As of this writing, 2/3 of our main photography staff has already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with both shots, and the remaining 1/3 has already received the first dose. We have been extremely cautious and followed the company's COVID-19 policy for the last year, and fortunately no one has contracted COVID, but after spending a huge portion of our time and energy on getting PPE, cleaning, and preparing for a safe photo shoot (at both our commercial and residential clients), we are simply overjoyed that we have now gotten all of our field photography staff on the way to being fully vaccinated. It's a huge relief and we are also glad to share this news with our clients!
That said, out of an abundance of caution our staff will continue to wear masks and gloves for photography and booties when requested. We always put the health and safety of our staff and clients at the top of our list - and we are relieved that we made it through this year without any major COVID outbreaks within our vicinity. We would like to keep it that way! While the vaccine isn't a fail-safe against exposure it does provide us with a little more peace of mind, especially since already with the first dose it proves to be very effective against the virus.
We have also heard that people can sign-up to be notified here for getting an appointment to receive a dose via the waiting list, where they are offering to give that shot to an alternate if they have an excess of vaccinations at the end of the day. To find out more and to sign-up for alerts go to the MyTurn website at: https://myturn.ca.gov
A couple of weeks ago we were going to be on location shooting a Zillow 3D Home Tour when we decided we would go the extra mile and shoot a "how-to" video for the Zillow 3D Home tour app. We have talked-up the Zillow 3D Home Tours for a while, because we believe they provide such a tremendous value for sellers and agents to get additional boost on the Zillow platform and in the app. Zillow has a built-in audience, so there's no issue about discoverability on the platform like we have with other tours links getting lost or buried far down the page on other listings.
The video runs about 17 minutes, and we walk you through exactly how you would create a Zillow 3D Home Tour if you were in the field and using the highest-end camera that is currently available and compatible - the Ricoh Theta Z1. We have shot with the Ricoh Theta V, and we can tell you from experience that there's no comparison between the Z1 and the V, so if you're going to be using this app regularly, you should definitely spring for the Z1. There are some really useful tips and tricks for shooting like a pro in the video; check it out and let us know what you think!
by Emily Olman
CEO & Chief Photographer, Hopscotch Interactive & AUREA Award Ambassador and Community Chair
For the last two years I have been attending the AUREA Award at Europapark in Rust, Germany. First, as a jury member and then as the AUREA Ambassador. When the time came to look at the third annual conference in 2021, we had all hoped that an in-person event would be possible. Perhaps not for a large group we thought, but eventually we realized even hosting a small group in person became too much to imagine when the park itself had shut down in November to outside guests. And then we, as professionals in the XR industry, were finding ourselves having to take an in-person event truly virtual — was it a test, or a chance to prove ourselves? Was it a matter of principle to have XR elements in the program? Was it also something that might add to the experience in unknown ways that might even be better than, or replace certain elements that we had thought could only happen in real life? These were just a few of the questions that faced us as we led up to the 3rd annual AUREA Award which took place from January 22-23, 2021.
Fortunately the partners, including our location host, Europapark and the Mack family (Michael Mack, Europapark, Marcus Ernst, Europapark, Mack Next and Mack Media as well), were able to quickly pivot to an online-only event. And, with the help of Betahaus and iConomy Partners (praise to Clark Parsons, Felix Styma, Alex Magaard, and Friedbert Pflüger, the transition from all in-person to all-virtual became something not only imaginable, but really, really exciting. In fact, as I gave my talk at the beginning of the event announcing the new AUREA Award Community, it was true when I said that of the hundreds of invitations and events that have come my way over the last year this is the only one where I dedicated the full two days time to being present for everything. I care about the people, the community, and I have a connection that makes me want to participate in a significant way. Normally I would take about 10 days to fly to Europe, battle Jetlag, prepare my talks and the run-of-show prep with the team, and then maybe have to turn right around and come back and have the reverse Jetlag all over again. This time, I saved myself the travel, but uncertainties remained, would I have that same level of immersion? What could I do to really feel like I was there?
