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2D, 3D, Panoramic, oh my! What’s the difference, really?


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Real estate is a visual industry. Words and descriptions play their role, but imagery is the first and foremost tool of any real estate professional.

That’s why it’s important to be fluent in the language of visual marketing. Not all visuals are created equal, and not all visuals are used in the same fashion. Here’s a primer of the imaging tools at your disposal, why to use each one, and how to make them work best for you.

2D imagery – 2D is more commonly known as traditional still photography. 2D is an effective and necessary component in displaying any property. However, they lack context. Often shot with a DSLR or even a smartphone, the use of 2D imagery alone will often present a static perception that’s distorted from reality, making what’s in-view appear better or worse than what’s seen in-person.

When used most effectively, 2D imagery offers a high-quality and easily shareable view. With a well-arranged collection of photos, many of the highlights of a property can be seen but only from a single vantage point. What can result from this lack of transparency is an unreliable gauge of interest for the property.

360 panoramic – These are similar to static 2D photography, but with a twist. This next step in interactive and immersive visuals allows you to feature different rooms and highlights of a property but giving the viewer the ability to “pan” around from that single vantage point.

The use of 360 panoramic images injects an extra layer of spatial context when they’re included. The rotation gives insight into how a room or feature is connected to the rest of the property. Still, this view is limited in that the user-specific areas of interest can’t be investigated more closely and often times come at the expense of higher resolution imagery.

3D virtual tour – The understanding of 3D virtual tours differs greatly from one person to another. Is it a fancy slideshow that goes from room to room? Is it a video that guides you through a property? Is it 360 views stitched together, jumping from location to location?

Ultimately the underlying common denominator is a more immersive and self-navigated experience for the end-user. However, the capabilities, value, and experience can vary just as greatly as people’s understanding of its definition.

A true 3D virtual tour experience involves depth and the data collected in the process of reality capture. The result is a ‘digital twin‘ of a property that can be accessed by anyone, from anywhere, on any device.

It’s important to note that not all 3D virtual tour experiences are created equal. The fluid navigation, resolution, and access to information are all key differentiators. Ask yourself, is the movement natural? Is the image clear? Can I embed other forms of media? Is it easily shared and posted wherever I choose?

Video – Video is everywhere and is among the most engaging assets that are available today. Simple to use and visually appealing, a well-done video can give a quick and impressive look at a property and all its features.

Similar to 2D photos though, the set nature of video doesn’t allow for immersive client experience and can also leave one wondering if the production quality over accentuates their interest in it.

Video is a great way to attract eyes and get clients in the door. There are also options that bridge the static images of a 2D photo and the motion of a video, like a GIF format. Technically a number of photos set in motion, this is another highly-sharable, highly-engaging asset best suited for social media and other marketing purposes.

Matterport 3D™ is an all-in-one, one-of-a-kind platform that offers all these options (including schematic floorplans, measurements, and Mattertags) for uniquely valuable client experience and agent assets.

It’s simple to use and can create valuable efficiencies from your listing presentation to the closing process, including eliminating time from multiple shoots and post-production. Getting your hands on the tools for reality capture begins with a free Matterport account. Sign up to start your True3D experiment and see just how you might customize a 3D virtual tour to best fit your business.

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