Introduction To Virtual Tours

by Razvan Marian on Jul 20, 2010

A virtual tour is an online application on a website that allows the user to move through a building or any other type of structure, similar to the real thing. Such innovative tours are becoming more and more popular these days and are used in a wide variety of business activities ”“ architectural, construction, travel and real estate companies. The entire point of these virtual tours is to convince someone of the virtues of a place that does not exist at the moment (an example would be the case of a bank or an investor), or that the individual has never seen (a tourist that is planning out a vacation). One of the most interesting types of the virtual tours would have to be the movie versions in which users will see a movie that shows the interior of a computer-generated building ”“ CGI, seen from various angles as a camera appears to move through it. An alternative to this would be the use of photographs taken from every possible angle in order to create a correct animation sequence. This movie version is usually shown as a presentation to a group, without any interaction, or as a simple online movie that can be viewed or downloaded. A more complex type would have to be the interactive tour, which involves the same kind of fly-through as the movie version, but at the same time allowing the viewer to interact in some ways, like allowing him to select which tour he can take, choose an angle and other similar options. For this type of virtual tour, in order to be interactive, it is usually created in Flash with clickable controls. It can be based on either a sequence of photos taken from all angles or on a CGI, similar to the movie version. These visual tours are created by using 3D modeling and rendering programs like 3DS MAX, CINEMA 4D or AUTODESK MAYA. The modeling part of the project - the artist creates a 3D model of what is being toured and after that he textures it ”“ is done in one program, while the rest of the aspects of the project, for example, the rendering of animations are done in an entirely different program. In many situations, the model is exported to a landscape program like Vue Infinite, which has the ability to create highly realistic terrains and ecosystems to place the model in. In this specific case, a terrain is created for the model, and then an ecosystem of plants and trees is added. The animator then goes to the timeline and selects various frames as he slowly moves the camera in the scene on the path he wants the tour to take. In the last step, the animator renders out the animation and saves it in a usable format such as AVI or MKV (high definition). Virtual tours are quite popular in the real estate market as they allow potential clients to have a quick look at the interior of a property without having to go there. Another application for these tours is at hotel chains that exhibit their rooms. Most important, they are used by contractors and architects when they are proposing a major project and are trying to approve it or looking for funds.

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Source: Learn more about 360 virtual tours at www.360virtualtours.co.uk, where visitors have the possibility to access panoramic photography services.
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