So as I thought about this, it became very evident that spending as much time in VR during the conference was going to be super important for me while trying to create presence while still being physically in California. We therefore planned the event so that on the first day we would have a lot of programming in Hopin (a platform for virtual conferences that is already adopted as the new standard in Europe) and some prerecorded content, but on the second day, I hosted a networking session with Amy Jupiter in Altspace, with a special set from DJ Keyframe just for the event. Hopscotch Interactive Media Editor Fanny Garcia was in attendance as well, so we got to hang out, and also meet a lot of other people from the show, and it really felt like we were attending something - and that we weren't actually still just in our offices zooming away. About 30 minutes into it, it was apparent that the networking session was so successful that we realized some people didn't want to go back to Hopin yet, and so we scrambled a bit and then got the live feed of the AUREAs streaming into our venue in Altspace so that we could watch the show in VR. That was something later we thought we should have done from the beginning, but we thought about it only in the moment. And, I have to say that Victoria Grant of Making XR was an amazing developer to work with, because she literally had 1000 things happening at once and just to get the Altspace venues to be as great as they were took many, many iterations and lots of testing together in the platform to get it right. The fact that she got the hack for the livestream operating as quickly and as well as she did, just showcased to me her many talents.
While the majority of the second day's events continued in Hopin and were also being live-streamed in VR, I ended up staying in gear for the majority of the second day and that continued through the pitches, through the entertainment, and even through to the piece de resistance which was Ain der Machine performing the clips from the panel that I had been on from the day before with Jury Chair Kathleen Cohen, Amy Jupiter (Honored Guest and Speaker), and Cathy Hackl (Jury Member). The video above gives you a glimpse into what he performed live with his body as an instrument and all of the live video mixing he was able to do...we were all blown away and I got to experience becoming a "meme" for a minute as the quotes of the day were all threaded into the performance. He was spectacular.
Fast-forward to the awards and the moving remarks by Michael Mack, CEO of Europapark, and Friedbert Pflüger, of Pflüger International and iConomy Foundation, and there was certainly a tremendous feeling of pride for what we had all accomplished and also that we could feel so connected as a community even though we were apart in distance. I really truly feel like I was there, and being in VR and seeing the "telecast" streaming of the performances and everything else really brought me to this place of virtual presence.
And in years past we have partied after the show in one amazing venue or another at Europapark such as Rulantica or at the Palast, but being able to meet with jury members, attendees, and other XR friends afterwards was really a mind-blowing and unique experience that I'll never forget. I loved that Athena Demos and Doug Jacobson from BRCvr (who had just won in the category of CREATIVE for Burning Man in VR) joined us - via Mexico, and that Frederic LeCompte from the Jury & a previous winner joined us via Paris, plus Kathleen Cohen, Chris Bellaci, and many, many more. The tremendous effort that Keyframe put in with DJ Celeste to premier the Club Zenith for our event and to have her perform live in Tribe VR was also truly amazing.
So, I came away with the feeling that it's absolutely possible to take a community and to establish it in a meaningful way as a hybrid or completely virtual entity - and that even though I didn't get to go to Europapark in person and ride the VR coasters, I got to be there and create something magical with my friends, and to make new friends (Hopin speed networking is INSANELY AWESOME), and so there are actually things that make a virtual conference even better than one IRL, though I know it's hard to imagine. And I think it's super important to seek every ounce of positivity we can in spite of all of the challenges this year. I also didn't come home with Jetlag, even though I was "there", so while I'll look forward to hanging with everyone in the wave pool at Rulantica again soon, I have no doubt that we elevated the AUREA Award conference in such a profound way, and that this is just the beginning.
Note: to join the AUREA Award Community friend me on LinkedIn and ask to join. We are a growing community of XR professionals who care about the future of XR and it's place in entertainment and reimagining spaces.
Since the April 10, 2020 guidance around photography being explicitly allowed an essential service for the real estate industry, there has not been a question as to whether or not our services are permitted in the state of California. This remains unchanged as of today. However, on 12.4.2020 the state has announced it will be starting to put shelter-in-place or "stay-at-home" orders back into the five largest Bay Area counties as well as elsewhere in the state through January 4, 2021.
