Last Friday we may have bitten off just a little more than we can chew:)
We had the opportunity to shoot at an amazing estate on Willow Brook Road in Colt’s Neck, NJ. Colt’s Neck is already beautiful horse country the rest of the year, but in the Fall when the colors are changing, and especially when it’s a beautiful sunny day like today, it’s simply stunning. My friends and I do motorcycle touring through this country, so being there brought back beautiful memories.
I have Jill Pesciotta of “Home Preppers” to thank for the opportunity to shoot this job, and she and my partner Robyn were super helpful in executing the job under at times challenging conditions. It is hard to overestimate how much work it takes to get a big home like this staged, ready and prepped for a shoot like this, and I really appreciate all of Jill’s coordination and work helping us get ready!
Part 1: Drone Aerial Photography and Video
Today, I once again experienced the difference between “windy” and “windy and gusting”. We had a steady north wind at about 10-17 mph, but it was gusting to over 32mph. Not a huge problem for producing solid aerial photos, but definitely a challenge when tasked with producing smooth aerial video.
At altitude it is a little more predictable, but we were going for low shots between the trees, flying zip line passes and manual orbits while keeping the main estate in view, and showcasing swimming pool and tennis courts under challenging conditions.
I could tell while shooting that the drone would occasionally twist during a gust of wind, and my usually buttery smooth movements were hard to come by today. I was lucky enough for my partners Robyn and Jill to assist me as spotters, and I shot the video in 4K, which will give me some leeway to crop a little closer and use image stabilization in post production. I will post the results here when ready.
Flying in ATTI mode was just not possible, because the wind was blowing the drone straight towards a line of trees, and I just did not trust my non GPS skills under the conditions.
Part 2: Real Estate Video Walkthroughs
As part of this job we also needed to produce real estate video walkthroughs of the property’s main features and highlights.
These videos are shot with a gimbal stabilization rig for the iPhone, producing extremely smooth movements and pans to create that super professional look.
One of the reasons for this approach is that we produce and upload real estate video walkthroughs to Zillow, using their proprietary app to record this footage. The benefits of having a video with your listing on Zillow are enormous, since their algorithms rank video based listings near the top. We have consistently seen a huge increase in views as a result, and therefore more showings and better open houses.
Unfortunately, and to my never-ending frustration, Zillow does not allow video uploads or hosting on any other platform other than their proprietary “Zillow” app. This means it is impossible to add professionally produced and assembled video. The app does a good job, but is super inflexible. It forces photographers, home-owners or real estate agents to shoot these videos in a very restrictive mode. It is not possible to make edits, re-arrange clips once they are taken, or correct anything in the 2 minute time they allow. According to Zillow, all of this is intended to restrict “marketers” from producing polished videos that would make your listing stand out.
Ironically, making it so difficult to upload videos in the first place has created a situation where real estate agents rarely bother with Zillow to upload a video. Personally I think this is a mistake.
With a little planning and few tweaks like gimbal stabilizers and iPhone wide angle attachment lenses it is possible to produce some near professional looking results. Perhaps more importantly, this usually increases views dramatically, and drives the listing to near the top of local Zillow search results.
Some gear notes:
I use an Osmo Mobile Gimbal for this stage of the process in order to produce smooth video. And, I admit look pretty dorky doing it:)
While the more expensive Osmo with its own Zenmuse X3 camera produces arguably better 4K video, my philosophy is to use a gimbal you can simply upgrade using your smartphone. Each generation of phones are producing ever better cameras. The iPhone’s 1080p is pretty great since the iPhone 6 and 6p+, and 4K video is just around the corner. So rather than upgrading an entire gimbal system, why not just upgrade the camera next time you get a new phone?
The Osmo has a great reputation and is a solid piece of gear, and I’ve recently replaced my previous tool for this called the Z1-C Smooth gimbal that is produced in China and is available on Amazon.
In spite the Osmo’s great reviews, the actual panning behavior of the gimbal leaves something to be desired when I compare it to how smoothly the Z1 gimbal worked. The Z1 does have a much shorter battery life, an area where the Osmo is superior, plus it has additional wow features like “active tracking” of subjects, time-lapses and hyper-lapses and more. But in the end, I want my gimbal to produce smooth footage first and foremost, and this is not happening as easily with the Osmo as I would like. I am still studying the various settings to see if I can improve the behavior and make it more to my liking. But there are several moments in the videos I am showcasing here where the gimbal misbehaved and caused me to have to repeat otherwise good sequences.
Here again is the video in case you missed it on the top of the post
Styles of Real Estate Video Walkthroughs
Before we did this job, we discussed several styles of shooting these sorts of these real estate video walkthroughs. I have seen many of these take a Ken Burns approach, meaning gradual pans from a pretty stationary position.
This looks pretty slick, but to my eye looks very similar to processed still photos, which is after all the Ken Burns documentary style. In fact there are several “Auto-Ken Burns” tools out there, and the Mac video software Final Cut Prox even has it built right in. And many realtors when referring to real estate video walkthroughs actually understand this to be still photos received from their real estate photographer that were automatically processed in this style. Several tools out there produce this, for example TourFactory.com.
An alternate approach is a more or less continuous walkthrough the property, which I think provides a better context of how rooms and hero features hang together, so it is a preferred approach by some realtors for this reason.
Part 3: Architectural Photography
One delight about today was that we also got to take one or two architectural images in this amazing house. Stay tuned for a gallery and write up on the process I follow.
Wow, it was a long and fun day
We all feel pretty exhausted, and had a great dinner at Kunya Siam, our local Thai restaurant.
I think overall I underestimated how long each portion of the shoot would take, combining drone aerial, video real estate walkthroughs and architectural photos in a 1/2 day shoot was a bit ambitious. I think the aerial drone work took several hours, the real estate video walkthroughs required a lot of preparation, and I was grateful to still have about an hour to take some interior architectural images for my own portfolio.
The amount of work it takes to get a house this big staged and ready for a shoot requires a lot of organization and work. So again, a big thanks to Jill.