How to shoot and edit real estate videos

Back at the start of 2012, I remember reading a newsletter from a real estate agent who happened to be a friend of mine. I had just left the relative safety of full time employment to pursue a freelance career in video production and photography.

I remember thinking to myself how more convenient it would be if I could simply click on a link and watch a video update instead. Better yet I thought, how cool would it be to watch a real estate video and not just have to look at pictures.

I wrote back to my real estate agent friend and offered her a free video production for her next listing. She thought that was a great idea and within the next week or so I was on location shooting my first real estate video.

We were both really happy with the results, as were the sellers. They even asked for a DVD copy to keep for themselves. Real estate video was becoming a 'thing' and I was very happy to have finally produced one of my own. I registered a business name and started a dedicated real estate video website, Brisbane Real Estate Video.

UPDATE: Brisbane Real Estate Video now redirects back to Dave Dwyer's official website - which is the one you are currently viewing!

Fast forward to 2015 and I've lost count of how many real estate videos I've produced. I still love shooting them and my style has evolved along with the equipment that I use. We are so lucky to live in a time when technology such as 4K cameras, gimbals and drones are readily available.

It's a great feeling to know that my real estate videos are being seen around the world. I have been contacted by agents in the US and New Zealand on occasion and asked about the equipment I use, how I get my shots and my editing techniques.

I thought it would be awesome to share some tips and tricks for those who might be interested about how to shoot and edit real estate videos. The video below is probably best for those who have mid to high skills with video cameras in general. 

What camera and equipment do I use?

At the time of writing this blog post, I use a Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 7-14mm lens for all of my ground work. In my opinion, this camera is simply the best for shooting real estate videos. It is super easy to use, it shoots beautiful video and it fits perfectly with my Ronin M.

What are my camera settings?

When shooting indoors, I typically roll with ISO 800 and f4-f11.

I shoot in PAL which means shutter speed is 1/50 at 25fps. The Lumix 7-14mm is f4 so I start there and head up to f11 perhaps if I'm lucky. I have to crank the ISO up to 1600 sometimes which I really don't like to do because it means more tweaking will be required in post to remove noise plus the image won't be as sharp .. but you get that. One way around this of course is to use lights, which I do use, sometimes.

When shooting outdoors, particularly on sunshiny days, I set f22 and ISO 200. Shutter is ideally 1/50 (PAL) however I have been known to set that north of 1/100 on occasion to recover highlights in the middle of the day. Doing so really doesn't affect the footage as long as the camera isn't panning too quickly.

Keep your camera nice and steady with minimal movements when playing with shutter speeds.

Manual or Auto White Balance?

There is a time and place for both.

I manually set my white balance when shooting kitchens, bathrooms and any other areas that have mixed lighting and white/off-white tiles, flooring and furniture. Taking the time to do so saves much time and frustration when editing your footage.

It's not so crucial when shooting outdoors so that's when I use auto white balance.

What drones do I use for aerial video?

I don't fly the drones personally. I contract out to CASA certified and licensed pilots.

How do I frame my shots?

Two words - vertical lines!

Vertical lines are so much more pleasing to look at, don't you think?

Vertical lines are so much more pleasing to look at, don't you think?

Shoot from the hip as they say. Doing so will help you get nice straight shots in every room. The HUD on the GH4 has visual guides which makes it super easy to level the camera get my lines in order. If your camera doesn't have such features, use your eye to vertically align your shot with the wall, or cupboard or door etc. It just makes so much difference, in my opinion.

I shot for 2 years before I realized this! 

Also, be sure to move around and capture the larger rooms from all corners.

Sometimes I will shoot a room from all 4 corners and it won't be until I get the footage in my editing suite that I figure out which perspective looks the best. Be patient with your shots while on location. Think about your edit too. Ultimately, you want to tell a story about the property that is being sold and you don't want to disorientate or confuse your viewers. Keep things flowing and natural.

How do I deal with over exposed windows when shooting indoors?

Great question. The best way is to shoot the room from a different perspective so as to now have the windows taking up too much real estate on the screen. However, that might take away from the shot and the view from the windows might be a feature that you want to showcase. 

