Towards the Holy Grail of HDR 3D Video

3 minute read

The later part of 2011 could see ‘real estate video’ surpass ‘real estate photography’ in its one area of weakness. That of Dynamic range. The technology isn’t available to ‘commercialize’ for property just yet – the operative term being ‘yet’.

What we’re talking about here is HDR. It stands for High Dynamic Range – the ability to grade interior and exterior exposures – and blend these layers (or shots) together. (See samples here)

It has been doable in still photography for some years. These days, most still photography suppliers use some form of HDR in their post processing. Video however, is another thing altogether. The closest video suppliers have come is in matte work; shooting interior and exterior exposures and blending the layers together.

Early trials have been encouraging, albeit time-consuming, both on location and in post. There’s also a few motorized ‘sliders’ at out there that can do two ‘passes’ on video – or time-lapse sequences shot in RAW that can be manipulated in programs like Lightroom.

HDR Video Demonstration Using Two Canon 5D mark II’s

HDR Video Demonstration Using Two Canon 5D mark II’s from Soviet Montage on Vimeo.

The problem we are all wrestling with at the moment is time and hardware v $ – to fit the highly competitive real estate business model in Australia. The RED digital cinema camera will deliver an HDRx mode but the price point and time-consuming set-up complexity of these cameras would have to see a marked increase in the price point of high-end real estate videos to be viable.

Perhaps, as high-quality online video takes its rightful place alongside professional high-end photography as a ‘MUST HAVE’ component of every campaign, we’ll see bigger production budgets.

This will allow for the critical time needed on location and in the post suites. The spend on video maybe increased by some dollars being diverted from print to online. In this case, you’ll see the big suppliers going at an option like RED, like a red rag to a bull.

Equally, this HDR capacity will be included in the next release of HDSLR cameras, like the much anticipated Canon 5DMIII. Rumors point to this camera being able to record 5k video to an external recorder.

As for 3D, we can see a day when properties will be presented online and in-room in 3D – and shot in HDR. For 3D-HDR, the future is bright.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to wear shades to see it.

Guest Author: Brett Clements from Platinum HD

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  • Nick
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm 0Likes

    I saw that video months ago. Very cool stuff involving a prism to split light in to the two cameras.

  • Brett Clements
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm 0Likes

    Big cumbersome gadget. 🙂

  • Tony
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm 0Likes

    This is a bit off the subject of HDR but this vid cam is worth looking at.
    I had an interesting half hour exploring a panosonic 3D vid cam in H N the other day. Brilliant crystal clear pictures were chucked up on a very large screen in both 2D and 3D. The only neg in 3D was the necessity for the glasses. Never the less Very tempting. Is anybody working to flip a switch for PC screens and consign the glasses to the bin?

  • PaulD
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm 0Likes

    My office has been criticised for using HDR photos ( we have been doing that now for almost 3 years) because people say it is not realistic. I guess when you are comparing HDR pics with the run of the mill cheap camera shots, yes, I can see the argument. Most people have become used to ordinary photos – when they see something outstanding, and more similar to what your eyes actually see, then they think it is “photoshopped” The biggest problem with HDR, is movement. It is almost impossible to take a shot on a busy road for example, or on a beach, or anywhere where there is any movement at all. Video HDR would be fantastic, because the available light is used rather than a whole lighting setup which limits where you can actually shoot. Movement would obviously not be a problem like it is with stills. I guess it is the logical next progression.

  • Jon May
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm 0Likes

    Hi Paul – images created using HDR capture techniques and software processing can look natural, but I’d say that the genre has gotten a bad rap precisely because many of its early adopters were seduced by the lurid colours that tone mapping software tends to spit out by default. Fine for one’s next rock album cover, but often rendering interiors to look like something out of a Tim Burton movie (a la radioactive haunted house). Not saying the images you use are like that, and do I believe that images for marketing purposes should grab attention even if they are a bit hyper-real. As an example of the look of extreme over-processed HDR, John Mayer’s home was up for sale recently, and whoever shot it used HDR.

    And although readers can make up their own minds as to the suitability of these photos to karket a high-end home, you can read the reaction of pro RE photogs here…

    Without exception those particular photos were negatively critisised by members of the flickr real estate photography group.

    As a possible benchmark, Dan Achatz in Seattle is a member of the group whose control of HDR is admired by his peers.

    So…I’m just pointing out the range of results that HDR can produce, and that it’s not a magic bullet.

  • Brett Clements
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm 0Likes

    Hi Jon. That HDR shoot for John Mayer was absolutely shocking.
    That ranks as a screaming example of how not to do it.
    I think the stuff we’re talking about can be found at
    15 minutes spent on this site is well worthwhile. These guys are absolute masters at HDR.
    Imagine this on video, in 3D.

  • Nick
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 6:59 am 0Likes

    Hahaha those John Mayer photos are hilarious.

    PaulD, I’m not a real estate photographer, but I do enjoy a bit of HDR myself. I have a N900 and it has no problem with motion. It uses a number of very cool hacks and talks to the hardware directly to base the photo off a single snap whilst taking lighting from a merge of multiple others.

    Its a bit more complicated than that because its as much a hardware hack as a software hack. Stunning results though – and from a smartphone.

    It also has a brilliant low light mode that uses similar tricks to make pristine photos without any noise in extreme low light. Ahh the stuff DSLR manufacturers *should* be doing.

  • PaulD
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:41 am 0Likes

    Jon, I agree entirely. Brett that’s a great site,we are aiming for the after shots in the home interiors section, and nearly achieving the quality shown. and Nick, yes, you can overcome the movement thing, and even highlight a single image. Whatever you do it improves the photo in my opinion. When people are scanning down a column of photos on a website, they stop at the one that attracts their attention – that is the end result we are looking for.

  • andy delvecchio
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:58 am 0Likes

    It’s funny as much as the Jon Mayer house photos look surreal, what are we comparing them against…Flat typical photography ?

    Take a moment and look around…look at the way light plays…look at the way your depth perception works in your every day surroundings. It is surreal too if you compare it typical real estate photography.

    Surreal but real…life is grand.

    Do we get used to seeing in a way that denies what is really there?

    As we get better at recording our surroundings, will we see differently in everyday life?

    Cant wait for the Canon 5DmarkIII if it can reproduce this in camera!

  • Peter
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm 0Likes

    Paul it’s funny that you’ve been accused of “photoshopping” your photos, making them look unrealistic. In my experience, HDR shots can be made to look more true to life than what you would otherwise get without any post processing.

    In our office we use a DSLR, 10-20mm lens and some free software to create HDR shots for our property management listings. IMO it blows away anything you can achieve with a regular point and shoot (what most other agents are using for rental listings) and most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference between one of my better shots and your average “professional” real estate photograph (I personally feel that most pro shots are over saturated and do not look true to life).

  • PaulD
    Posted March 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm 0Likes

    Peter, I agree entirely. I think there is some sour grapes involved, however one complaint came from a fellow, that subsequently turned out to the be the partner of a lady who was (allegedly) a photographically trained wizz that was looking for work, and most of the other agents he spoke to had no idea what he was talking about. I use a 10-20mm lens and the necessary software to stand it up straight, and yes, far superior to most of my competitors in any case. I have heard that some of them are calling it a gimmick – imagine that !! I think it is great that they are unable to do it themselves.

  • Jon May
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm 0Likes

    Hi Brett – the Attic Fire images are top class for sure, as should be expected from the many hours or retouching that goes into them. While some RE photographers might aspire to producing images of that quality, the realities of production time conflicts with what the market will bare 😉

  • PaulD
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm 0Likes

    Interesting video development.

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