5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a 3D Virtual Tour Photographer
Updated: Jul 10
I've seen a lot of companies popping up out of thin air that offer 360 and 3D tours to their clients. Which is great, 3D is the future! But beware and be educated about this new technology. Don't be mislead by some of the confusing terminology that is out there.
Now more than ever, especially due to COVID-19, restrictions on how and where we can do business have severely limited us to our options. Not only is 3D a safe alternative to physically being somewhere in person but it is also a more time and cost effective marketing opportunity.
FYI: Realtors aren't the only ones using 3D/360 Tours.
During times of social distancing many businesses are looking for creative ways to continue to connect with their audience and customers. This is where 3D comes into play. Venues, historical sites, educational facilities, community spaces and many other businesses are choosing to go 3D, not only for the safety aspect (social distancing) but for the unique branding and virtual communication opportunities as well.
So what do you need to know BEFORE hiring a 3D Virtual Photographer?
I'll tell you..
1.) What quality does your 3D/360 Service Provider guarantee?
Nothing sucks more than hiring a sloppy contractor. Seriously. So do your research! Go on potential 3D/360 Virtual Tour Providers websites, go look up their Instagram or Facebook account, and start simple. Look for typos in their publications, this will tell you if they have attention to detail or are just flying by on the seat of their pants. Make sure they speak your language, literally and figuratively. I cannot express how frustrating it is to do business with someone who you literally cannot communicate with. Avoid the headache and make sure that you're both on the same page and that they cater to your specific industry. Ex: If I was a realtor, I would not go to a 3D company that focuses on construction and laser mapping. I would look for a quality 3D provider in my area that works specifically in the Real Estate industry. This may seem like a "duh" moment, but always do your research to know exactly what and who you are signing up with.
Once you've established that the 3D/360 Tour company's primary representation of their brand is up to par with how you would want them to represent YOUR brand, it's time to check out their work. Compare and click through all of their available 3D/360 Tours in their portfolio to make sure you're content with their quality of work. If you're not impressed, move on. Never settle for mediocre.
Some 3D Tour providers advertise that they offer 3D Tours, but what they are really delivering is a 360 Tour.
2.) What is the difference between 3D and 360?
Essentially 3D Tours are what they say they are, 3-Dimensional; they bring depth to the tour as if being seen by the human eye, whereas 360 Tours are a bunch of 360 panoramic photos stitched together to imitate a sense of immersion for the viewer.
Both 3D and 360 tours can create the illusion to make the viewer feel as if they were inside of the virtual space and not just something they are seeing on a flat screen. Especially if you are viewing the tour in a VR headset. Although 3D executes the experience more effectively by allowing the user to interact with and maneuver to almost anywhere within the virtual space instead of just jumping from spot to spot like in a 360 tour.
For example, Zillow 3D Home advertises that their tours are 3D although in reality they are just a bunch of 360 degree images that are stitched together that allow visitors to jump from room to room. #not3D
Pros: Clients can create 360 tours from their cell phone, or 360 camera. They are budget friendly, and give a more immersive experience than 2D photos. You can capture with almost any 360 camera and there are more hosting platform options.
Cons: It is not truly 3-Dimensional. Depending on the quality of the tour, there is a chance that you will not see the floor directly above or beneath you, which does not give an accurate representation of the space. There are also frequent misalignments that can be seen inside of these tours. The quality of the 360 imagery frequently seen in 360 tours are far inferior to the imagery produced by 3D cameras. You jump from room to room with little frame of reference, which makes it difficult to conceptualize the entire property.
See images below from a published "Zillow 3D Home" Tour:
3D Tours: Pros: When it comes to 3D Tours you can expect to have a fully immersive experience, choose your navigation path to freely move the space about as you please. 3D Tours allow the viewer an opportunity to interact with elements inside of the 3D Tour such as images, videos, text, links, contact info, and more. The fan favorite of 3D Tours is the dollhouse view, which allows you to get a fully conceptualized overview of the entire property. You can even insert 360 images into the 3D Tours so that visitors can get an idea of what is happening outside and not just inside. Click here to see Matterport 3D features in action. These superior features limit questions about where certain points of interest are located, thus saving the viewer and potential client valuable time. 3D tours can also create a deeper emotional connection to the space from the exceptional experience it gives the viewer. "About 55% of survey respondents say they’d even consider buying a property sight unseen if there was a 3D tour available in the online listing." (Sources listed at the bottom of this blog.)
