By Dee Zunker
The easiest way to publish 360 imagery is through Google; however, Google does not allow publishing personal residences, and in some situations you may not want your tour on Google for anyone to use. In these cases, you need a virtual tour creation software like 3D Vista, Pano Tour Pro, or Pano2VR.
There are also some online services like GoThru or WalkInto which were originally for Google tours, but now offer stand alone tours as well. While websites such as Tourbuzz and Real Tour Vision handle 360 imagery and call themselves virtual tours, they are really just slideshows of images, and their handling of 360 imagery is limited.
Non-Google 360 tours are particularly useful for Real Estate as a complement to video or an alternative to 3D tours like Matterport. Unlike Matterport, custom 360 tours remain in your control, remain your intellectual property, and can provide much higher image quality.
For this post, I am comparing 3D Vista and Pano Tour Pro. I use both of these software packages to create tours depending on my client needs. First, let’s summarize the similarities.
Both Programs create a walk through tour of your space using
- automated tours which take the viewer through the space without them having to click anywhere,
- autorotation which spins the 360 in teh embedded version on your website and as the viewer watches,
- Various kinds of hot spots to connect the panos for self-directed walk through of the space,
- Info hot spots for showing popups with information, photos or videos,
- Floor plans for quick navigation and overview,
- Menu navigation with drop-downs, thumbnails, controls for moving in and sharing the tour,
- VR ready for headsets and the gee-whiz factor,
- Ability to add sign-up forms and urls via hotspots,
- Auto responsive for viewing on different devices,
- Embed them in a webpage via iframe html coding,
- Add a virtual tour link to an MLS listing,
- Allow “live video” within the 3D space,
- Shareable to email and social media via links,
- Audio can be added as background music and can be triggered based on user interaction,
- Both require a hosting space,
- You can add a Google Analytics code for tracking traffic to your tour.
Now that we have how the programs are similar, we can talk about how they are different.
3D Vista Pro
In general, 3D Vista provides better auto-tour control and user experience, but is missing some key organizational structure for larger tours.
- How-to videos are available on the website to help you get started
- Very responsive product support – I found a couple of bugs when I first started using the program and they followed up promptly to roll out updates during my project. They also implemented one of my ideas within a month of my recommendation.
- You do not need a lot of plug-ins to get going. The stuff is already there.
- Your output is fully white label with no indication of the software used to create the tour. (Not so with PTP)
- 3D Vista provides a hosting option for your tours, so you do not need to host them yourself.
- The menu and navigation options are handled through skins. These are easier to modify and get up and running faster. I like the interface better for making the tour look like I want. This customization comes at a cost: time to get it set up. PTP is more global in its approach, so easier to get the tour completed if individual pano customization is not needed.
- There is an Android and iOS app for sharing your tours offline.
- You can create a standalone executable file for offline play which does not require an additional viewer file for your PC or Mac. You can send this file to your customer, or load from a USB thumb drive for demonstrations.
- There is a 3D transition mode between panos which is similar to the swoosh between panos in Google.
And now for the biggest advantage of 3D Vista – the robust auto-tour functionality :
- The auto-tour functionality is dramatically better than Pano Tour Pro. You can precisely control what the viewer sees as the tour goes through each pano, vary the time spent on each pano independently form the other panos, and include photos or videos along the way.
- The auto-tour will restart automatically. The viewer can take control of the tour at any time during the auto-tour mode, look around, click on some hot spots, and then the auto-tour will resume after a period of time of inaction by the viewer.
- You can include photos or videos in your auto-tour which is not possible with PTP.
- Sometimes there are more connecting panos in your tour than you would like to show in an automated tour. These extra panos make since if the viewer is walking around self directed, but they may not be interesting in an automated tour. 3D Vista allows you to select only the panos, photos, and videos that you want to show in the auto-tour. The remaining panos, photos and videos are still available from hot spots.
- Creating the tour takes longer than PTP, as each pano needs to be set up separately such as the nador
- Not as fast loading online as PTP by a wide margin. 3D Vista creates fewer, larger images per pano, which I think may contribute to the slower loading.
- There are no short codes or smart names for panos or groups. 3D Vista requires you to manually label each hot spot which takes more time and adds potential for error.
- You cannot create groups of panos which is useful for different floors or parts of a facility. This creates more complications in keeping large tours organized.
- There is only 1 auto-tour per virtual tour. If you have a different area or user type which you would like to show a different tour, you cannot do this within a single 3D Vista tour.
- Scaling of text is not as easy as PTP. There is a lot of trial and error to get the text to view properly on each device.
Pano Tour Pro
- Pano Tour Pro loads noticeably faster online compared to 3D Vista. The output for the tour is also smaller by about 40-50%.
- Creating tours is quicker due to more global options with PTP like adding a nadir cap and including a link in the nadir, or using pano shortnames. interface to creating tours (once the tour is built the first time)
- It is easier to add custom hot spots, but there is a limited library to start with.
- The plugin GArrows provides the most natural hot spots for navigation between panos. The chevrons are similar to Google navigation.
- The biggest advantage of PTP, is the ability to organize the panos into groups. Groups simplify navigation with various drop downs and allow set up of floors plans with different groups. For large complex tours this is a necessity.
- There is reference to Pano Tour Pro in the tour output. If you want this attribution removed, you must pay 200euros.
- Pano Tour Pro requires a Viewer file to show offline, which can be inconvenient if you want to send the tour to a customer.
- Customizing the look and style menus and navigation is challenging and dependent on 3rd party plugins, but if you can code, the program is very flexible.
- With the standard auto tour options, you cannot control the path for the autotour within the pano. You can only change the rotation speed, direction, and starting point.
- You cannot skip some panos in the auto tour.
Note: There is a 3rd party plugin Tour Highlights Pro which adds more control for the auto-tour. This plugin allows skipping panos and more than one auto-tour within a single tour. The plugin does not restart the after the user takes control. This behavior leaves the user hanging, and thus I do not use it for that reason. If I need more auto-tour control, I use 3D Vista.
Both of these programs can create quick 360 virtual tours for your residential real estate, commercial real estate, businesses, and hospitality. They give the viewer more information about a space than photos alone.
UPDATE: As of September 13, 2018 Kolor(Pano Tour Pro) is closed. Those that have the software can continue to use it, but there will be no more updates by Kolor. Browsers are constantly changing, so it is only a matter of time before current installations will need attention. There is hope that KRPano will continue to be update-able within Pano Tour Pro, and that some or one of the many third party plug-in providers will continue some level of support for the program. I plan to work with 3D Vista to improve their program but also look at other options as well.
For those that have PanoTour Pro there is a Facebook Group which is providing shoulders to cry on, and exchanging ideas and information about alternatives to PTP. It is also recommended that you download the latest versions of the software, and request your KRPano license from within the PTP program as soon as possible before the Kolor servers are unavailable.