For those who haven’t seen the Matterport system, it looks great, it’s an all-in-one unit that produces walk-through tours, much the same way as Google’s Street View does, one image merges to the next to give a walk-through feel to the tour. Not only does the Matterport system capture images, it also produces an infra-red scan of the area being photographed. This scanned information is used to create the one unbeatable selling point of the Matterport system, the ‘dollhouse’ view. This is a CAD model of the area, be it a house, yacht or restaurant that can be viewed from inside or outside and dragged around in 360 degrees. It’s a real showstopper and a truly unique selling point of the Matterport system.
As good as the dollhouse is, however, conventional 360° photography surpasses Matterport in almost every respect.
First off, Matterport is a closed system, the photographer has to have their images and tour processed by Matterport (for a fee), the tours have to be hosted by Matterport (for an ongoing monthly subscription fee), these fees are obviously passed onto the client. A conventional tour can be hosted on a client’s server for no ongoing fee. Being a closed system means the 360° images can’t be edited or displayed anywhere other than on Matterport’s framework – they can now be made into Google Street View tours. The Matterport tour images have to remain ‘as captured’, items on tables can’t be erased, backgrounds outside have to stay, pictures on the walls can’t be replaced everything has to remain as it was photographed, even the Matterport camera, when it is photographed in a mirror, is visible in the final scenes.
The biggest downside I see of the Matterport system is its limitation to highlight selling points within the tour. Using custom ‘hotspots’ to show: photographs, play audio or video, animations, illustrations or text makes 360 tours a true multimedia platform and one of the biggest reasons to opt for a 360° tour in the first place. Yet much of this can’t be achieved with a Matterport tour. It’s also not possible to play music, add background sounds or have a voice-over on the Matterport tours.
Reflective surfaces (like high gloss varnish, stainless-steel etc.) cannot be displayed well on the Matterport system – it creates disjointed areas and bad stitches (the way one image is joined to the next). This problem cannot be repaired or corrected in the same way as conventional 360° photography.
Then there are limitations of the images too, they are a low resolution – even the newer pro version of Matterport offers little opportunity to zoom in and see fine detail – view any of my tours at full screen, then compare that to any Matterport tour at full screen. While this doesn’t matter so much for properties, to show off build quality it would be better to see the quality of the material used, the texture of the leather, the detail of the stitching or the grain of the wood.
While Matterport’s images are 360° in a horizontal axis, they are not 360° in a vertical axis, so it’s not possible to see the ceiling or floor immediately above or in front of the viewer, the floor space is the perfect place to include logo’s to reinforce your brand identity, speaking of which and there is no option to remove Matterports branding from a tour.
The system I, and many other photographers, use cannot provide the dollhouse view but a Google Street View tour can offer the walkthrough feel of the Matterport tours with the advantage of being visible on Google’s search results. If the dollhouse is what you want, please see a Matterport ‘partner’ (as the photographer has to grant Matterport “an unrestricted, irrevocable, perpetual, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, display, publicly perform, transmit and distribute any such material you submit, without any payment or accounting to you or others. In addition, you waive any so-called “moral rights” in such material.” which doesn’t feel like a fair partnership).
Conventional 360° tours are labour intensive, as I control every stage. In every respect, apart from the dollhouse view, the high-resolution 360° tours I and many other 360° photographers produce are superior to a Matterport tour. This is why, until the Matterport system allows me to do what I want, to offer the best for my clients, I see no reason to invest in the Matterport system.
I’ve been shooting 360° images for many years and 360° technology is moving at a great pace at the moment, probably faster than it has done before, but while there are systems that are quicker and easier for the operator to use, I still believe that I offer my clients the highest quality 360° imagery in the marine market.