VirtualTourCafe - Virtual Tours, e-Flyers and YouTube-Style Video: Do Virtual Tours Need 360 Panorama to be a Virtual Tour?

Do Virtual Tours Need 360 Panorama to be a Virtual Tour?


Virtual tours have been around a long time as well as many virtual tour providers who offer everything from full-service virtual tours including photography, 360 degree panoramas to the very basic still images rotating in a slide-show style format and little or nothing else.  So, what really makes it a "Virtual Tour"?

VirtualTourCafe Tour ScreenAs an exhibitor at the NAR Expo in New Orleans this past week, VirtualTourCafe presented our NEW virtual tour marketing service both in our booth and during a live Presentation Theater event.  I heard many arguments on both sides of this discussion. 

But first, let's talk about the "purpose" of a virtual tour before we get too bogged down by dictionary definitions.  As a real estate agent, why do you even need a virtual tour in the first place? After all, in this economy do you really want to spend more money on marketing???

Is it to appease or even impress your sellers?  Maybe
Is it to give the potential buyer (some from far away) a better view of the property and surroundings?  Probably
Or is to demonstrate your marketing skills and improve your branding?  Hopefully

None of the reasons above require a 360 degree panorama; however the buyer may get a better sense of the property and especially the neighborhood or yard with a panoramic image that gives the feeling of looking all around you in a complete 360 degree circle of view.  Some homes and large rooms show better with a panorama and some are probably better displayed with a wide-angle (28mm) lens. 

Keep in mind your objectives and not the dictionary definition (below).  This is about representing the seller’s best interest and at the same time, positioning you as the online marketing expert!

So, what all this boils down to is "options".  A virtual tour provider (like VirtualTourCafe) should offer options to include still images in a slide-show format with (quality) music, pleasing transitions, full and partial panoramas (optional), and even YouTube-style videos.  More and more buyers and sellers are searching YouTube for homes, yes homes for sale!  YouTube is now the second largest search site online, second only to Google who, in case you weren't aware, owns YouTube!

Floor Plans Screen for VirtualTourCafeAnd we haven't even talked about social media, syndication, branding, website links, printable e-flyers, mobile-friendly, and high-definition images...  So look for a virtual tour provider that offers options that promote the listing, promote you, and is automated and easy to use!  If it isn't easy to use and cost-effective, you won't do it anyway, right?

By the way, here is a "dictionary" definition of Virtual Tour:

Virtual tour

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of video images. They also may use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text. The phrase "virtual tour" is often used to describe a variety of video and photographic-based media. Panorama indicates an unbroken view, since a panorama can be either a series of photographs or panning video footage. However, the phrases "panoramic tour" and "virtual tour" have mostly been associated with virtual tours created using still cameras. Such virtual tours are made up of a number of shots taken from a single vantage point. The camera and lens are rotated around what is referred to as a nodal point (the exact point at the back of the lens where the light converges).


So, what do you think?  Is a virtual tour a virtual tour if it doesn't have a 360 panorama?

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Comment balloon 4 commentsTim Denbo • November 11 2010 08:01PM


Tim, you might want to check out your post the first 50% of it is Computer Language that most of us do not understand:))

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) almost 9 years ago

Tim, I never cared for the 360 panoramic virtual tours. They have that "spinning" effect that makes me dizzy.

Posted by Betty Knowles, TeamKnowles REALTORS® - Springfield MO Real Estate (Southwest Missouri Realty - almost 9 years ago

I like the stitching affect more than the panoramic virtual tours.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 9 years ago

I have always been a fan of the original BAMBO / IPIX virtual tours along with Egg Solutions.  Both of these virtual tour services offered a full 360 view but they accomplished this a bit differently.  IPIX used a 180 degree hemispherical lens and your software merged the 2 photos together and the Egg used a unique 360 degree mirrored lens and it only required a single image.  The challenge with both of these systems is that back when they were popular there simply wasn't a wide angle lens available which created some serious limitations to the image quality and viewable area.  Even today the average real estate professional still thinks that a 24 to 28 mm digital camera lens is wide angle.  if IPIX or Egg Solutions offered a true wide angle lens today I believe that technology would ROCK!  Many of the consumers didn't like these tours originally because they offered a manual rotation which didn't place limits on the rotation / spin effect.  If a either of these services would work with my Canon 10-22 wide angle SLR...I would sign up TODAY.  The issue is that a wide angle view will actually show more of the room and the actual rotation would show more of the room from floor to ceiling instead of just a bedroom headboard and dresser.  

Does a virtual tour need to be 360 degree?  Absolutely not.  But in the right situation I do think that a full 360 degree view can be an enhancement to my online real estate marketing.  So folks might ask why we don't just do a 360 degree video tour with a pocket digital video camera like a FLIP and the answer is they just don't have a wide enough angle lens available for those units.  However, I am interested in the Canon 7D SLR camera because it can have an ultra wide angle lens and shoot video at the same time.  I believe we will see some huge advancements in both virtual tours and real estate video marketing during the next couple of years. 

Posted by Sam Miller, Knox County Ohio Real Estate Specialist (RE/MAX Stars Realty) almost 9 years ago

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