Haunted 360 Virtual Tours

Three years ago I signed up with Real Tour Vision with the idea of developing a web site featuring virtual tours of my favorite Southwestern Colorado ghost towns. I learned the virtual tour software and bought 30 virtual tour credits. Two weeks ago I completed my 28th ghost town virtual tour and sent an e-mail blast to my personal mailing list telling everyone that http://www.hauntedattimberline.com was complete. July brought the heaviest traffic to the site so far, with an average of 30 visitors a day and a total of nearly 8500 hits. August is off to an even stronger start.

At first I made the mistake of taking all the photos in my spins at a reduced pixel resolution. I figured I could get more spins on a single memory card and that the additional detail wouldn’t matter because the photos are reduced in size for the tours anyway. But I should have taken them all at the full 5 Megapixel capacity of my camera. I found that oftentimes, after I looked at the spins, I could create great still images just by stitching together a couple of the 12 images used to create a spin. At the reduced pixel rate I lost too much resolution for full-sized images. So somewhere around my 10th tour I got another large memory card and started shooting all the spins at full resolution. Some of my best stills have come from the spins.

Another mistake I made early on was doing too many spins. Just two or three great spins of the best ghost town remains have the greatest impact. There is plenty of detail in these deserted buildings and streets, and you don’t want a lot of icons interfering with the picture content. When you have such a wonderful “field” of data, there’s no point in trying to capture too much. Just capture the best.

At some of the ghost towns I also took video and created short “video tours” of mines, old houses and brief walks around town. You access most of these by clicking on an icon from within the virtual tour. Looking back, I should have spent time creating more of these. The virtual tour provides the “big picture” of the town, and the videos allow you to “zoom in” and really explore the details with a related technology (though you lose control of the navigation with a video). I haven’t tried using Flash video yet, but it looks like RTV now lets you combine a virtual tour with Flash video, which opens some interesting possibilities. Flash video provides a lot of resolution in a small amount of bandwidth.

So far I’ve only done a single virtual tour for a real estate client, but I haven’t pushed for lots of clients yet. I have a full time computer job that keeps me really busy. But I plan on ramping that business soon.

Brad Harrison
Timberline Virtual Tours