Cons: They tend to be more expensive than 360 Tours. They require a monthly hosting fee to be published for viewing. May take longer to capture data when on site compared to a 360 camera.
See images below from a published 3D Tour created with a Pro2 camera from Matterport:
3.) What camera(s) are you utilizing?
The most underrated question: "What camera do you use?". There are many 360 cameras on the market right now, but not all of them are up for the job of creating a stunning 3D Virtual Tour.
No two tours are a like.
Can you tell the difference between these two dollhouses?
The top model was captured with a Matterport Pro2 camera, as where the bottom model was captured with a Ricoh Theta Z1, although both are processed by Matterport.
The difference between these cameras is about $2500 (Pro2: $3500, Theta Z1: $1000 - Not including all of the hardware, software, and monthly Matterport hosting subscription fee)
The Pro2 was specifically designed for 3D capture and to be used with Matterport's hosting platform only. Click HERE to see the quality of a Matterport Pro 2 Virtual Tour of the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The Theta Z1 is a 360 camera captures 360 photos and video which can also be used with Ricoh's own apps/software as well as exported to your computer. It is also compatible with Matterport's software, but lacks top quality for 3D Virtual Tours. See example video below to view the quality of this 3D Virtual Tour captured with a 360 camera:
Both are considered a Matterport 3D Tour, but were captured with different cameras. So to clarify: a handful of 360 cameras can be utilized with Matterport's software to create a virtual tour that navigates like a 3D Tour, but at a lower quality and price then an actual 3D Tour camera like Matterport's Pro2.
Ask your Virtual Tour provider if they use a 3D camera or a 360 camera to capture the data for your tour. You'll know if they say 360 camera that you may receive a lower quality asset compared to a 3D camera. And if they cannot tell you what camera they are using or explain the difference, run. Don't waste your time, go find a real expert who can deliver quality 3D Tours for you. Your time is more valuable than that.
4.) Is the 3D/360 Tour design flexible?
Make sure you know if you're able to make revisions or edits to the 3D Tour after it's been processed. It is understandable if and when your business changes or your client wants to edit out that ugly hole in the ceiling..but make sure these options are available to you if needed.
Essentially anything inside of a space that is captured with a Matterport compatible camera will be seen in the final 3D Tour. There are only a few that can stage empty Matterport 3D models (RoOmy & VRMP), and it is nothing nearly as easy as the 2D photoshop some of us are used to.
The short answer to the question, "Can I make changes to my model after it's complete?", is not really. What you see is what you get. Although you can edit the functionality of the tour by adding mattertags, and various tour overlays. See below for examples of Matterport 3D Tour customization:
If your provider is utilizing a Pro2 camera you may want to ask them if they will provide you with the MatterPak Bundle which includes point cloud files that can be used in 3D design software outside of the Matterport Hosting portal. This is the only way you can "own" the data from a Matterport 3D model.
5.) Who do I contact if I have an issue with or need customer support for my 3D Tour?
Some 3D/360 companies contract their camera operators out, so sometimes the person who scans and collects the data for you is not the person who you will need to contact in case something goes wrong. Make sure you know the proper pathway to troubleshooting any issues that may arise before you sign up.
BONUS QUESTION: Are there any hosting fees associated with my 3D Tour?
You may be caught off guard by hosting fees when it comes to 3D Tours and marketing. It takes a lot of data to generate 3-Dimensional virtual atmospheres, and somebody needs to host that information. In order to have a unique and technologically forward approach to your marketing strategy you may have to spend more, but in the long run you're ahead of everyone else not utilizing this amazing and effective virtual solution. When you spend smart, you are actually saving money!
Let us know if you found this blog helpful! If you have questions or want to know more about a specific topic, drop us a line: info@BirdsEyeVR.com
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