most effective combination for real estate tours.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 11 Comments »

Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photos Hall of Fame

Posted by larrylohrman on June 7, 2007


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Realtor Norm Fisher has put together a hilarious presentation on how unbelievably bad real estate photography can get. The “hold on, I think we are going over” shot is my favorite.

If you watch the presentation to the end you’ll see that this “tour” does more than show bad photos, it is a promotion of what Norm and his team will do if you become his listing client. Nice job Norm!

Posted in Photo Technique, Virtual Tours | 9 Comments »

Reader Shoots San Francisco Property Listed for $55,000,000

Posted by larrylohrman on June 7, 2007


PFRE reader John Grow sent me a link to 2901 Broadway St, San Francisco , a property currently listed for $55,000,000 that he just photographed. Notice that John has used plansantours.com for the tour of this property. Wow what a view!

Posted in Real Estate Photo of the Week, Virtual Tours | 6 Comments »

Combining Real Estate Photography And Tour Hosting

Posted by larrylohrman on June 6, 2007


I just ran across an article and audio interview over at Small Business Trends Radio on how Kelly Thomas the founder of www.sihometours.com has combined real estate photography with tour hosting as a business. There is a 50+ minute audio interview at the bottom of the page. I noticed this article because Kelly signed up for my real estate photographers directory today.

As Kelly describes in the interview apparently there are a number of folks around the country doing this same thing. After listening to the interview I’m not completely clear on the whole business model. I can totally understand how the tour hosting goes together with the real estate photography but I’m not completely clear on the motivation for creating another local real estate site. If it generates as much traffic as Kelly says, you could also make money from the advertising. In our market area there are so many great local broker sites like www.johnlscott.com and www.windermere.com that buyers don’t even use the national sites like www.realtor.com very much. However, I know that situation is not the same all over.

I think it is hard to beat the combining a home tour with your home photography services. My favorite DIY tour is www.buildatour.com. As Mark Reibman says, “…about 80% of clients are wowed by it.” For $9.95 you can’t go wrong.

Posted in Marketing, ReaderProfile, Virtual Tours | 6 Comments »

Getting Started In Video – Conversation With Fred Light

Posted by larrylohrman on May 20, 2007


There were several questions raised about how to get into the area of shooting real estate tour video so I consulted Fred Light who works in the Boston area and has been shooting real estate video for some time. Fred has been featured in Inman News and newsday.com. Fred also does a blog on video. The link on the image above is a recent shoot Fred did of an historic property in Amherst, NH.

I posed the following questions to Fred:

What equipment would you recommend for some one getting started in real estate video?

Well… my opinions aren’t always in line with Realtors…. but I really do think that you owe it to your SELLER to offer the best quality possible. Like many things in life…. garbage in, garbage out. So I think it’s important to have the best camera you can afford. When I first started about a year and a half ago, I bought a little Sony Camcorder for about $400. The quality was OK… but I just didn’t think it was ‘good enough’. Once you compress the hell out of the video (!) to get it online, you lose SO much quality – if you start with low quality, the end result is pretty muddy. (just look at most videos on YouTube).

Real estate interiors are generally LOW LIGHT shoots. If I was just doing some panning shots, you COULD set up some lighting, but since I do pans AND a walk through the house, it’s pretty impossible to light the house evenly as I walk from room to room. So, the most important thing is to get a camera that does well in LOW LIGHT (using just the home’s interior lighting)

So, I bit the bullet and bought a high definition camcorder. Not a professional camera though, but a consumer version – which had just come on the market (at that time it was about $1500, now they’re around $1000). The quality difference was pretty amazing. Hi def cameras seem to do the best in low light. The one thing that you HAVE to have no matter what camera you use is a tripod. Otherwise you’re just presenting a real estate version of Uncle Tom’s vacation videos – which will make you nauseous.