You might simply just expose for the interior and blow out the windows, not a nice look though. Alternatively if you correctly expose for the windows you will most probably find your internal area very much under exposed.

Typically, I'll set the Zebra function on my camera to 100% exposure. I'll expose the outside until the Zebra patterns just start to appear. The inside may still look under exposed so I'll lift the shadows a little in camera - the GH4 has a wonderful highlights/shadows adjustment on board.

The shot will still need tweaking in post to raise the shadows and bring the highlights in check. 

This is a still from the raw video. As you can see the foreground is very dark and noisy. As much as the view from these windows was a great feature of the room, I wasn't happy with the shot and it didn't make the final cut.

This is a still from the raw video. As you can see the foreground is very dark and noisy. As much as the view from these windows was a great feature of the room, I wasn't happy with the shot and it didn't make the final cut.

Although the 180 degree view from the bedroom windows were a feature of this bedroom, I think a better perspective was achieved by turning the camera round and simply focusing on the room itself. I was able to use the natural daylight coming into the room from behind the camera to capture a much more balanced shot for both the inside and out.

Although the 180 degree view from the bedroom windows were a feature of this bedroom, I think a better perspective was achieved by turning the camera round and simply focusing on the room itself. I was able to use the natural daylight coming into the room from behind the camera to capture a much more balanced shot for both the inside and out.

Shoot in 4K and get more out of your shadows in post.

"Your shots are very smooth, do you use slow motion?"

No, I don't use slow motion although I keep meaning to! My shots are slow and steady because I consciously make the decision to shoot them that way. For 2 years I shot with a Glidecam HD2000, which is a handy but incredibly sensitive steadycam system.

Even with the camera balanced perfectly it still a challenge to get super smooth and stable footage. As for keeping the Glidecam steady on a windy day - I just used my slider instead.

Nowadays my Ronin M takes care of unwanted camera roll and shake and lets me focus purely on the speed of my shots. Every time I use it I am amazed at how awesome it is.

Manual Focus or Automatic?

Both. I use auto-focus to focus the shot, then I lock that focus by switching to manual. I don't want the camera refocusing as I move around the room.

Also, be sure to use Focus Peaking if your camera has this feature. When using the LCD screen on your camera, focus peaking is a brilliant way to monitor your focus as you move around the room.

What is your editing workflow?

How times have changed. This is my father editing his film back in 1966. We are so lucky in 2015 to not only have amazing video cameras at our disposal but also awesome software like Adobe Premiere Pro.

How times have changed. This is my father editing his film back in 1966. We are so lucky in 2015 to not only have amazing video cameras at our disposal but also awesome software like Adobe Premiere Pro.

Once I have all the footage loaded into Premiere Pro, I scrub through each take and drag the workable shots onto the timeline. I group the shots based on what they are. Bedrooms go together, living areas, kitchen and dining are separate.

Then once I have scrubbed all the footage, I'll work the timeline to further refine which shots provide the best perspectives. I like to keep a real world continuity as to the order in which these grouped shots are presented. For example, the video might typically start at the front of the house before moving in through the front door to reveal the lounge, then onto the kitchen and bedrooms.

I tend to edit the video to follow the same natural path that I physically followed when on location. I am aware of this when I am on location, I shoot for the edit and this dictates to me which room I might shoot next and from what perspective it might look best.

Where do I find my music?

Once I have the sequence in order, I then begin the sometimes tedious and downright frustrating task of find a suitable soundtrack. I have struck it lucky in the past and found the perfect music in just minutes, other times however I have had to sort through countless tracks for hours until the right one revealed itself.

Some decent websites from which you can source music for your videos are:

You just know when you find it. It matches the vision on an emotional level in some way, it's hard to explain. But you just know when it works, and it is such a relief when it does.

If you know of any other good websites to source music for video, please comment below!

Then I move into colour correction mode and fine tune any highlights and shadows before adding my clients branding and exporting the video!

Thoughts? Feelings?

What do you think? Have I missed anything? Do you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment below and/or subscribe to my newsletter and keep in touch!

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Thank you!