360 Tours, Video Tours, and/or Virtual Tours – Which Is Your Preference?

December 3, 2006

As I have been surfing around the blogosphere, I’ve noticed an increasing number of multimedia vendors for the real estate industry.  Each of the vendors seemingly has the intent of providing some sort of virtual “showing” of property for online visitors.  I’m unsure is there is a standardized vocabulary for the different approaches so below are my informal categories for the vendors:

360 Degree Technologies: these vendors set up tour spots in popular areas of the properties and have software that “stitches” photographs into a 360 degree panorama.  This panorama can then be directly controlled by the website visitor.  There are a number of commercially available applications using a range of technologies that make the manipulation of the image possible. Normally, there is no narration or music for these types of tours.

Video Tours: The increasing popularity of video capture technology now allows almost anyone to direct , edit, and present high quality movies. The ability to make one’s own property videos or provide this service for others is no exception.  Most video tours have music or narration.

Other Types of Virtual Tours: I’m also now seeing other online technologies that make presentations very similar to videos but use only photos provided by the seller and have either music or narration.

Each approach seems to have advantages and disadvantages.

360 degree tours are normally non-linear in nature allowing the user to “tour” in almost any order.  The user can also pan/zoom and examine details in any fashion that they choose. Disadvantages tend be a barrel type distorsion when the proper type of rectilinear lens isnt used or the software doesn’t properly correct for the distorsion introduced by fisheye lenses.  The user then gets a distorted view of the property and details are not clear.

Video tour advantages tend be in the ubiquity of the user experience with video (it isnt new to most people). Most of the disadvantages tend to center on the fact that video can be very linear – as an example, you might have to see or fast forward past the kitchen  before you see the bedrooms. There are new advances in online video that do allow for cue points to be selected and/or searched but this isnt in widespread use yet. Another disadvantage is in the number of production and post production factors that can adversely impact the quality of the video and/or the user experience.

Other types of virtual tours seem to have the advantage of ease of production which can easily translate into lower cost – basically assemble a bunch of photos in some software and add a bit of motion/music/narration. Disadvantages seem to be be vendor specific or the result of possible limitations in the software used. Low bariers to entry attract a wide range of skill levels and motivations. I’ve seen some demos that closely resemble a good video tour and others that are, well, pretty shoddy. The are also a fair percentage of virtual tour demos that have no motion whatsoever and resemble slideshows more than videos.

Are there others that I missed? Which type of online property tours do you prefer and why?


  1. Hi,

    i prefer the video tours. for me, it seems more “real” than the virtual/panoramic guide.

    I think that could be great (or at least something new) to walk around the apartment with free-move. I mean, like in a videogame, but made it with video content. Sorry if im didnt explain it very well.

    Canal de Noticias

  2. Victor: I wouldn’t agree. Although virtual tours are not fully “free move” at least it gives you the advantage of time independence unlike the regular video. How would you make a presentation of some large area like on 3Dtour.cz – virtual tours with the video tour?

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