Getting Started with Virtual Tours
How to make physical spaces virtually possible
In McCullough Creative’s nearly 40 years of industry experience, we’ve learned to roll with the changes (and punches) of the times, including the most recent transition into digital tours and events.
With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the interest in turning your space into an interactive virtual experience, the only thing left to do is figure out how. You still want to invite, entertain, and educate your patrons, just as you would in person, so we’ve come up with some tips for getting started.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Have a Plan
It seems obvious, but before you can do the work, you need to know what work needs to be done. Who is your audience? What do you want them to gain by touring your space (whether physically or virtually)? What resources do you have to accomplish this? Do you want to do a live stream, a video, a click through of a 3D space, or a hybrid? What equipment or software will you need? Will the length of the virtual tour be the same as the physical tour? Get everything in order in terms of budget, team, timeframe, goals, and anything else that is going to strengthen your project’s foundation so you have a clear picture of what will be accomplished.
Organize your Assets
Go component-by-component and figure out what you have to work with and how you want to work with it. This includes defining key information, images, and collection requirements, and creating content to reflect those. Don’t skimp on the nitty gritty details. Tour your space as if seeing it for the first time, taking note of your physical and mental journey. If the assets you have on hand leave gaps, determine what new videos, downloads, or interactive components will strengthen your brand story and elevate the experience.
Research with Design in Mind
Review and revise your findings throughout the design process so that when problems come up, you can work with your team to solve them. Remember you’re trying to build a balanced, engaging, and on-theme message for a specific audience. Treat your space like the unique experience that it is and use it to build on your brand promise.
Make Engagement a Spectrum
Once you’ve internalized the physical layout of your space, try to see the natural lengths and levels of engagement for every square foot. Some people will want to breeze on through and some people will really want to dig in, and this will vary depending on if the tour is guided or self-exploratory. How can you meet people where they’re at once they show up?
Remember that maintaining the integrity of the vision while enhancing the quality of the space is your foundation for digital conversion. Innovation and creativity thrive in the virtual realm, and an intentioned, well-flowing tour can turn into better business and even history itself.
Using a service like Matterport or Google Street View, you can make a clickable walkthrough of your space. The novelty of simple virtual reality is already wearing off, so make sure you take advantage of the ways to present additional information. As with all of these options, think about how you can make this an experience that is both supplemental and stand-alone.
Before investing in nice camera, lighting, and audio equipment, see what kind of creative presentation you can come up with on a smartphone. Lean into the possibilities of creating a personality through editing and script writing. If going live, strive for the live energy and “anything can happen” feeling of a performance. When it comes to presenting digitally, you’re creating a show as part of the experience.
This is some much heavier lifting, but because one implementation is right for one area and another implementation is right for another, it might make the most sense to use a combination of methods. If customizing, you’ll be able to control and own every aspect of your tour. At McCullough Creative, we prefer the hybrid method, handling video for supplementary assets, 3D walkthroughs as main layouts, AR/VR experiences, and much more.
Once you’ve got your plan, researched your assets and options, and organized everything, dive right in and bring your space to life in innovative and exciting ways on the screen. It’s easier said than done, but try to find the middle path between having an unprepared mess with good energy and a perfect production that comes off a bit sterile.
Remember that enthusiasts of your location may be aware of your site, but the general public will be less informed. Luckily, people are becoming more aware of digital tour options. Don’t expect to become a viral sensation overnight, but if you’ve done right in creating the product and promoting it, you’ll be able to build an informative, inspiring, and memorable digital recreation of your immersive space.