Blog Tag: virtual tour lens

Virtual Tours and the Elusive Perfect Exposure

I started producing virtual tours about three years ago. Initially I was just curious about the technology utilized to create them, but I quickly saw their value in helping to showcase the work of my architectural firm. Being able to show a client a building from the inside or to place them in the middle of one of our Cleveland Ohio outdoor lifestyle centers seemed like a great use for this media.

Given my background in Ohio real estate development and my interest in photography and “all things technical,” l thought it would be fun to turn my hobby into a real business that combined all of those elements. In Early 2008 I found RealTour Vision and created SGMDesign360.com.

Since I am not a professional photographer, its sometimes a struggle to get perfect exposures for the shots needed to stitch together a great panorama. It was particularly difficult when I first started since I was using a 6 shot setup with an 8mm fisheye lens on a Nikon D200 DSLR. (Four shots horizontally and then one up and one down) Correct exposure was critical and post processing in Photoshop was essential. While I liked the result and the ability to do true spherical immersive images, the time investment in each spin was not practical for typical real estate virtual tours. RTV’s 12 shot method gives me much better quality “out of the box.”

Regardless of the technology used, correct exposure is important. So what is the best way to set the camera? Should you use supplemental light, flash or studio floods? What about white balance? It can be very confusing and there is no one best method for every situation. The following outlines several different methods that can be used to get the right exposure. Experiment and see what works best for your situation.

The trick to creating any panorama is to insure that there is even exposure across the entire set of images. Shooting in automatic or aperture priority mode may result in different exposures for each frame, especially if there are dramatic changes in lighting within the scene. While the individual frames will look good, the contrast between frames can be too much for your blending program to handle effectively. So, what is the best way to shoot these photos? There are several different opinions and everyone does things a bit differently. So, in order to simplify the process, I have outlined a few of the options that I use on a regular basis.

Option I – Consistent Exposure and White Balance

Instead of using one of your cameras automatic modes, try using Manual mode instead. Meter only for the mid-tones in the scene. First, if you are using a digital SLR select an aperture setting that will give you good depth of field. I like a setting of f 8. Since we are on a tripod, we can control the exposure with shutter speed. Scan the entire scene and find the extreme lights and darks then meter for the mid range. Once you know that setting, shoot each picture in the sequence using the same set of exposure settings. You should end up with a well-balanced set of exposures to stitch together. I prefer to use natural lighting, so if I have good ambient light I’ll keep the room lights off or try to have them on the lowest wattage possible. Remember to select the appropriate white balance and keep it the same for every frame in the sequence. Turn off automatic white balance in your camera settings menu.

Option II – Adjusted Exposure

Start by setting up just like Option I and meter for the mid-range condition. Note the exposure setting. For each shot, adjust the shutter speed to provide more or less exposure as needed, but do not vary from the mid range exposure setting by more than a stop or two in either direction. Adjustments should be made relative to the mid-range exposure setting, not the previous shot setting.

Option III – Bracket Exposures

A common way to handle difficult lighting situations is to bracket exposure. By taking a series of shots we can expose for both the highlights and the shadow areas and then combine the images in Photoshop to get the correct blending. Post processing is time consuming, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. Fortunately, my Nikon D200 offers several automatic-bracketing options. I find the three shot setting works best. Again, I set up and meter to find my mid-range exposure. I shoot in Aperture Priority mode and let the camera automatically adjust shutter speed to give me a bracketed sequence. The camera will shoot Normal, then Under, then Over at each rotation. Basically, I take three shots at each station, letting the D200 change the settings. Be careful to stay in sequence, rotating before all three shots are taken can cause major problems. Once I have all the shots I have a few options. I can separate the shots into a normal, under and over sequence and then stitch each sequence individually. Save them to high resolution jpg, and bring them into Photoshop to blend them together. I have had little success with Photoshop’s (cs2) HDR process, but have found a nice plug in by Fred Miranda called DRI Pro Plug-in v2.0. I believe it was less than $20.

The second option is to just visually select the images that seem correct and assemble a set to be stitched. This eliminates the need for Photoshop work, but this method is highly dependent on your scene and your ability to visually compile the correct image.

Option IV – Supplemental Lighting

I’m not a big fan of using supplemental lighting for virtual tours, primarily because I am not as well versed in flash photography as I should be and have had difficulty creating clean stitches. I know many people do this without issue, but I struggle with it. I have recently been experimenting with a flash diffuser produced by Gary Fong and have been very pleased with the results. I need to experiment with the diffuser using all of the exposure methods to see which approach gives me the best results. I think this method will solve many of the more common lighting problems that we all encounter. I’ll report my findings next week.

