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Using synths to advertise realtor listings like stills and virtual tours do

I did a search here for "real estate" and there was one thread from a realtor wanting to use synths in her advertising, but she was asking how to do it with no follow up replies from her about how it went. I'm a real estate photographer and want to use my synths to show off a house just like I do my stills and virtual tours.

My virtual tours link back to my tour hosting website, but the look is clean--branded for the realtor, gives credit to my company, plays easily, not surrounded by the website like our synths are on Photosynth. My stills load on the MLS, realtor.com etc and show just as they should. The looker just clicks through them.

Exactly how would I go about "showing" my synths on a real estate website (not my website, but one accessible to the average customer cruising the realty sites looking for a house like realtor.com). I actually have not come across synths in use, which shows how common they are being used for advertising realtor listings. Or maybe because what I'm asking is impossible to do.
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  • Hello, John,

    You can embed any synth just as you could embed a flickr photo (or album), vimeo or YouTube video, or various panoramas.

    To get the embed code for a Photosynth, look directly below the synth viewer for the Embed <> text and the brackets icon. When the text field displays, you can use [Ctrl] + [C] to copy the HTML code or just right click on it and select copy from the context menu.

    Then, simply paste that HTML code into the appropriate form or page at realtor.com or wherever it is that you would like to share it.

    There are several customizable parts of the embed code such as the height and width of the viewer (measured in pixels) and true|false switches to determine whether you would like the synth to need to be clicked on once before it loads or not and whether you would like it to begin playing through slideshow mode automatically or wait until someone presses the Play icon.

    Note that the HTML element which Photosynth uses for its embed code is the iframe element, so the website that you are pasting the code into must allow you to post iframes. If they don't, please contact their administrator and request that they allow you to embed Photosynths. You may also want to give them the Photosynth team's email address (photosynth@live.com) so that they can talk over the technical details.

    It is also worth noting that to view embedded synths, users must have the Silverlight plugin installed, just as they would need to install the Quicktime plugin to view QTVR panoramas or object movies or install the Adobe Flash or Sun Java plugins to view other panorama viewers, but this shouldn't be a problem since Silverlight is both free and a very small download.

    Please feel free to ask more questions if I didn't answer what you were asking.
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  • I’m confident
    Thanks for replying so quickly. Here's a link to a property I shot. This is how it looks on Realtor.com. The MLS's are realtor-specific sites (each area of the USA has its own local MLS) that show properties in the same fashion, stills, a virtual tour maybe, maybe a link to a video tour. MLS--Multiple Listings Service. Realtor.com is nation-wide.

    When you click on "Featured Tour" it links back to the tour building site but notice how it looks: realtor specific branding, auto starting of the virtual tour if I so choose, no mention of the tour building site (select "Full Screen" at the bottom of the opening page). This wasn't "embedded" onto Realtor.com, it's a link. I "embedded" this tour on my own website. Realtor.com is real specific in their requirements for anyone to be able to upload a tour to their site (we need to sign up for a Picture Path account).

    Who knows what kinds of hoops I'd have to jump through to get some synths onto our local MLS or Realtor.com. I would want it to be as "clean" a link, if possible, as my virtual tour. Like "Featured Synth" or something, but not have it just link back to Photosynth per se, but strictly to a branded link like my virtual tours. Maybe each synth would be in thumbnail form on the left and a looker would click on each one to proceed. I don't know how all the synths could auto-load 'cause it's more of a hands-on experience, viewing the synth. I can't link you to the MLS equivalent because I'm not a realtor.

    Let's keep up this conversation. As it is, it appears I'd have to have a separate website for each property (it's done all the time) and embed the synths there. Which of course is another scenario. Let's discuss the Realtor.com/MLS scenario first. Thanks for your time.

    http://www.realtor.com/realestateandh...

    You can also click on the pics on the right side of the first Realtor.com page (before you click on "Featured Tour") to see other tours I did for the same realtor.
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  • David Gedye (Principal Group Manager) August 06, 2010 17:34
    Hi -- I'm the main Program Manager for Photosynth at Microsoft...

    We've had discussions with various real estate solutions providers around integrating Photosynth into their backend systems and working with the MLS-es. The discussions haven't gone anywhere yet because these companies have got cold feet when they realized that Photosynth isn't a new thing to do with your photos, but a new thing to do with your *camera*, and that it takes practise and time to shoot a good synth. The consensus had been that most agents/photographers would have neither to spare.

    You guys are clearly not in that camp, and if we work together perhaps we can demonstrate to these guys that accomodating more advanced photography options (including but not limited to Photosynth) is in their interest.

    Integration issues aside, I'd love to hear from the real estate photography community about what extra featuers Photosynth needs to show a house well.

    David.
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  • Thanks for your quick reply David. I upload my virtual tours to Realtor.com through a company called "Move". Their agreement with photographers like me is called "Picture Path" and I had to demonstrate that I knew how to produce a suitable virtual tour before they'd let me sign on.

    I talked with a customer service representative at vtsupport@move.com a few days ago and she'd never heard of Photosynth but after our lengthy conversation she agreed to check out Photosynth (specifically some fledgling attempts on my part at real estate-specific synths) and bring it up at their next meeting. She gave me a list of file types for videos (I don't do videos) that included .mov, .qt, .avi, .flv, all manner of mpeg, .wmv, .wmp and others.

