I have been an SEO expert for many years and have actually begun a business based on finding clever ways to keep a customer on your home page for as long as possible, with engagement and conversions being the key attributes we want to optimize.
The Solution – A virtual tour
So how about this! A 360 virtual tour sounds like a waste of time right? (Wrong) I mean, why show off my shop? Let me explain something. It’s the best way to gain instant trust based on what they discover. People can literally walk your floors virtually and get a really good visual idea of your shops’ landscape. They are more than certain about what they saw, no words can express the visual discovery they experience. In doing so they might stay as long as anything from 2 minutes to well over 15 minutes, showing it to friends or colleagues, etc.
Improve your visibility with Google, and your customers
The other cool thing is that you can now link your panoramic tour with Google My Business! People can walk into your shop straight from the map location.
It makes perfect sense to embrace a new method of gaining trust, building engagement, and educating your potential client about your brand very early on in the discovery/interest stage.
Verified Feedback – it really works!
One of our clients with whom I have had the pleasure of working with since 2003 (longest client relationship) said that once we uploaded their virtual tour, people started to book specific rooms, based on what they discovered. This put a lot of decision making back into the customer’s hands, who now had the ability to choose and compare each room before booking confidently.
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Every year more 360 cameras flood the market, there are so many to choose from. It becomes quite a search to see what products are okay for beginners, and which ones produce decent results, bordering on a professional level and above. I’ve always been a bit fussy about quality. If it impresses me, it’s definitely going to turn other’s heads as well. 360 panoramas caught my attention when Google Street View first made its appearance many years back. I often played around with cell phone pictures and learned how to stitch photos together using Paint Shop Pro, even though the EXIF data was wrong, Ii still enjoyed looking at the results. To date, I still do not yet own a 360 camera. The reason is that up til now the price for professional-level quality was exceptionally high. But recently products have been dropping in price as newer and more advanced models started to appear on the market.
The Best Professional Kit
There is much debate over which is the best camera to use for panoramic quality vs price. There are expensive options like the Insta 360 Pro 2, which offers the best possible quality for very little time spent. For commercial purposes, the Insta 360 Pro 2 is the solution. It offers true HDR stacking and produces a lifelike image as seen with the eye. Another truly phenomenal feature is its dual-scopic live streaming panoramic video, placing it in a league of its own. Without going into too many technical details, this camera setup is extremely easy to use and optimizes time while giving the best end result. We have our eye on this solution as soon as we have enough production.
Borderline Professional Quality
At this stage, I would say the Theta Z1 and XPhase are hot contenders for still photography. The Theta Z1 is the first 360 camera to utilize 1-inch sensors, which captures a lot more detail then it’s former model, the Theta V. The Theta Z1 will soon be one of our tools and will be happy to show anyone interested in learning more about this amazing camera. I need to remind you that this is a great camera for high-quality stills, and is aimed more at the still photography market. There are many mixed feelings about its video quality. I will need to see for myself, but nevertheless, we want it for its HDR quality. We would like to run test the XPhase first to confirm, but it shoots extremely high resolution, better than the previous record folder, the Panono, which previously boasts the highest resolution of 100 megapixels, to a new record of an incredible 200 megapixels!
The GoPro Fusion, Insta360, and Theta V are all decent and deliver a great result for the price. We prefer the GoPro although its post-production editing can take up some time. In my opinion, they fall a dash below professional level and are more suites for capturing personal footage at a decent price, while having fairly decent quality. For ease of use and fairly decent quality, I recommend the Theta V.
But let’s go through a few cameras that have been featuring in 2018 and some newer ones that have made their way onto the 360 arena in 2019.
Insta360 One X – 5.7k 360 video and 18-megapixel photos. It’s excellent and will deliver high quality. What makes it stand out is its excellent stabilization.
GoPro Fusion – stitches as close as one foot away, making it better than the Insta360 One X. At first glance, the GoPro Fusion has a higher dynamic range but is not as sharp as the Insta360 One X. The fusions workflow, however, is a lot more than the Insta 360 One X.
For that one feature, I would go with the Insta 360 One X, for ease of use. Let’s face it, there is nothing more frustrating than having faulty software after filming content.
Note: This article will be updated over time, as I am able to add more information from experience.
Hi Everyone, welcome once again to my website. I would like to take you through the steps of creating a virtual panoramic tour from the beginning to finished product. Hopefully, this article will help everyone understand the concept in more detail.
Surveying The Land
We scheduling a date for the shoot depending on fair-sunny conditions, with preferably no wind, which would be ideal. High winds tend to shift stuff around, so it’s far better to go with little to no wind at all. Our first priority is to get a good understanding of what you would like in the tour and basically what you envisage. I then start formulating ideas and placements of each shot by pinning each area. Sometimes I do dynamic panoramas where two or more panoramas are combined into one. As the time of day changes, so do the panoramas, which add a realistic feel to the tours. I then come back to those pins at various times of the day and take a panorama.
