3-D Real Estate Tours with Matterport Camera

matter

Springs Homes just became the first real estate company in Colorado Springs to own “The Matterport Camera”. We have started to use the “Matterport Camera” to create 3-D spaces of our for-sale listings. We are then able to share these spaces online with potential home buyers.

The “Matterport Camera” is a combination camera and measuring device. It scans and measures spaces as it takes pictures. Springs Homes has been at the cutting edge of residential real estate technology from the early days of the internet, 1997 to be exact. We were early adopters of Virtual Tour technology when it was difficult to implement, we jumped into producing videos of our listings when it wasn’t easy to implement either. The “Matterport Camera” changes the game, this technology is very straightforward to use and the results are easy to implement.

The camera weighs 6.5 lbs. and has a rechargeable battery which lasts 8 to 10 hours. A 2,000-square foot residential real estate shoot takes 45 minutes to an hour, so battery life is not an issue. The camera has six lenses and six sensors and sits on a regular tripod. The camera has a small internal motor which allows it to rotate 360 degrees for each scan. You communicate with the camera through a wireless connection to a tablet on the matterport app.

matterport camera

Once the camera is setup and you are shooting, the app walks you through putting the space together. After each scan, the camera sends its data back to the app, which then aligns the scan and displays a photographic representation of the floorplan. If the camera doesn’t have enough information the app shows a black space in those areas where it needs more data.

matterport camera interface

We generally move the camera 5 to 8 feet in between scans. As you are scanning the operator must mark mirrors and windows, this helps the camera understand how to treat these surfaces. This is important because the camera sees through windows, so it tries to incorporate what it sees outside into the 3D model. By marking the windows, the app knows to ignore what it sees outside when compiling the floorplan. We deal with the outside by using 360-degree views.

Once the entire interior space has been scanned, the “Matterport Camera” has a feature called “360-view”. This enables the user to go outside and photograph a 360-degree image of the outdoor spaces, this is done without scanning for walls. This comes in handy during the post-production phase. You can start your tour outside showing the neighborhood or landscaping features. During the post-production phase, we are then able to link back to the indoor space.

Once you finish the entire project, the tablet is disconnected from the camera and re-connected to the internet. At this point, we upload the project to Matterports servers. Once uploaded, the images are processed and the basic tour is produced. It’s important to talk about the quality of the images this camera produces, they are really nice! The camera shoots 7 exposure brackets and turns them into HDR images. This is why the windows are not “blown out” except in extremely bright conditions. The stitching, white balance and color correction are all handled by matterport so the scans look balanced and consistent.

The tour is ready for further editing and or release in a couple of hours after upload. We work in an online app called Matterport Workshop in order to tag our tours as well as build engaging walkthroughs.

Details Page

"The Details Page" is the first place we look when we start to work on creating a finished Matterport Space. Details allows us to add the correct and complete address, our company details, website URL as well as a brief description of the property. “Details” is also where you setup your preferred sharing options as well as get the URL’s and embed codes you’ll need when you’re ready to distribute your tour.

This section is also where you go to see how your space is performing. The “Space Statistics” shows you analytical data like; the number of impressions (An impression is registered when someone views a page containing a 3D Showcase or clicks on a public 3D Showcase link), “Visits” (A visit is registered when a Space loads successfully) and “Unique Visitors” (Number of distinct users who visited this 3D Showcase one or more times).

These statistics become important as you look for the most effective ways to promote your spaces. We would really like to be able to see where the visitors came from and how long they stayed. This feature might exist but we have yet to find it.

Post Production in the Workshop

The real post production work gets done in the "Matterport Workshop". This is a robust web-based editor that allows you to refine the user experience.

The first option available in this app is the ability to set the start location of your 3D model. This is the same image as your "Hero Image"(the image that the user sees before the space loads).

Start positions can consist of the following scenes:

  • Any position in the inside view of the space. This is accomplished by moving to the desired location and selecting the “Update Start Location” button.
  • Dollhouse View-This is the iconic Matterport view (see below).

doll house

  • Floorplan View-This is a flat photograph of the actual floorplan.

floorplan view

  • 360 º View-These are individual 360 º images usually taken of outdoor spaces. You can use these images if you would like to start your tour outside or show backyard spaces as well as landscaping.

 

The space will show a white translucent circle at each point you set the tripod to take a scan. There are times when you may take too many scans in an attempt to get better coverage. The downside to this is your space can end up with a distractingly large number of scan circles. The workshop will let you hide those extra scans, creating a cleaner space. 

The workshop also lets you build a guided tour. These tours move quickly through the property and give the user a good overview of the house. The user can stop the tour and investigate an area at any time by simply clicking and dragging on the space and relaunch the tour by clicking the play button.

Guided tours are built by taking “Snapshots” of the areas you want to include in your tour. Once you have compiled all your desired snapshots, you simply drag them into a “Highlight Reel” in the specific order you want them to appear in your tour. The guided tour automatically moves you through the Highlight Reel by simply pressing play.

