You may have viewed some of the 1000's of real estate videos on HDhat.com and video search site at HDhathomes.com and noticed that many seem like the camera is almost floating through the house. The first thought may be " now thats a Pro with a fancy $1500 stabilizing system and a high end camera", but in fact all the videos on HDhat.com were filmed without any fancy stabilizing system. In most cases the camera was simply handheld by an agent and filmed using the video setting on an off shelf point and shoot camera!
SO HOW DO THOSE TOURS FILMED WITH A HANDHELD CAMERA GET SO SMOOTH?
The process is called video stabilization. This "stabilization" of video clips is a post production stabilizing/editing feature of many software products. So I wanted to talk in this post a bit about this process, and more importantly why it is so important to start the process by shooting your footage as wide as possible.
Picture a video as a series of images i.e. 30 frames per second(fps) would be the equivalent of 30 consecutive unique images per second. So now imagine those 1000's of images side by side in consecutive order. What post production video stabilization software attempts to do is line up all of the frames of the video as well as possible.
THINK ABOUT HOW A PANORAMIC PHOTO IS STITCHED TOGETHER
A good way to visualize the process is sort of along the lines of stitching together photos to create a panorama, except in the context of video footage it is stitching 1000's of images. The process is an amazing, machine intensive, laborious process that can make a shocking improvement to a video walkthrough home tour.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
First it is important to understand that most stabilizing software begins by aligning the 1000's of video frames as close together as possible. This is done by maybe twisting one frame left, another right, another up, down etc. This readjustment of each of your videos frames is usually a somewhat long process(on average this is approx. 8 - 10 minutes of machine processing time for every 1 minute of original video).
Once the stabilizing software completes its process, what is left is a large set of aligned frames, however all this twisting and turning of frames results in a jagged edge around your video. So what the software does at that point is to zoom in on the frame sequence(video) and then crop the jagged edges. How much is cropped from your video is dependent on how well you handle turns as well as the walking and panning as you film your tour.
Once the software has completed its task of analyzing the footage and readjusting frames it them becomes a process of tweaking and editing. As professional editors we may even throw certain sections out and replace with transitions if they are just too unsteady. Remember the whole reason for machine stabilizing a video in post production is to have a finished home tour that impresses your seller enough that they gladly share it with their sphere.
No one wants to produce embarassing, shaky, amateur video so we recommend that agents practice their filming techniques, film wide(15mm - 20mm), and watch some online tutorials.
Once you have begun to master the filming process we recommend either using a professional real estate video editing company to finalize or learn how to use one of the editing/stabilizing software products on the market.
KEY POINTS ON FILMING
There are certain key points that if done correctly in the filming process will greatly improve the post production video stabilizing process and results.
SHOOT AS WIDE AS POSSIBLE
Results are dramatically improved when using stabilizing software when you are shooting your video as wide as possible. Anything in the 15-20mm range is perfect. The Sony WX9 HDHat camera kit for instance shoots at a near perfect for "stabilizing" ultra wide 17.5mm! You can expect that after stabilizing that initial 17.5mm footage will end up at the equivalent of about 20mm(see stabilizing video below for a before and after example).
AVOID Jerky Movements
Jerky movements is the biggest thing to avoid....stay smooth and deliberate as you walk and turn from room to room.
Don't Paint the Room - Painting a room is where the person filming starts at the floor and quickly goes up an down the walls of room in attempt to show everything. The solution of course is to shoot your video wide in the 15mm - 20mm range. The wide lens allows you to smoothly pan a room while still capturing most of the room without "painting".
Door Jambs - Also important is the crossing of door jambs. If done incorrectly the door jambs can make it difficult for the stabilizing software to properly line up frames in those areas. This results in a "cut" in the edit process and the addition of a transition. The ideal walking video home tour leaves all these turns into and out of roooms in the finished video. So it is important to understand how best to navigate these sharp turns(see turning video below).
Walk with your body weight centered
Center your body weight as you walk and use shorter steps in a more cross country ski movement, and avoid the "rock as you walk" syndrome :).
Practice Your Walk Using the Following Routine
1) Find a light switch at the end of a hallway or in a larger room and with your camera pointed at the switch stand as far back as possible.
2) Now push record and walk as smoothly as possible toward the switch keeping the switch in the center of your video. Now play it back to see how you did!
3) Once you have mastered this try again, but zoom the camera in just a bit before you start and then walk toward the switch keeping it as centered as possible. When complete play it back to see how you did.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As you will see from this practice it is much easier to keep the switch centered and stable when your camera is fully zoomed out, but more importantly it illustrates that the wider you are able to shoot the simpler it is to produce stable, smooth video clips!
Again anything in the 15mm - 20mm range is great especially if your plan is to "smooth/stabilize" the video in the editing process.
This is a great way to quickly perfect your walking technique and visually see how it improves.
A simple stabilizer bar helps to reduce the twisting of the wrists that are common when using small point and shoot cameras. This simple device helps to get better software driven stabilizing results.
There are Areas that are Bigger Problems than others:
1) Turns in and out of rooms
2) Door jambs(which is covered in the video tutorial below.)
3) Small rooms such as 1/2 baths and laundry areas. In these areas it is important to be careful to keep movements smooth, deliberate and as level as possible so that the stabilizing software does the best job.
The key to conquering the door jamb is that when your lens crosses the door jamb your camera should be level, 3' away, and moving steady. The software is going to use the straight line of that door jamb to align the image frames. So the better and more steady you cross that door jamb with your camera the more likely it will be smooth enough to leave in the video and not have to replace with a transition.
What Years of Video Editing Experience has Taught Us.
HDhat has edited many 1000's of real estate videos for agents all across the U.S. and Canada, and what we now tell all our clients who have just started filming is that it generally takes about 5 home tours and some coaching along the way to be shooting at or near a Pro Level.
Shooting video isn't rocket science, and it isn't about buying $5000 worth of the best gear.It is about suitable gear and learning the techniques which come with practice and coaching.
The fun comes from getting past the "ah! I got it" points, and grabbing full hold of a tool that can really set you apart!!
VIDEO can become a real "Crush It" tool in your marketing toolbox!
Recommendations for Cameras:
1) In the $400(camera and wide angle lens) category HDHat recommends the Sony WX-9 with wide angle lens case available in the HDhat.com real estate video store
2) Apple iPhone 4 and Apple iPad 2 - Both these devices are very capable real estate video devices. We recommend visiting the HDhat.com real estate video store to view wide angle lens products and microphone accessories for both these devices as well as sample videos.
3) In the higher end HDhat sees footage from some of the DSLR's most popular of which among agents seems to be the Canon T3i(comes standard with 18mm - 55mm lens but remember it is a cropped sensor so it really only gives you 28mm when set on 18mm). You should expect a steeper learning curve with a DSLR! Also remember the files from these higher end cameras tend to be HUGE, and will require a computer that can handle those files.
See examples in the HDhat.com Real Estate Video Tutorial section