Why use VR on my website....
In terms of "Bang for your Buck" there is no
better way of presenting products on a website, VR allows the user to
interact with a product, look at it from different angles, study particular
details, see it function, play with it.... All while being in the comfort
of home. We all know how important it is to make a prospect pick up
the product in a store, using VR on a website is the virtual equliant
of picking up a product. Only better.
VR causes the visitors to your website to remember your product...!
I suggest offering VR files with your URL embedded in the file for download
on the visitors computer, its like putting a brochure in his hands.
In side by side comparisons, sites with VR sells more than the same
site with just 2D images. This makes VR a sensible choice when investing
in a website, after all, there is not much point in spending money to
drive visitors to a website, only to loose them again. VR help you convert
more of your traffic into sales.
A little about the different types of VR....
By now you probably have noticed that there are more than
one way to put VR on the Internet.
Some typical technologies are QTVR and FLASH, both of which requires
a plugin, it is also possible to avoid the plugin by using a JAVA player
such as IBM's Hot Media or MGI's Live Picture.
Each technology have advantages and limitations, when it comes to flexibility
nothing can touch Apples QTVR, which allows pretty much anything one
can think up, including zooming, animation in panoramas and lots of
other cool features. However for broad appeal, FLASH seems like a good
pick, unlike QTVR it is not a "true" object movie, but rather
a fancy "rollover" that does not matter, it works well for
Objects, unfortunately FLASH does not work well with panoramas, since
it is not able to distort the source image properly to get a beautiful
playback. For Panos recommend Hot Media or MGI Live Picture as a alternative
to Apples QTVR technology.
How BIG do these files have to be....
Most of the Object movies on my site is between 300 to
400k each, that is 36 frames with a window size of 320x240 using JPEG
50 compression. Click on any one of them and you will get a good feeling
of the time a visitor to your site will have to wait while downloading
a VR file...
Do not despair, the files can be made a lot smaller. There are 3 main
issues to think about relating to file size,
Number of frames...?
Question is, HOW many frames do you really feel you need to present
your product properly, the trade off is a less smooth movement of the
object when spinning. Say you reduced the number of frames from 36 to
12, that would result in reducing a 300k file to 100k, this is a serious
reduction in download time. For discussions sake it is worth mentioning
that some clients feel the need to go the other way, and I have produced
movies with as much as 180 frames for them... This is NOT recommenced
for the the average user, as the typical file size easily hits 3-4 MEGA
bytes. Not good for Dialup connections.
This is another place which can create some "weight savings".
If a 320x240 pixel window was reduced to about 300x200 pixels, it would
result in almost 50% savings in the file size. Many websited use window
sizes such as 120x160, I feel this is very small, but it sure works
wonders for the file size issue.
Compression reduces the quality of the images by removing information
not needed in a file, problem is the more a file is compressed, the
more information is removed. At some point the amount of data removed
will start to affect the appearance of the picture. Personally Im very
happy with JPEG 50, but most people are perfectly happy with a file
compressed much more, the best way to make this choice is to create
samples of different compression and compare them.
My personal recommendation for most clients is to create 2 or more versions
of each VR file, then as the default on the website link people to the
smallest file, while at the same time offering a link to a larger file,
this will bring pictures in front of clients quickly, and also encourage
people to check out a larger file to see more details of a product.