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Google Street View Photography

Improve Your Image

Google has taken Street View images of almost the entire world. As part of this process, they have captured most businesses. While most of these Street View images show a great view of the street, they probably don’t show a great view of your business. For example, your business address could be associated with a Street View image that looks like the one that used to be posted for Cowichan Cycles:

Cowichan Cycles Before Street View Image

 

Google understands that you may prefer to use an image that better represents your business. That is why they started the Google Trusted Photographer program. As part of this program, Greg Nuspel at Story in Focus can create a Street View image that showcases your business and he can post that image on Google Maps. Story In Focus did this for Cowichan Cycles and this is how their Street View looks now:

Improved Street View Image

The new image has all the interactivity you expect with Street View and it features the business prominently.

With the help of a Google Trusted Photographer, you can also have an enhanced listing created for your business. Story In Focus helped Cowichan Cycles enhance their Google Maps listing by adding a virtual tour of the inside of their business. Now potential customers can tour the outside of the store and they can See Inside too. What better way to showcase the quality products and services they provide?

Cowichan Cycles Google Maps Listing

Try it out for yourself. Go to Google Maps and search for your business. What do you see? Do you think it’s time to improve your image? Complete tours start at $400.00. Give Story In Focus a call at 250.510.7971. Greg will happily come by to discuss your needs and provide an estimate.

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Google Street View Photography Virtual Tour Visual Storytelling

What is a photosphere?

A photosphere is a panoramic image that covers 360 degrees horizontal and 180 degrees vertical. In other words, it covers an entire sphere, which is where it got its name.

But the real question is how is it created? Images are shot with a camera on a special mount made specifically for the task. The details of how the mount works are very technical. If you’re interested in exploring them, here is a good article: Entrance Pupil Alignment. Using the special mount, four or more overlapping images are captured. The number of images varies depending on the lens used and the resolution required for the final image.

Images required to assemble photosphere

Capturing the images

These eight images where shot in two rows of four. Each image overlaps four other images. I also use a technique called HDR for capturing the dynamic range of the scene as explained in my previous blog. I take eight positions with five images each for a total of 40 images. The 40 images are fed into PTGui, which is a panoramic stitching program used to assemble the images. The resulting image is called an equirectangular projection and it has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or 360:180 degrees.

Resulting image from the 40 images

Stitching the images together

The bottom of the image includes an area that was obscured by the camera head and tripod. I bring the image into the program Pano 2 VR where a patch for the area lost to the tripod is cut out. A replacement image is created in Photoshop and used to replace the patch. There is also an option for creating a mirror ball that reflects the image onto a sphere.

Equirectangular image with nadar patch

You can see in this image that the brickwork has been cloned in. The image is ready for publishing.


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Creating the tour

This isn’t the end of creating a virtual tour. Once all the images have been uploaded to the server, they need to be connected and placed in their proper position on Earth. The moderation process is a science in itself. Each image is moved and rotated until it lines up. This ensures that the perspective doesn’t change as viewers move from one photosphere to another. For quality control, Google inspects each tour. If all the requirements are not met, the tour is removed from public viewing until the errors are fixed. This is one of the reasons why you need to be a hire a Google Trusted Photographer. Google wants the photographers who create virtual tours to be trained and capable of creating tours that the public and business owners will enjoy without any intervention required on the part of Google. Yes, you can get photospheres shot and hosted on other sites. But why not put your business in front of Google Maps users by working with a Google Trusted Photographer like Story In Focus?

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Google Street View Virtual Tour Visual Storytelling

Three types of virtual reality tours

Story In Focus offers three types of virtual reality tours. Each type provides a different level of interactivity and content control.

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Basic Tour

With a Basic Tour, potential customers get to look inside your business using virtual reality images posted on the Google Maps server. To create the tour, I shoot a series of photospheres/panoramic images at your location. Then I upload the images to Google and assemble them into a coherent tour. With this type of tour, viewers walk through your business the same way they would if they were actually there.

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Application Program Interface Tour

With this type of tour, I add an interface layer that interacts with the Google Maps tour.  An Application Program Interface Tour can also include navigation links, information windows, external links, photo galleries and even video pop-ups. If you would like to include narration or licensed music to help set a mood, I can do that too. You can start with a Basic Tour and upgrade to an Application Program Interface Tour at any time.

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Custom HTML Tour

The third type of tour is customized and hosted online just for you. If you want the highest level of interaction, this type is the best choice. It includes custom HTML code to achieve amazing effects. For example, with a Custom HTML Tour, I can embed videos that will automatically play as the customer moves through the virtual reality tour. I can create virtual 3d models of products that can be viewed from all angles. The features included depend on what your business needs. This type of tour lets you showcase your services and products in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

Story In Focus wants to fit the package to your needs. Let’s work together to discover which type of tour suits your requirements. Give me a call at 250-510-7971 or send me an email at greg@storyinfocus.com. I’d love to talk to you.

 

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Google Street View Virtual Tour

Give potential customers an inside look

Cowichan Aquatic Centre virtual tour
Cowichan Aquatic Centre – click on image to visit

Imagine you could take every person with an interest in your business on a personal tour of what you have to offer. They could look closer at things that interest them and move through your space at their own speed. It would be difficult to do this in the real world because it would take a lot of time.

But what if you could do this virtually? You could open your doors to potential clients online. You could let them see all you have to offer from wherever they are with just a few clicks of their mouse. Google Street View for business makes that possible. You can have a virtual tour of the inside of your business hosted on Google Maps. When potential customers look for your address or contact information, they will have an opportunity to see what you offer. And that’s not all. You can also add a simple piece of code to your website that will make the virtual tour visible there.

Do you sell wine? Why not showcase your top products to wine lovers who will be travelling through your area or are interested in purchasing online. Do you operate a spa? Why not attract people looking for a perfect gift for their mom or their best friend. If you take them on a virtual tour, they will be more ready to make a purchase.

Brides want to see how special their wedding day will be. Take them inside your venue and they will picture themselves there. And the guy who wants to take his girlfriend to a special location to pop the big question will have more confidence if he can see the place where it will happen in advance.

But it’s not only travel and gifts that should be showcased. If you have an automotive shop, why not show potential customers just how well equipped your shop is? Are you an appliance superstore? Maybe you have some behind-the-scenes information you want to share. It may not always be safe to take people inside your shop, but you can definitely show off your capabilities with a virtual tour. Recently Google changed their rules to allow us to include people’s faces in the tours. We’ll need model releases of course. But you could show some sweat in the gym, hands kneading dough or a cold beer filling a glass—all within your virtual tour.

Does this sound interesting? Want to know how this could work for your business? Give me a call at 250-519-7971 or send me an email greg@storyinfocus.com. Together we’ll explore the possibilities.