In this article, you will learn about the process of creating a virtual tour, from planning and taking photographs to assembling a tour from 3D panoramas.
The first thing to do is to choose the optimal number of panoramas that will make up your virtual tour and their shooting points so as to show the location most fully and informatively.
Next, calculate and take into account all the additional. modifications that will be built into the project (location plan, structured list of panoramas, hints, etc.).
Also, do not forget to consider the following features of the location:
- the complexity of lighting and the presence of mirrors;
- the time at which you can shoot the tour;
- preparation of premises;
- obtaining the necessary permissions for photography from the owners of the premises.
From the above, it will become clear how long it will take to shoot and assemble a 3D tour.
Counting the number of panoramas and choosing shooting points
If the room is not of a complex shape and is not heavily zoned, then you can roughly arrange the shooting points on the floor plan.
When it is not possible to arrange panoramas on the plan, or the room is very large and/or of non-standard shape, there are a lot of panoramas, etc., then in order to coordinate the shooting points, it will be necessary to organize a preliminary departure of the photographer. For the customer, the advantage of this option will be the opportunity to communicate with the contractor live and receive substantive recommendations on the preparation of the premises.
Shooting time selection
Choose the shooting time based on the patency and openness of the location.
The easiest way is to rent residential apartments, the most difficult thing is squares and crowded establishments during working hours.
Accordingly, plan shooting residential real estate with the expectation of the most attractive lighting. And the time of shooting commercial premises is better to plan for non-working hours, taking into account the peculiarities of the business. If this is not possible, then choose the interval so that there are the fewest people in the room – early morning or lunch, depending on the theme.
Choosing a photographer for shooting 3D panoramas
First of all, choose a photographer who specializes in panoramic photography – there are too many small nuances in it, which in total make a very significant impact on the final result.
Calculate the duration of the shooting, taking into account the following points – since they eat up the bulk of the time:
- the photographer needs to inspect the location (if there was no prior departure);
- time to prepare equipment (assemble / disassemble, fold / unfold, set up);
- time for the final preparation of the premises – in most cases, it is required to remove some things that were missed during cleaning, or that they managed to decompose after cleaning. It is also often required to slightly move or align the furniture relative to the panorama shooting points;
- time for shooting panoramas – the average time for shooting one 3D panorama under normal room lighting and shooting with a SLR camera is about 5 minutes, but the darker the room, the longer the shutter speed and, accordingly, the time for one panorama may take more;
- room lighting – in a room with subdued light, shooting will take about twice as long as with normal room lighting – check with the photographer you plan to work with for more details;
- the patency of the premises – in crowded areas it is rather long and problematic to shoot panoramas, since you have to wait for people to leave the frame.
Shooting 3D panoramas
- In addition to lighting conditions, the time of shooting and the quality of panoramas are affected by what equipment the photographer uses.
- These can be portable 360° cameras – a panorama is made in one frame. In this case, the shooting takes place as quickly as possible, but the quality of such panoramas is often depressing;
- Professional equipment – SLR cameras or equipment for scanning rooms – takes from 5 to 20 frames with alternately panning and tilting the camera. The image quality in this case is much higher, but it also takes more time.
- Choose equipment based on the task and budget. Portable cameras can be used in situations where you need to make a lot of panoramas in a short time, and the quality is not important for the customer. If the quality of the image for the customer is in the first place, you will have to use professional equipment.
The main difficulty at the shooting stage is moving objects: people, cars, clouds.
If a lot of people pass near the shooting point, then you have to take several takes for each frame to remove people later at the stage of assembling panoramas. It’s the same with cars.
Very unpleasant moment – partly cloudy. To obtain a high-quality panorama, all frames taken must have the same lighting, otherwise the borders of adjacent frames will be visible when merging. Due to fast moving clouds on a sunny day, sometimes you have to shoot several takes of the same panorama to avoid problems in post-processing.
The rest of the shooting does not pose any particular difficulties and
takes quite a small part of the time of the total time spent on creating a tour.
Stitching 3D panoramas from captured photos is a completely technical step. Assembly can be carried out in fully automatic, semi-automatic and fully manual modes.
Automatic gluing mode
This mainly concerns portable 360° cameras. Panorama stitching occurs automatically in the camera itself immediately after shooting or in the software that comes with this camera.
A draft panorama project is assembled automatically, after which it is finalized manually:
Defects of non-ideal assembly are corrected;
- Vertical alignment;
- The floor is glued.
- In my opinion, this is the most optimal gluing option – the program does a significant part of the work for us, and after making manual corrections, we get a perfectly assembled panorama without joints.
Fully hand glued
It is used in difficult cases when there are few high-contrast, detailed objects in the captured photographs and the automation cannot find fiducial points – markers that the program places in order to connect the same parts of the image on adjacent frames. In most cases, these are rooms with plain walls and ceilings.
Processing 3D panoramas
In terms of the complexity of processing panoramas, even interior photographs overtake.
Panoramas have the widest viewing angle and all light sources and underexposed areas fall into the frame, because of this, the image has too much variation in brightness.
Almost always in the panorama there are light sources of different temperatures, for example, a window with cold light and a chandelier in the living room with warm light – this creates some difficulties in processing – the light mixes and distorts the white balance.
Processing of already glued 3D panoramas consists of the following steps:
- Correction of brightness and contrast – the balance of brightness of the image is leveled and expanded, it is made more natural. Light sources should not turn into light spots, and detail in the shadows of the image should not suffer either;
- Color correction is basically equalizing the temperature of various light sources;
- Retouching – for the most part, this is the removal of wires from electrical equipment and defects from the natural wear and tear of premises during operation – scratches, abrasions, stains, dust, debris, etc.
Assembling a 3D tour
The first way is easy to learn
Use of programs specially created for assembling 3D tours with a graphical interface, such as Panotour or Pano2VR. The programs are quite intuitive and creating a tour in them does not require programming skills. The downside is the high cost of such programs. The price of the Panotour Pro 2.5 license at the time of this writing is 399 €.
The second method is difficult, but at the same time budgetary and with wide functionality.
“Manual” assembly of the tour on the KRPano engine – requires prior training and programming skills, and is also not free – the cost of the license at the time of this writing is 129 €. This is a more time-consuming, but at the same time more budget option with wide functionality. Assembling the tour directly in KRPano provides more options for upgrading and optimizing the 3D tour.
Tour assembly process
- Adding 3D panoramas;
- Adding a menu and control panel:
- Standard template;
- Individual design;
- Arrangement of hotspots – icons (usually arrows) for moving from one panorama to another;
- Setting the initial view direction in panoramas when choosing it through the control menu;
- Setting the direction of view when switching to a panorama by hot-spot;
- Adding additional modifications.
Publication of 3D tour
To your site
This is the simplest option, the tour is either embedded in a separate page, or a button / link is created to open the tour in a new window. You can also read a separate article on how to correctly publish a 3D tour on your site.
To the portal with virtual tours
It depends on the portal, on some you can upload self-assembled 3D tours, while on others you will have to separately upload panoramas and assemble the tour using the site’s web interface.
A virtual tour is a complex service, ideal for advertising residential and commercial real estate, as well as the services of various professionals associated with it. The main difficulty for customers is the choice of a contractor due to the large number of stages of creating a tour and their complexity.