Principles of a Quality Virtual Tour

A Threshold Virtual Tour™ is meant to inspire action by giving someone the information they need to make decisions, and hopefully, to visit that place in person. Our mission has always been to drive people to cross thresholds and pick up where the virtual tour left off. To do this, we’ve standardized a framework for how a location should be captured and what the key principles are to showcase the features within. We call these our Six Capture Principles and instill these concepts into every Creator (and customer!) we train to capture Threshold Virtual Tours.

Our exhaustive online training course is designed to train Threshold 360 Creators on these principles (screen shot from a training module)

Our first principle lays out where a Virtual Tour should ideally start. Principle 1: Provide Context aims to inform someone what to expect as they approach a location. While some virtual tour platforms are constrained to the interior of a space or sometimes omit exterior imagery, we think that it provides valuable context that can’t– and shouldn’t– be ignored. A proper tour should always start with a Grandview image. This is a fancy term we coined to showcase as much of the exterior as possible in the very first image of a virtual tour, simulating how it might feel to walk up to said location. The Grandview is always far enough away so that a viewer can answer questions like “Does this place have a parking lot?” or “Is there an accessible ramp to provide access?” We think these questions are important to answer because a person may be less likely to visit a space if they can’t imagine how they might get there in the first place!

Training courses include hours of video content produced by our Field Operations team who’s dedicated to supporting our network of Creators

After showcasing the exterior with Principle 1, the virtual tour will begin to head inside the location, which brings us to Principle 2: Smooth Doorway Transitions. This principle focuses on the threshold that any visitor crosses in order to enter a space. For doorways, we created our own unique “Step Inside” graphic that beckons viewers inside. To make this transition work, Creators know to center their cameras on the door they are highlighting and ensure they are 5-12 feet away from the door itself. This allows us to trace the doorframe properly and apply the “Step Inside” graphic to the frame which helps transition the viewer from outside to inside.

See the Smooth Doorway Transition and explore the Red Fox Inn & Tavern virtual tour, located in Middleburg, Virginia.

Once the exterior and doorways have been captured, a Creator must then determine how to move about through the rest of the location. There is often a lot of information to convey within any space, so Principle 3: Logical Positioning & Spacing, helps a Creator determine where they should place their camera to make sense of all the different pathways and places any single visitor could go. In general, we often recommend 10-20 feet between each image, with the most important rule being that each 360° photo should have a clear line of sight from one to the next. This means that a virtual tour will lead a viewer around any objects or walls and not through anything that a person couldn’t physically walk through. All Creators need to consider how unique the details are within the space they are capturing, as that can either increase or decrease the spacing they use between each of their images. If an environment is changing a lot as you walk through a location, more images are needed. Conversely, if the environment isn’t changing much throughout, Creators know to increase the spacing and capture fewer images overall. This principle helps deliver succinct virtual tours to get the viewer exactly where they need to be.
To capture the interior of the location, a Creator also needs to know how to effectively divide a location into separate parts to create individual tours for each unique space. This brings us to Principle 4: Capture Key Aspects, which helps Creators understand how to break down a location, whether it’s a stadium or an event venue. Our goal is to help someone discover a location quickly and easily, without losing them to the frustration of endless clicking around in order to find a specific space or answer a question they might have. “Does this restaurant have a private dining room?” is a question easily answered by a viewer clicking into the ‘Private Dining Room’ tour in a restaurant’s Virtual Tour. An individual tour is created for each key aspect of the location, helping to cement a clear idea of all that a location has to offer. In this way, we can think of a location as a book, and the key aspects represent the various chapters in a table of contents.

Check out the virtual tour of Dawn Ranch in Guerneville, California. A user can easily jump between key aspects of this large location.

Moving further into a location, it’s important for a Threshold Virtual Tour to show exactly what makes a space unique or eye-catching. Principle 5: Highlight Strikepoints, is focused on ensuring those features are brought to the forefront. Strikepoints (another term we made up) are the things that accentuate the virtual tour and pull the viewer in. We advise Creators to use these visuals to help determine their camera positioning, the spacing between them, and where they end the virtual tour. A Strikepoint can be many different things: signage, colorful artwork, a courtyard fountain, a tree in spectacular bloom, or even a stuffed peacock on a wall. They all serve one purpose, and that is to elicit a wow or a desire to want to see it in person.
The last and final principle focuses on making our virtual tours inclusive to all: Principle 6: Include Accessibility Features. We know that location imagery can be powerful and, when done well, deliver necessary information to those that may visit themselves. This is especially true for individuals who have accessibility needs and have to go further than some to determine if they can visit a location, if at all. We aim to deliver context and peace of mind, so we incorporated these sub-principles into our capture training:
  1. Choose the widest and most obvious path throughout a location, always sticking to natural means of egress and established pathways
  2. Capture accessible spaces as their own tour and use titles that incorporate “Accessible” plus a descriptor (ie. Accessible Entrance)
  3. Ask the location staff if there are any accessibility features they should be aware of (Do you have an elevator?)
  4. Use accessible features as Strikepoints when possible (i.e. setting up the camera next to the pool lift or near the elevator in the lobby of a hotel)
These principles help make decision grade information all the more powerful, and the ability to determine which locations might make someone’s visit more enjoyable.

Step inside The Garden Room at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The joy of location discovery is at the heart of Threshold 360, and we know that virtual tours can provide that if they are captured in a way that celebrates the location and informs the viewer at the same time. These principles were developed in order to achieve that across thousands of destinations and millions of 360° photos, no matter where in the world Threshold 360 goes.