Another valuable feature found in the Workshop is the ability to tag things. These are named “Matter Tags”. Matter Tags appear in the space as a small bullseye. When the viewer clicks on the bullseye, they see a description of the tagged item. These tags also allow you to add links to more in-depth information. We think these are really valuable, they allow us to provide as much additional detail as we need without visually cluttering up our tours.

 Floorplans are another feature we find useful. One of the view options in the Matterport viewer is “Floorplan”. This provides an overhead photographic view of each level of the property. The look is admittedly a little rough but the user will certainly get the gist of how the floorplan looks. We have experimented with taking snapshots of floorplans, downloaded a JPEG version of them and then used the image to trace the floorplan in something like Illustrator or Floorplanner.com. We then export or save them as image files and post them to the MLS and our website. If you don’t want to do the floorplan yourself, there is an option to have Matterport create a floorplan for an additional fee.

The workshop has other features that we frankly haven’t had time to tap into like Virtual Reality settings and the ability to measure rooms. We are also experimenting with using the guided tour function to create videos. Look for more on this in future articles.

We have had the Matterport Camera for a couple of weeks now and feel like we are just beginning to tap into its potential. This was a great purchase and we can’t wait to do more with it. To see a collection of our Matterport Tours, visit: https://www.springshomes.com/featured-homes

 

 

 

Continue reading
973 Hits

Don't Punish Your Prospects, Entertain Them-Marketing Real Estate Agents through Video

Don't Punish Your Prospects, Entertain Them-Marketing Real Estate Agents through Video

As an independent, boutique, real estate company our greatest asset is our agents. One of our primary responsibilities is to promote our agents. We do this by getting them in front of potential clients.

Real estate buyers and sellers have become protective about sharing their contact information fearing being overwhelm with unwanted communication. This is understandable, some real estate lead conversion programs advocate up to 43 touches!. This means the real estate client can expect a combination of up to 43 emails, text messages or phone calls. Who wants to undergo this type of digital waterboarding?

Since we don't want to subject people to that kind of onslaught, we decided to take the high road. We built our website to showcase our skills, knowledge and personalities. When it came to featuring our agents, photos and a text description weren't good enough. We wanted people to see first-hand the different personalities within our company. The obvious choice for us was video. Video gave us the opportunity to present the agents in a more authentic and natural light. Something you can't do with still images and text.

We thought going to a professional studio would make the process too intimidating. The agents are not actors and we needed them to come across as relaxed and authentic. We decided to do the agent videos ourselves. Our company, was already doing videos of our listings and we had the equipment.

The Setup:

  • We started with lists of questions. Our marketing staff has a great feel for the individual agents' personalities and wanted that to shine through. They put together two sets of questions, one general in nature about real estate related topics and a second more personal list tailored to each agent about their personal goals and hobbies. The questions were written so the agents could answer without a lot of thought and we did not provide the questions to the agent beforehand. We wanted their answers to be genuine and not scripted.
  • We setup in an office. We used seamless white background paper as our backdrop. We flooded the room with light from several "Daylight Equivalent" LED bulbs. You can find these at any home improvement store. We chose this setup because we wanted a very clean and even look. We wanted the agent to pop out and be the focus.
  • We used a full frame mirrorless digital camera with 55mm lens positioned on a tri-pod about 6 feet in front of the agents. We set the focal length to a shallow f2.2. This setting blurred the background and helped keep the focus on the subject. 
  • For the audio, we used a "Blue Microphones-Yeti". We positioned the microphone about 8-inches from the agent's head, just out of the frame. This proximity allowed us to capture their voices in a warm yet realistic manner. The "Yeti" is a nice voice over microphone and has the added advantage of having USB connectivity.
  • We recorded the audio onto a separate track into the computer through the USB input into "Adobe Audition CC". We then merged those tracks with the video clip in post-production using "Adobe Premier CC". Our company uses the "Adobe Creative Cloud" suite but all this can be accomplished with almost any video editing software.

The Interviews

  • Since it was so important for us to keep the focus on the agent we decided to keep the interviewer behind the camera. We used one person to operate the camera and another person off camera asking the questions.
  • The agents were instructed to briefly repeat or summarize the question before launching into the answer. If the answers sounded phony or out of character we would ask them to answer the question again. We were looking for interesting answers not sound bytes. This was difficult at first. It seemed like the agents can up with generic answers quickly. When we pushed they got a little frustrated but the answers were much better. In retrospect, this made the videos much more interesting.
  • During the interviews each agent was asked about what they do outside of real estate. We know that clients often focus on personal elements about the agents. At some point they assume they have real estate expertise but want to know more. So, we decided to share this in the videos as well. Based on the agents' answer to these questions we shot additional footage of them outside of work. For example, one of our agents has a background in Music Education. She teaches and conducts a string group for the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. She mentioned this in her video and many of her clients find this interesting. So, we included footage of her conducting her orchestra.

