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CALTIM Designs
163 Valleyview Road
Mooresville, NC  28117
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Home ] What We Do ] Why CALTIM Designs? ] What is it ] Step inside iPIX ] [ Faq ] iPIX Uses ] Technical Notes ] Real Estate Services ] Pricing ] Our Gallery ]


Below are some of the more popular questions asked about CALTIM Design's  iPIX Virtual Tours. We would of course also be happy to answer your questions via telephone at 
(704) 500-1834 or via E-mail the Webmaster today.


Some iPIX Virtual Tours I've seen are panoramic, others are completely 360 degrees in every direction, including sky to ground. What gives?




The panoramic virtual tours represent older, less sophisticated technology and used to be called "Bamboo" tours. They are still around because Internet Pictures Corporation (iPIX) merged with Bamboo, Inc., the company that competed with iPIX and did the panoramic tours. Many photographers are only familiar with that type of technology, and for various reasons have not switched to the full iPIX format where you can view everything floor to ceiling.

CALTIM Designs only does the completely "omni-ramic" full iPIX photography so that nothing is left to the imagination. Not only is this format much better for showing beautiful tile floors or vaulted ceilings and skylights, but it has a psychological effect on the person viewing the image. The full iPIX images leave an impression in the user's mind of having "stepped inside of" the picture. The full iPIX images are shot with a high-end Nikon digital camera, whereas the panoramic tours are filmed with a video camera. Video cameras are no match for digital cameras in picture quality AND the video images cannot be edited without great expense!

CALTIM Designs Virtual Tours stand out from the competition's, and so do the Web sites that use them!




Q Besides the fact that the panoramic images created by some iPIX photographers are not completely 360-degrees in every direction, are there other differences?




Definitely! The older-style panoramic images are built from video tapped images. These panoramic images suffer noticeably from distortion with walls seeming to bow out and straight horizontal lines appearing to be curved. The full iPIX images CALTIM Designs produces are composed of just two images, referred to as "hemispheres," and the software used to seam them together is able to correct for distortion to a great extent. Don't just take our word for it -- see for yourself in the iPIX Gallery. Please also refer to our Tech Notes for more information.






How does one view an iPIX image ?




iPIX images can be viewed in a few ways, both on and off-line. When iPIX images are placed on a Web site they are available in two formats: the high-resolution plug-in version, and a Java-version. The plug-in version requires the free iPIX Plug-In and the Java version simply requires a 4.0 Web browser (at least Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer/AOL 4.0). The plug-in versions are higher resolution (more detail) and appear much larger onscreen. The Java versions are lower in resolution, but have the advantage of being able to be viewed immediately by virtually all users on the Web, plus they download quickly.

When you're not online, you can view iPIX images stored on your hard drive with the free iPIX Viewer software. You run the Viewer as you would any other program and open the images just like you would open a word processing document or any other file. The Viewer can be used only for the standard high resolution iPIX images (not the Java versions).

The Real Estate Virtual Tours (a different application of iPIX technology) can be viewed "offline" with no additional software -- the iPIX Viewer is actually built into the tour (more details below).




Q How big in file size are the iPIX images (i.e., how fast will they download) ?




iPIX images download extremely fast for what they are -- complete 360-degree "omni-ramic" images. The higher resolution plug-in versions are between 150k and 200k on average and the Java versions are between 70k and 90k. These completely omni-ramic images are the same file size as panoramic images! So why would you choose panoramic when you can get the whole picture with CALTIM Designs omni-ramic iPIX images?!




Q Can you digitally edit the images to correct problems due to either lighting or subject matter ?



In the case of the standard iPIX Virtual Tours (as opposed to Real Estate Virtual Tours), CALTIM Designs uses its expertise to enhance the images in many ways using Adobe Photoshop after the iPIX images are created. We strictly use the iPIX's professional "Builder 4.0" software to construct the iPIX images after the raw images are shot onsite with a high-end Nikon CoolPix 990 digital camera.

In many cases, our competitors will use the "Wizard" software to build the iPIX images - we strongly frown upon this practice. This is the equivalent of a baker using a box of cake mix to make a cake. CALTIM Designs bakes only the best iPIX images starting from scratch. This produces the "freshest," most professional images -- and the difference is noticeable. We can "replant" patches of dead grass on a lawn, "repaint" the arm of a weathered outdoor chair, or brighten a specific portion of an image, all on the computer. We can also add or replace elements in an image -- just think of the possibilities.

In the case of our Real Estate Virtual Tours (REVTs) we are able to do a limited amount of editing -- but far more than you would see from our competition. See the sample REVT in the Realtor Services section and sample editing done on a REVT image in the Tech Notes section.




Q Do I get to see a proof of the images before I receive the final iPIX image files ?



Yes (except in the case of the Real Estate Virtual Tours). Just like any photographic project, we will shoot a greater number of images than we will end up using. We do this so we can get the best possible results, given the conditions at the time of shooting. Clients receive proof iPIX images via e-mail that can be reviewed with the free iPIX Viewer software. The proof images have white vertical lines throughout, created by the software to indicate it is a proof image. Clients then choose which images to use and let us know. We will then finalize them, edit them as necessary, and either e-mail them back or upload them to a Web site.
Q What does CALTIM Designs give the client at the end of production process ?




For standard iPIX Virtual Tours clients receive iPIX images in three formats: a low resolution Java version suitable for display without a plug-in (simply requires Netscape/Internet Explorer version 4 or higher), a standard resolution version for use online with the iPIX plug-in, a high resolution version best suited for distribution on a CD-ROM or over an intranet, along with an unscaled version which is the very largest file size possible. CALTIM Designs can also provide clients with a series of Web pages and thumbnail images (small, still versions of each iPIX image) to launch the iPIX images. We can handle uploading all files to your Web site if you would like -- in other words, a complete solution.