Choosing The Best Time To Shoot
I have found that midday is always best for outdoors, because all shadows are vertical and short, and no long shadows are being cast anywhere. It’s a bit different in-doors, depending on when the sun shines directly into the rooms, I will opt for when there is no visible sunlight shining into the room. I always have a look through all rooms and run through a basic checklist to see that there is nothing out of place and the rooms and grounds are looking good. Once the prepping is complete, it’s then time to start with the photography.
The Photographic Process
I currently use a GoPro 7 because it has HDR (High Dynamic Range) in-camera, so no post-production stacking is required. People often ask me why I haven’t yet bought a camera that shoots a 360 photo in one shot. The answer is because none of them have HDR in-built. There are some high-end cameras such as the Insta 360 Pro range that do, but its price (R150k) is something we are working towards investing in as we move forward as a business. For now the resolution with the GoPro 7 Black is very good, at 22120 pixels in 360 degrees.
Taking the Shot
Each panoramic photograph comprises of 11 photos, taken on a level surface which I achieve with a good quality tripod, that has been stripped and level disk fastened. I always have to be mindful of mirrors, reflections, and shadows, and avoid being captured in any of the photos. It makes the tour look much more professional. I sometimes do more than one shot, curtains open, then curtains closed, and make sure the lights are all on, doors either all open or closed, toilet seats all up or down, all soaps displayed the same in each room, etc. To have that consistency throughout is key to making it looked polished. I also carry backup batteries for all devices and pack extra SD Cards in case one decides to corrupt or ends up 100% capacity.
Night and Day
Often if we do night and day shots for the exterior and grounds, we take the tour up a level with dynamic panoramas. We will need to be accommodated while doing night shots as we prefer not to travel after dark.
Stitching Till the Cows Come Home
All the images need to be stitched, which can sometimes take up to thirty minutes. Most take about fifteen minutes. I make sure they are level and lighting is right throughout. Each panorama is resized as a file process to load faster, but have enough detail to look sharp for web output.
Let the Tour Begin!
We are at the final stages, where I add all the completed panoramas into my virtual tour software. I went all out and got the best one on the market (3D Vista). It is packed with all sorts of features that I have not yet had the chance to explore properly, like live stereoscopic streaming 360 live feeds and stereoscopic panoramas. The tours can take some time to finish because I like to make sure each one is done correctly.
As our last step, I compile the finished panorama and send it to the owner for approval. When everyone is happy with the final version I then send the client a zip file with the tour ready to be added to their website. I am also a seasoned website developer and am able to help add the content for a small admin fee.
If you look at things in perspective, a hotel travel chain all the way through to a self catering unit, someone has spent a lot of money and time put together to create an experience of sorts for guests unknown. It therefore makes perfect sense to want to display your rooms and general facilities with maximum exposure. It’s after all your final product, and when guests book in, it would be really great if they first made a choice based on what they have seen online. Presently most travel destinations do not have panoramic tours. I would like to outline the major advantages of having a tour that helps you and your customers in a few important ways.
Okay, this is the obvious advantage off the bat. But it goes further than that. All your marketing is pointing towards creating a general impression of your business. What better marketing tool, that allows you absolute control of your brand. Most guests like to see the entire room available and also like to take a peak at what the shower/bath situation is all about. At specific points in the virtual tour we can setup calls to action based on impulse bookings, and customers can take advantage straight from the bedroom, or wherever else can want calls to actions to go.
The knock-on effect from having total visibility is that customers spend more time visiting your home page, viewing rooms and navigating. This in turn increases your customers time on page which google uses as one of their primary content quality signals. The longer they stay and interact, the better your position in the search results will appear. What is the average time on site per visitor? The average for websites is 2-3 minutes. With a virtual tour your average time on site may be quadrupled or more.
Often there is a flurry of emails that ensues after a person has expressed interest about a booking date and rooms available. With a virtual tour most of the times clients proclaim that they want a specific room because they liked what they see and wish to stay in there. The advantage of a virtual tour also changes the way your bookings organizers direct customers after enquiring with additions of links and directions to view the options available.
Recently Google have opened a service that allows businesses to connect with their Street View what they call Google Indoors. With our tours we can connect your virtual tour directly to a Google service. Currently we are working toward attaining the acclaimed Google Indoors Partner stamp of approval. Getting listed on Google Street View with Indoors activated will increase your customer base gradually over time.
It makes sense to go the extra mile for your customers and in the process outshine your competitors with something that stands out amongst the rest.
Last but not least, for definite, is trust. Your new virtual tour eliminates all shadows of doubts that you do indeed have all the rooms available and you have them available for all to see. It does change the way a would be customer behaves with your services offered in that they no longer need to do any due diligence. Having a well thought out virtual tour saves you time and allows your customers full access. With building instant trust, along follows more enquiries with less questions.
Website Finally Launched Wow we have finally launched this website. Actually, the site is not yet launched at the time of writing this, but we are not far off the day. I would firstly like to thank Terry for partnering and supplying some of the equipment needed to get up and running. It has been […]
A smiling face, a happy camper… We take utmost care in capturing outstanding photographic panoramas while respecting your premises.
All our projects are photographed, stitched and made into a virtual tour on your premises. There is no waiting for weeks for results.