The Results

We are obviously excited about these videos and so are our agents. We consistently hear from them that a client chose to work with them because of their video. We knew clients would appreciate seeing our agent's explaining who they are in a relaxed setting. Because of this we decided to double down this with a glimpse into the agent's personal lives.

From this we have learned that clients appreciate that kind of transparency. When clients are looking for a Realtor to work with, real estate expertise is important. If that were the only factor there would be no explanation for the number of people that simply "Have a friend in the business". We think that clients are also looking for someone that resonates with their values and lifestyle.

This kind of transparency helps build trust. Trust is of course, essential in a Realtor/Client relationship. In an online environment where buyers and sellers don't want to expose their identity until they have some level of comfort, these kinds of videos go a long way in bringing potential clients to actually reach out to us.

The proof comes at the closing table or in the car while looking at houses. Statements like "We picked you because we watched your video and you're just like us" or "We saw in your video that education is important to you. That made up our minds". Statements like these are music to any marketer's ears but the best part is that the comments are based on who the agent really is. We can't think of a better way to reach out to new clients.

 

Here is a sample of how these videos turned out:

 

Continue reading
707 Hits

Improving Your Winter Real Estate Photos

Winter months create significant challenges for real estate photographers. The days are shorter, darker, colder and sometimes snowy.

Exterior images are the biggest challenge. This is a big deal because this is the primary image for almost every Real Estate Listing create.

Our basic rule of thumb for exterior photographs is to shoot them when the sun is on the front of the property. East facing homes in the morning, west in the afternoons.

This becomes a problem during the winter months when the arc of the sun is further south. During winter, it is not unusual for north and west facing homes to get no direct sunlight on the front of the house. 

Exterior images with no sun on the front of the property result in shadowy or dark images. In some cases when the sun is behind the house extreme lens flare.

wrongtime

In order find the ideal time to take the exterior picture, we use a convenient app. "The Photographer’s Ephemeris". This handy application shows us where the sun will be throughout the day. This app saves us from making unnecessary trips to the property to find the best time for pictures. Here's how it works:

  1. Place the Red Pin in the middle of the scene you want to shoot.
  2. Use the slider underneath the timeline to track the sun's path
  3. Look for full sun on the entire front of the house.
  4. Schedule your photo shoot for that time. It's that simple!

During the winter the Ephemeris often shows us no ideal time (see above). The sun maybe behind the property all day. This creates a real problem if you are trying to get that bright, crisp, even look on your exterior image.

Although "dusk shots" seem like a good alternative, they can feel a little pretentious. Especially on a median priced home. These shots are generally reserved for the "Ultra-Luxury" listings.  

Our solution is to take what we call a “pre-dusk”shot. This is a shot taken just as the sun goes behind the mountains/horizon. We take a set of bracketed images, usually 7 to 9 images. These images are then processed in Photomatix to create a single "Exposure Fusion" image.

Here is a finished "Pre-Dusk" image taken using the following tools:

StoneFence 800

I like this image because it shows the property in the best possible light. This home faces Northwest and never gets full sun on the front during the winter. This technique give us a nice even light so we can get a sense of how the home actually looks. 

I also like the added perspective the drone gives, you get more of a sense of how the Home fits into the neighborhood.

Here’s how I created this image:

  • I used the raw image from the DJI phantom 4.
  • I brought the image into lightroom and output seven bracketed exposures to photomatrix.
  • Once in photomatix I created an Exposure Fusion image. This image is then sent back into lightroom.
  • In lightroom, we make any final adjustments and resize the photo for MLS and websites.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with me (Contact)

Continue reading
2289 Hits

Colorado Charm in Walden Photo Journal

This photo shoot was in the Walden subdivision of the Tri-Lakes area. This is a beautiful area, large lots, plenty of trees and some awesome views. This was a newer home, so there were lots of challenges but at the end we were really happy with the results.

bakersext

The amount of contrast between the light and shadows here on the exterior of the home made us decide to do a 5 bracket tonal compression. It really evened out the image and gave it a natural look.

BakersFarm Entry 

Portrait angled shots are generally difficult to deal with on real estate websites as well as in the MLS. We couldn't resist this one though. As you look back towards the door it is the focal point of the front of the house. 

BakersFarm LivingRoom

This great room living room is was just soaked with sunlight. We wanted to maintain the views of some of the vegetation through the windows while showing the room was warm and open. In order to accomplish this we did a 7 exposure "Fusion" this helped maintain the actual look and feel of the room.

BakersFarm Kitchen 

Once again in the kitchen we used a 7 exposure to give the room a warm and natural look. 

BakersFarm Nook

 

BakersFarm FamilyRoom 2

 

 

BakersFarm FamilyRoomAlt 2

 

bakersdeck

This image was taken from our "drone" we tried to minimize the contrast between shadows and sunlight. We did a virtual HDR image for this one, using RAW files to simulate an actual HDR image. We were not able to get usable brackets because it was windy and the drone was moving all over the place.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to us about our listing services, please contact us or give us a call 719-388-4000

Continue reading
1533 Hits