While there is no explicit change in the guidance at the state's COVID 19 official information website, we will be monitoring the situation closely and may not be able to perform services in all situations out of an abundance of caution and we reserve the right to review all potential shoots on a case-by-case basis. It is important that our clients and customers know that our first goal is to the health and well-being of our staff and community, and so we will work closely with you to see if the project will be permissible under the current guidelines.
When in doubt, we will err on the side of cautions, but at this time there are no additional restrictions that we can find which impede our ability to do our work to continue to provide real estate photography services and virtual tours. To review the Hopscotch Interactive COVID Policy, please click here.
Hopscotch Interactive is excited to announce that it has hired Fanny Garcia as its new Media Editor to support quality control and media assets for our clients including still photography, Matterport photography, and Zillow3D Home tours. She will be supporting Emily Olman, Chief Photographer, and other members of the team with consistency of deliverables and making sure that everything meets and exceeds client expectations.
Fanny Garcia is a first generation Salvadoran-American artist from Los Angeles, based in Oakland, CA. She is an Army veteran who served from 2010-2013. After leaving the military she received a BFA in Photography from California College of the Arts in Oakland.
She has an enormous passion for music, art, travel, and animals. On any given day, you can find her editing away images on her computer.
Five years after starting Hopscotch Interactive, CEO and Founder Emily Olman sits down with young entrepreneur and rising tech journalist Jessica Beth Corr for an interview on her entrepreneurship journey and the beauty of saying yes in the face of uncertainty. Read the full interview, as well as several other interviews with other tech leaders at https://www.jessicabethcorr.com
If you are new to virtual tours, or are wondering why there is something called Matterport 3D and Zillow 3D, you are hardly alone. The names of these different virtual tour offerings sound a lot alike, but they differ vastly in their features!
Over the last several years, Matterport has become the premium virtual tour offering for real estate, but in the Summer of 2019, Zillow launched a competing product to the Matterport 3D virtual tour platform - and named it "Zillow 3D". The Zillow 3D Home Tour is in fact, not at all a 3D tour, but is a series of 360°'s that shot with an iPhone or an iPhone plus 360° camera (for example we use the top of the line Ricoh Theta Z1), and are then manually connected to each other to create a tour flow throughout a property.
Here is what you get with a Matterport 3D Tour:
And with the Zillow 3D Home Tour here are the main differences:
So that's my take on the main differences between the Zillow 3D Home Tour and the Matterport 3D Tour...feel free to comment if you have any questions or want to know more about each tour. Zillow 3D Home Tours start at $150 when booked as a standalone service, or $75 when booked together with other services. Matterport always starts at $250, and is based on square footage.
One final question that I get asked a lot is if I need one or both, and my answer is that standing out on Zillow is often overlooked by agents, and I would definitely not list my own house without putting a Zillow 3D Home Tour on that listing. So, both is the best way to do it, but if the budget is just out there for one tour, then decide what you want to optimize for - the highest fidelity and best imagery in the tour (Matterport), or speed, efficiency, and the most eyeballs on your media (Zillow). It's a tough call, but either way, virtual tours are an essential piece of marketing and not having one is definitely not advised for any listing in the near future!
Twilight or "dusk" photography is one of the many tools that a property marketer uses to create emotion for a property. There is really quite nothing like scrolling through images and then pausing on one that really catches the eye and draws you in. The magic of this imagery is that it has so many colors, so much depth, and it tells more of a story than a traditional HDR still photo.
The prospective buyer will imagine that time of day, or that location with much more emotion when viewing a twilight photo. But, not all twilight photos are created the same, and the ability to work quickly to capture an image at the right time of day requires some skill and agility on the part of your photographer. The standard twilight shoots that we do can begin as early as 4-5pm in the winter, but the longer summer days mean that sun sets closer to 9pm around the summer equinox, which puts a photographer out in the field way past 9pm. This is why traditional twilight photography in the summer can be expensive, and also why it's so powerful - it's exactly the capturing of that late summer evening that makes images completely stand out.
There are actually three different phases to twilight and dawn, and these phases make up the entire time through which a photographer is working. In the civil twilight, this is the time just after the sun dips below the horizon, we can still see quite a lot, but all of the hard and long shadows from just before sunset have disappeared. This phase has a lot of light and is a beloved time to shoot patios and exterior spaces that are not well-lit with landscaping lighting.
