HD Virtual Tour Tech Tip

This month’s Virtual Tour Software tech tip concerns HD Virtual Tour images for full screen virtual tours. We are continuing to fine tune the viewer and are implementing some suggestions from providers to improve performance. In the meantime a lot of you are working on adding HD into your current work flow.

I’d like to address a few common misconceptions:

You do NOT need to pay RTV extra to do HD virtual tours! You may choose to charge your clients extra but there is no charge to you from RTV.

You do NOT have to change your camera settings! Continue shooting at the same resolution as before.

You do NOT need to resize your photos before stitching! Well, at least not unless you always have. The directions for resizing final pans have confused some people. 

You do NOT have to resize each image’s height before stitching, continue stitching like you always have.

You do NOT get to skip the Adjust Image/compression step within the Tour Builder software! Create and upload the tour as you always have, or if you are a new provider, as described in the Training videos.  The only thing that has changed is that you need to save a high resolution version of the panorama right after stitching. Before you name the panorama and save it, click Export to High Res and save the image into a folder. Once the high resolution image is saved you can name the scene and save it. Then you add hotspots, compress, etc just like always.

You do NOT need to specify a width for panoramas or stills when you are resizing them! Some people were confused that in the webinar and help docs we only mention resizing the height of the photos and not the width. It is very important that you keep the aspect ratio of the photos the same so they don’t get stretched or scrunched. That is usually a setting in image resizer programs. If you specify a height for an image, the program should pick the width for you – let it do that. That way you don’t ruin your images. Also, make sure you save the photos with a new name and keep your originals. That way if you make a mistake you can start over.

For Best Results:
You will find that the best results will vary from one panorama to another. Remember the webinar, you want your full screen tour to load very quickly and scroll smoothly so we recommend that you try playing with image height setting of around 500-700 pixels tall.  You can go higher than that but load times, compression and smoothness will all be impacted slightly.  You might also put your scroll speed to a setting of 15 from within the Button editor.  This will make your panoramas scroll smoother than they will at a faster setting.  Overall your kb size of your panoramas will be anywhere from 300-800 kb. The smaller the better but you trade off quality the more you compress your images.  However the smaller your images are compressed the faster they will load.
Full Screen Stills
The last thing I want to cover is still images in general. Most people are probably familiar with the term aspect ratio. If you’ve ever watched a DVD and had to choose between wide screen and full screen you probably know what I am talking about. When you shoot a still image with your camera it is in 4:3. The full screen viewer is 16:9. This means an uncropped image, right out of the camera, will not completely fill up the viewer window. There will be some extra blank space on either side. This is done so all the image can be seen without being stretched or cropped. If you recall from using the Add button and adding still images to the tours we have a “Zoom to Fit” button and a “Scaling Factor” slider bar to help you crop an image to completely fill the viewer window. We don’t have tools like that for the HD upload. If you want an image to completely fill the screen you are going to need to crop it yourself using a program like Paint Shop Pro or PhotoShop. There are free tools out there you can use as well to crop. For an image that is 1280 by 960 you would need to crop it to about 1280 by 720 to get the right ratio to fill up the viewer. Notice you are just cropping out the height, not the width. Cropping is different than resizing; when you crop an image you are actually cutting something out and losing it. Normally, you can easily crop out some ceiling, carpet, sky or grass, and make your still image fit nicely. This process is easier if you are starting out with 1280 by 960 images. The easiest way to figure out what size you need is to do the following:

Take your photo size, example: 1600 by 1200
Divide the 1600 by 1.777 = 900 pixels. Crop your image so your resulting image is 1600 by 900. Remember, this means you will lose some off the top or bottom of your image or a little off both. You will have to look at each image and decide which area can be cut out without changing the relevancy of the photo.

I can hear someone yell right now, “But I don’t know HOW to crop!!!” Search on Google and find a free crop tool that is easy for you to work with or buy a program like Paint Shop Pro and read the Help file. Even if you use my numbers above to figure out the final resulting image size you are still going to have to look at each image and eyeball what will look best and do the crop manually. I am sure there are tools you can use to batch crop but I think for most people that will not be the way to go. Obviously, if you have a lot of experience with photos, frame the photos with the crop in mind, and have a tool you like and are familiar with, it would be easier to do a batch crop.  Yes, there are a few things to be learned for using HD virtual tours but the final product will be stunning!

Real Tour Vision
RTV Technical Support
Virtual Tour Software