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  • Breaking Into Shooting Property Video


    Recently I have been getting a fair number of requests to not only shoot the stills for a real estate listing, but to also offer video. I have shied away from offering this service because my knowledge of video is minimal. At best I might be able to tell you where to start and stop the video recording on a camera, but beyond that I am about as green as you can get when it comes to this medium. 


    However, the voices asking for this service I can't ignore anymore because many realtors want to have a single supplier that they can rely on to do both stills and video for them. This makes it much easier to co-ordinate a shoot at a residence than having two different suppliers get onto location at more or less the same time and then deliver their material sometimes days apart. Also, home owners don't want to be inconvenienced with the shoots happening on different days, or spaced too far apart on the same day. What this means is that if I don't learn how to shoot a real estate video the realtors are just going to go and find somebody else who does both. I have to learn it and that learning began in earnest this month. 


    When I walk into a house for the first time there's something in my mind as a photographer that just switches on and I instinctively know where to put the camera to get the kind of images I know will appeal to the viewer. I've done this hundreds and hundreds of times so it's almost second nature now. But with video it is a completely different animal. Your job now as a video producer has less to do with showing a space in 2 dimensions and more to do with showing how a space works. You're also trying to impact a "feeling", so it's not all about super wide angles, details become focal points too. The camera has to move in ways that make the space come alive. Videographers talk about things like parallax orbits, pans, focus pulls, dollies, pedestals and a myriad of other terms that photographers will find foreign, in order to make their films do the talking about spaces. 


    This past week I got my first audition at making a short film of a house I had just shot the stills for. The realtor also used a professional videographer, but they would prefer to use me for both services, so this was kind of an acid test. For the video I used the same camera I use for stills, namely the Panasonic G9 with the outstanding Leica 8-18mm 2.8-4.0 zoom lens. I borrowed a Zhiyun Weebill Lab gimbal from another photographer I know and after many hours of trying to figure out how to use it, I eventually got balanced and kind of doing what I wanted it to do. 


    Shooting the video took me about 30 minutes, but the editing in Da Vinci Resolve 18 was more like 4 hours (mostly because I had to watch tutorials in between just to figure out how to do things like speed ramping and slow-mo's. While my camera can indeed shoot 4K at 60FPS, my little 2018 Mac Mini is not comfortable working with files that big, so I shot in 1080p at 50 FPS using Auto ISO. 


    Here's the result, followed by some of the stills I produced. 



















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    I don’t tend to watch a lot of real estate videos, so I’m not sure what to expect.  One thing that stuck out to me was the difference in exposure when cutting between videos and still frames.  Given your preference for stills, you could make use of “Ken Burns effect” - panning and zooming across a still frame to emphasise a point in that frame.  Just wondering and I’m not sure if it will work, but would it be possible to use “perspective correction” to add rather than remove perspective and stop the “Ken Burns effect” looking too flat.


    If real estate is going to be your main business for now, another thing to look into is 3D models.  The older way of achieving this was a technique called photogrammetry, effectively stacking a series of photos each taken from a slightly different position.  Nowadays there are a number of 360 degree cameras from manufacturers such as go pro which may simplify this a bit.  There are also things you can do in this field with late model iPhone pro which have a LiDAR sensor.

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    Thanks for the feedback, Chris. Much appreciated. Yes, I thought about the differences in the exposure and the agents also mentioned it. The reason for this is that the stills are HDR and the video is shot on a standard colour profile and not given any treatment in Resolve. As I get more experienced with this I will experiment with colour grading the footage a bit. 


    One of the other services I will be providing for this client is exactly what you mention, in the form of Matterport 3D scans of the interiors. They are amazing, but require some expensive hardware, which the client will provide. 


    I have 4 shoots scheduled today, 3 including video. Didn’t sleep much last night! 

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