Just after that we have the nautical twilight, which is when the rays are still lighting up the sky, but it's not quite as bright, and then we have astronomical twilight, which is the last phase and the darkest. We shoot typically through the entire duration of twilight to capture different images and to get the mood exactly how we want it for a shoot. But, again, this takes patience to start shooting at just the right time and it also takes the ability to move quickly through your setups. Typically in a twilight shoot we will have a loop of images that we know we want and we will do that loop 2-3 times to make sure that we have captured the different locations on the shot list throughout all three phases. You can see this in the slide show below.
But, not everyone who wants a twilight photo can afford a full twilight photo shoot which can add another $150-$600 to a photo shoot. That is where the twilight treatment or dusk treatment comes in, and at a much lower price-point, a similar effect is achieved. Sky replacement has become standard in photography, so much so, that we hardly think anything of it. And, it saves time both for the photographers being on site and getting images back and processing later, as well as money since we are able to use the same photoshop and sky replacement techniques to achieve a beautiful photograph from a daytime photo. It also enables photographers to have amazing results even when we have just a foggy evening and the sky enhancement adds just that something extra to the shoot.
Twilight treatment is therefore now within reach of many, many more people, so why don't they use it? I think it's because some folks think that the twilight photo is much like a virtual tour and really the domain of a more high-end home. I think that while this used to be true, it no longer needs to be the case, and for a photograph treatment in the $25 range, it makes so much sense to add it to a marketing package. When there is budget for a traditional shoot, then it makes so much sense, and the authenticity of the image is amazing - showing off the landscape lighting and all of those other property accents that you would not otherwise be able to see until the evening. But, for many properties where the exterior lighting is not as extensive, then a well-done twilight treatment can still do wonders at an accessible price-point and help buyers make that emotional connection.
Below, a series of photographs taken throughout twilight show how the light at a property changes during the shoot, and what the final results are when you finish merging and editing the images.
On July 14th I had the honor of speaking with the Immersive Tech Africa meet-up members, hosted by Arome Ibrahim, the founder of Immersive Tech Africa, and other members of the African XR network. Arome is based in Lagos, Nigeria and is working hard to bring XR to Africa and is especially interested in XR for Real Estate and the use of Proptech to create new opportunities for African companies. It was a great opportunity to share my insights into the use of XR for real estate and to make some great new friends. Prof. Eugene Ohu, who this week received a huge grant of $234,000 to pursue research on the impact of XR for Education from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, also spoke about his work. Prof. Ohu is the senior Lecturer and Director of the Virtual Human Computer Interaction Lab at Lagos Business School. Other speakers included Priscilla Koukoui, founder of OviSquare, based in Sydney, Australia, Dale Deacon who is the R&D Director of EPIC: Research and Development in Johannesburg South Africa and a Guest Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, and Onyinye Enyioha, Founder of TotalView, a real estate virtual tour platform that looked great during the presentation. I look forward to staying in touch with everyone as we keep growing the XR community around the world!
On June 25th I participated in a webinar with the Commercial Real Estate Professionals Network discussing the state of the art of virtual tours and virtual visits for commercial real estate. The event drew professionals from the Bay Area's CRE world, and we discussed a wide range of topics, including 360° photography, 3D photography, and documentation. I am working on some new concepts around my 3D philosophy for documenting a property as part of creating a virtual representation of the space to be used for marketing, as a visual and physical reference, and also as part of the property's digital archive which is something that many properties can benefit from long after the leasing cycle is over. I will be putting these thoughts into a future blog post or article, but it's been an exciting and eye-opening few months working with CRE and documenting their spaces for a variety of purposes. I am looking forward to expanding upon the services that we offer to CRE professionals, and it seems like in the post-COVID-19 world, we are going to need these services more than ever. I appreciated being a part of the panel and was joined by my esteemed colleagues Steven Donaldson of Radiant Brands, Anthony Shell of Avison Young, and Mike Hoppe of Geopogo. I am looking forward to continuing the exploration of this work and how it benefits CRE customers and I will post the YouTube video of the chat as soon as it's ready! -Emily Olman