    As far as I can figure out, all of our synths necessitate linking back to Photosynth (like my virtual tours link back to my tour provider/hoster). What I'm trying to find out is if (for instance) Realtor.com and other real estate sites would even allow a link back to Photosynth. Under a listing's main picture there is "Featured Tour" or "Featured Video", but alas, no "Featured Synth". I'm working on that!

    As it is, a looker on Realtor.com can click on "Featured Tour" and see a branded-for-the-realtor (unbranded on our local MLS) virtual tour slideshow (in my case) with contact info, short description of the property etc (I'm including a link to one of my examples). Hopefully any link back to a synth would be in like form, not just a Photosynth website page with our synth on it. I confess I haven't tried embedding a synth on my website to see what it looks like.

    I respectfully disagree with your description of a synth as NOT a "new thing to do with your photos" because to me that's exactly what it is. I would fully agree with your description that it takes time and practice to shoot a good synth. I consider myself a very good stills photographer but I take time to use strobes as needed per view. In post processing, blending multiple images and judicious work in Photoshop etc is required to make the best final image. In a synth, I just shoot shoot shoot, there's no time to decently light up each view and certainly no time to decently post process each shot that would make up each individual synth. It's like the coolness factor of the synth trumps ultimate IQ. And, of course, it's all about the dollar bill. My tours don't take much time to come up with (I've already taken and processed the shots for the still for the listing) and it doesn't take that long to put the stills into virtual tour form. And they don't cost me much per tour. After all, that's why my tour provider is in business, to provide virtual tours and they make their money in volume. You guys are Microsoft with fingers in every pie imaginable. Hard to know how motivated you'd be for a real estate-specific market.

    My tour provider charges us per "published" tour we come up with and not by number of views. They actually do their best to get Google to come up with hits to bring in lookers. Notice in the linky I'm provided the tour builder/hosters name is not mentioned anywhere, just a reference to my company as "provided by...".

    So, yeah, there's a big learning curve on how to even shoot a decent synth even for an experienced photographer such as myself. Realtor.com (etc) would need to have a system in place to screen would-be synth uploaders as to their competence. Read: standards to judge a good/bad synth, just like they judge our virtual tour work.

    Check out this linky, then select "Featured Tour". See how it's branded for the realtor etc. Select "Full Screen" at the bottom of the first tour page and check out how high rez the pics look (we send them pics at 1600 on the long side). Would a "Featured Synth" ever look like that? Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

    http://www.realtor.com/realestateandh...
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  • I’m sharing.
    John, I don't want to interrupt your and David's conversation, but I thought that I could at least show you a little of the possibility of an embedded synth.

    Please visit xRez's case study on Sunken Treasures of the Nile to see how they have used embedded Photosynth viewers. They, of course, are not using Photosynth for real estate, but you can see that a Photosynth viewer can be any portion of any page that you wish it to be a part of.

    I assume that you are already familiar with the Fullscreen icon on the far right of Photosynth's row of controls along the bottom of the viewer. Clicking it should enlarge the Photosynth viewer to fill your screen, allowing you to see more of each photo at a time, similar to your featured tours.

    In the case of the primary synth on xRez's page (Stela M) Greg Downing provided Photosynth with JPGs whose resolutions were 5616 by 3744. All of that resolution is available for you to explore by zooming in to individual photos, but the Photosynth viewer is intelligent enough to only download the pixels from the photo that you need in order to display the currently visible portion of the photo at its current size on your screen.

    If that is a little abstract, then here is a video where David explains a slightly older version of that same image streaming technology, called Seadragon. Some details, such as using JPEG2000, are now out of date, but the overall principles at play remain the same.



    Another video that provides a good overview of Seadragon, from when Photosynth was still being built is the talk given by their then-architect, Blaise, at TED 2007. Again, I should point out that some of the things shown, such as zooming into text have not been finished, or rather are not part of Photosynth, but it is a compelling overview of Seadragon and Photosynth that many people walk away from being very impressed. Perhaps if you share it with others, you should caution them from thinking that everything will just link to everything else, but I know that you yourself understand that shooting a good synth takes practise to master.



    I hope that helps clarify the possibilities a little for you.
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  • Paging David Gedye,

    I just got this reply from Move, the Picture Path people (Realtor.com):

    Thank you for contacting Virtual Tour Support. I agree that these are nice tours. In order to be able to use these tours, you will have to find out from Microsoft how to mask the url to show as your domain name instead of photosynth.net. They will show on Realtor.com as a Featured Tour.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused.

    Sincerely,
    Virtual Tour E-mail Support
    Move Inc dba REALTOR.com(R).
    vtsupport@move.com
    1-866-483-4749

    I had linked them to a few of my first attempts at real estate synths. If they think those are nice, wait till I finally figure out what I'm doing.

    However, I would think the url issue is just one of many issues that would have to be addressed, such as quality of the synths Move would allow, etc. All of that I alluded to in a reply I gave above.
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  • David Gedye (Principal Group Manager) August 10, 2010 23:49
    There's a missing piece here, and maybe an opportunity for an enterprising entrepeneur.

    The page http://tours.jgbuildingimaging.com/pu... is a virtual tour experience that uses Flash to put together a range of photo and audio experiences.

    I don't think Microsoft is likely to get into the virtual real-estate tour business itself, but we'd be happy to work with companies who wanted to offer panos/synths within their virtual tours. It sounds like Move itself may not want to be in that business, but appears to be happy to hang on to a URL of some other service provider, and offer it to viewers of realtor.com as a "Featured Tour"

    David.
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