One other thing I use which definitely separates me from most is a Steadicam, which allows me to walk around, up and down hallways, stairs, etc. all the while keeping the picture steady. There are a number of them on the market, and plans for making your own online for $20-$30 bucks. I bought one for a couple hundred dollars (which was of one of the cheaper ones offered). I found it to be nearly worthless. I finally bit the bullet and bought a real Steadicam ($800). It’s really an amazing piece of machinery, although you’d hardly think it was worth $800 by looking at it. But it’s VERY light, reducing the fatigue that you get holding the camera for long periods. However, the one ‘little’ omission all of these companies make in their sales pitch is in regards to the learning curve. Buying the steadicam is the easiest part – learning to USE it properly takes LOTS of practice. HOURS of practice. (Hell, I’m STILL practicing!). It’s not a quick fix, for sure – but the results are great. Especially with real estate – it really gives you a feel for the layout of the house and the relationship from one room to another.

Do you do a significant amount of editing before the video is posted?

Yes, and originally it was VERY time consuming, but I’ve started to get the time down … finally (practice, practice, practice!) But for a 4-5 minute video, I can edit about 30 minutes of footage in about 40 minutes. Then I need to write the narration, record it and lay down the narration, which takes another 30-45 minutes. Then it needs to be compressed to Quicktime and Windows Media Video.

I notice on your website you support QuickTime and Windows Media. Are these the only two media formats that one needs to support?

Flash is the most compatible (97%), but I still think the quality is still NOT there. It’s OK… but not great. QuickTime is really HIGH quality, and fairly quick downloading… and something like 65% penetration – higher on Macintosh computers (it’s gone up since iTunes came out)…. WMV is less quality, longer download time and buffering, but I think still better than Flash – also a 65% penetration rate (higher on Windows computers). So I offer QT as the first choice (and best quality), WMV as a second option and Flash as a third option. That way EVERYONE can see it – but hopefully more will see it in QuickTime. I’m still trying to figure out to go all Flash as it would make MY life much easier. In fact, just today I was experimenting with an abnormally lengthy (8 min) video on an historic home I did the other day (I usually try to keep i under 5 minutes)…. and was trying some different options. Again, when you’re presenting a half million to several million dollar house, I think QUALITY is imperative, or you’re doing a disservice to your seller.

Fred also sent me a copy of his check-list that he gives to home owners so they are prepared for the shoot. Thanks Fred for all the “getting started info”.

Posted in Video, Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Lurch From Adams Family is A VR Photographer

Posted by larrylohrman on April 23, 2007

Yesterday Jim Dhaem over at www.dvd-tour.com pointed out to me that Lurch (Carel Struycken) is a VR photographer in Southern California. Check out his work at the following sites:

His VR site: www.sphericalpanoramas.com

His Virtual Tour site: www.sphericalvrtours.com

His acting site: www.carelstruycken.com

Thanks Jim.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Tour Hosting, Sellfolio.com and More Photomatix Examples

Posted by larrylohrman on April 12, 2007

Ed Parsons of Myrtle Beach, SC (www.photoshowstudios.com) sent me an example of his Interactive Home Showcase for a recent client. This virtual tour has several things I want to comment on.

The first is that it’s an example of a Flash slide-show created by the program www.sellfolio.com which is a bunch of Flash templates that you can use as a virtual tour, like Ed does or burn them on a CD or both. Ed says, “I use SellFolio 3.0 For Client Projects- Merchandising version. The program paid for itself with our first tour www.loristour.myvt360.com

The second thing is that this tour is hosted by www.erealtyweb.net which is a virtural tour hosting service that hosts a variety of tours that you build for a monthly cost. Apparently, this service is easier than maintaining your own web site from scratch.

After I studied Ed’s photos Ed had to endure my lecture on converging verticals and barrel distortion… I think Ed is now a believer in avoiding these mortal sins. I also was telling Ed that for my taste his images were a little under lit. He obviously was not using any lighting. He told me that he was a Photomatix user and all the images in this tour with Photomatix. This surprised me because I’d never been able to get images I did with Photomatrix to look this good. Mine always come out “dirty” looking. Ed says he shoots 10-to 12 shots per scene and carefully chooses the images to use. I need to go back and try to get Photomatix to make images that look this good.

Posted in Photo Editing, Virtual Tours | 7 Comments »