For Real Estate Virtual Tours, the tour is uploaded to national real estate Web sites (e.g., Realtor.com, Coldwell Banker, etc.), and clients also receive a E-mailable self-contained program that allows users to view the tour without any additional software, only the one file! If the client has his/her own Web site (e.g., JoeRealtor.com) we will also upload the tour and build the necessary links.
Q What is the deal with circular graphic I see at the "bottom" of many of the iPIX images ?
A The circular graphic is referred to as the "tripod cap" and covers the photographer's tripod which is actually viewable in each iPIX image. Since the camera captures a 185-degree field of view, the tripod supporting the camera is visible in the iPIX images.

For standard iPIX images, CALTIM Designs can either completely digitally remove the tripod and fill in the space with floor/ground or add a custom-designed tripod cap or logo of the client's choosing. For Real Estate Virtual Tours, a customized tripod cap with the Realtor's logo and/or phone number is inserted into the cap to personalize iPIX images and provide users a way to easily contact the Realtor.

For examples, please see both images in the iPIX Gallery.



Real Estate Virtual Tour Specific Q&A


Q Why do some Real Estate Virtual tours (not those done by CALTIM Designs ) use panoramic images instead of "omni-ramic" images ?




Not all iPIX images are created equally! Due to the 1999 merger between Internet Pictures Corporation (iPIX) and Bamboo, Inc., Bamboo-type panoramic images are now also called "iPIX images." Many "iPIX Photographers" create these Bamboo-type panoramic images which are filmed with a video camera. These filmed images are no comparison to the "full 360 iPIX" images like those CALTIM Designs creates for our Real Estate Virtual Tours. Not only do CALTIM Designs iPIX virtual tours show every inch of the scene, but they have much less distortion than the panoramic tours and the image quality is far better due the superiority of still-camera optics over typical video camera optics.

Your clients will appreciate the fact that you (their Realtor) choose CALTIM Designs and your potential new clients will recognize the fact that you go to the extra effort to present their property and market it in the most professional way possible.




Q Most Real Estate Virtual Tours contain four iPIX images, is this always the case ?




You can include as many iPIX images in a virtual tour as you want, but the minimum fee is for four images. Additional images are priced individually so you can have five, seven or ten images in the tour if you like. Contact CALTIM Designs for the latest pricing information.






What is the difference between iPIX images for Real Estate Virtual Tours and iPIX images for other purposes ?



Internet Pictures Corporation (iPIX) developed a special product for the real estate industry that uses the same technology as other full 360 "omni-ramic" iPIX images. But because Realtors will only make use of a Virtual Tour for a matter of weeks, until a property is sold or leased, iPIX created the Real Estate Virtual Tour (REVT) built from special software that produces lower cost, Java-compatible images. REVTs are only available to the real estate industry. The images cannot be edited in the same manner as the standard iPIX images and they are also lower resolution.

There are many advantages of the REVTs for Realtors. Not only is the REVT less expensive, but the software that produces the tour does so in a way that it can quickly be uploaded to national real estate sites such as Realtor.com as well as many broker Web sites. This dramatically increases the exposure of the property and thus can affect the number of offers and the sale/lease price (that means commissions!).




Q Can the Real Estate Virtual Tours be e-mailed to potential buyers and other Realtors? Is it difficult to do ?




Another great benefit of the REVT format is that the software that produces the completed tour also produces a self-contained program with all the virtual tour iPIX images plus the viewing software necessary to see the tour. We even include the Realtor's contact information, photo, e-mail address link and a link to their Web site, all in one file that can easily be attached to an e-mail message and sent to multiple people all at once. Once the tour has been e-mailed to potential clients and other agents, they can easily forward it on with the click of the mouse and dramatically increase the property's visibility.

The "E-mailable" REVTs are slightly different in format than the tours you will see online. 




Q How long does it take for a Real Estate Virtual Tour to be completed ?




CALTIM Designs can shoot the still images onsite with a high-end digital camera, build the iPIX full 360 virtual tour and have it up online with national exposure in less time than it takes to clean the carpets. In other words, within a few hours, your client's home, office or retail space can be displayed in "omni-ramic" fashion across the Internet for hundreds (thousands?) of potential buyers/renters to see.

Onsite shooting usually takes 45-60 minutes and the computer manipulation usually takes about an hour. Uploading the tour to Realtor.com and other national sites with automated processes can take as little as 10 minutes, depending on server traffic.




Q Can the Real Estate Virtual Tour images be edited (touched-up to correct imperfections)?




CALTIM Designs can perform limited editing on the REVTs to remove minor imperfections such as sunspots and shadows cast by the camera's tripod. One of the limitations of the REVT images is that they cannot be digitally edited to the same extent as the higher resolution standard iPIX images once of the iPIX images are created. In most cases the REVTs only need limited editing.

For high-end properties, especially those with outstanding views, consider a standard iPIX virtual tour. CALTIM Designs can digitally "paste" in the view out the windows that would otherwise be severely over-exposed due to the difference between available light indoors and lighting conditions outside. It simply is not possible to correctly expose for both at the same time. CALTIM Designs advanced digital editing techniques make it possible. Again, this type of editing is not available with the standard Real Estate Virtual Tours.



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RACE CITY USA, NC 28117-4105
TEL: 704-500-1834 FAX: 704-660-3932
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