Stephen G. Moluse
Cleveland Virtual Tours
www.sgmdesign360.com

Order a Cleveland Ohio Virtual Tour – (866) 952-TOUR (8687)

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Real Estate Outlook: Positive Trends

We thought that we would share this article with you that was written by Kenneth R. Harney and published in Realty Times on March 13, 2008. We encourage all of you out there to share this story with your customers and potential customers:

You might assume from the steady drumbeat of bad news about housing and real estate that there’s nothing encouraging out there in the economy. But you’d be wrong. And you might just be missing some positives in the market equation that you could put to work for you. So amid the gloom and doom, here are a few examples of trends that are at least slightly hopeful … and might even be helpful:

Number One: New mortgage applications nationwide jumped last week for the first time in more than a month, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

New applications for loans to purchase houses — a very important indicator of home buying in the months ahead — were up by 1.4 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis. But they rose by a surprising 14 and a half percent on an unadjusted basis — that’s the raw numbers last week compared with the week before.

Why the sudden increase?

Get the rest of the story here: Real Estate Outlook

Real Tour Vision
Real Estate Marketing Tools
866-947-8687


PRESS RELEASE – Lancaster Virtual Tours

www.VirtualToursCompany.com Announces HitStats 2.0(TM) — New Virtual Tour Internet Traffic Reporting Technology

Lancaster, PA — www.VirtualToursCompany.com, in conjunction with Real Tour Vision(TM), announces the release of HitStats 2.0(TM) a proprietary internet traffic reporting technology. This newest marketing tool was specifically designed to enhance our already successful PanoRider(TM) (panoramic sign rider) and single property website services. HitStats 2.0
produces statistic reports that not only show real estate agents where virtual tour views are coming from but also displays which scenes from the 360 tour are being viewed online.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this advanced traffic reporting service. HitStats 2.0 allows real estate agents to automatically send out extremely detailed weekly traffic reports to homeowners. Today’s tech savvy agent demands to be more informed as to which of their marketing strategies are producing the best results in the marketing of their commercial and real estate properties,” Rick Simons, President of RTV(TM) said.

RTV introduced their panoramic sign riders (PanoRiders) and single property website services back in October of 2007 after a highly successful six-month pilot run in the Metro DC area. During their trials, HitStats 2.0 showed that an average of 50% of all visits to the property tour were from the use of the PanoRider and single property website. Some traffic reports showed statistics as high as 79% coming from the use of their custom URLs, which are displayed above a high-quality full color panoramic photo on highly-durable type 1 PVC signs.

“We are quite pleased to offer HitStats 2.0 to our customers and clients,” George Sheldon of VirtualToursCompany.com said. “Everyone likes having the instant stats available. Several of my clients have already made adjustments to their marketing plans based on the data they are receiving from HitStats 2.0.”

About VirtualToursCompany.com

VirtualToursCompany.com is a division of George Sheldon Photography. George Sheldon is the author of more than 30 books, and has a freelance photographer for over 30 years. George Sheldon is a Full Service provider of Real Tour Vision (RTV). RTV is a recognized leader in interactive 360 panoramic virtual tours and virtual tour software.

George Sheldon
VirtualToursCompany.com
Lancaster Virtual Tours
www.virtualtourscompany.com
info@virtualtourscompany.com
Order a Virtual Tour: 717-293-1718


RPM Marketing DELIVERS!!

RPM – Real Tour Vision is excited to announce the creation of new marketing materials. Our marketing team has been working very hard to create a steady stream of new virtual tour company marketing pieces as well as update the current ones so you look your best out in the field!

Take a moment and please log into our new RPM Marketing Center as we have added several new pieces for our inner circle marketing members as well as several new updated pieces for non inner circle members.
We have updated the Real Estate InfoPack and added a new Business Tour InfoPack for Non members. Be sure to download this now and start customizing!!
Inner circle members now have full access to 8-10 new sales pieces with more on the way over the next few days. We have put some thumbnails above for you to check out. Log in now to download and customize!Good luck out there!

Team RTV
National Virtual Tour Service

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Virtual Tour Company Webinar – FREE

Rick Simons, President of Real Tour Vision will be announcing some VERY exciting news and welcoming everyone to RTV 2008 during next week’s free and open webinar. As many of you already know, RTV has been working diligently to bring you new virtual tour software and technology, innovative virtual tour company marketing and fresh ideas to build your virtual tour business. You will NOT want to miss this webinar.

Following the announcement from the President of Real Tour Vision, Jason LaVanture and Cheryl Waller will be revealing some great advertising and marketing secrets that are guaranteed to improve your website ranking and search engine results.

Join us on Wednesday, January 23rd at 7pm EST and get ready to increase your business cash flow!

Registration has been increased from 200 to 400 so register now while it’s fresh in your mind!!

Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows(R) 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh(R)-based attendees
Required: Mac OS(R) X 10.3.9 (Panther(R)) or newer

Register now at www.rockpointemarketing.com

Real Tour Vision
National Virtual Tour Service