Optimizing Imagery for 360 Tours

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Benefits of Optimizing your Imagery

  1. Faster server upload times – For hosted tours, you need to upload to a storage/hosting service somewhere. The smaller the files that faster you can upload, and potentially make changes or tweaks quickly for your clients. 
  2. Lower storage fees – Storage and upload/download fees are lower when you have smaller files. While the pricing is not that big of an impact it does add up as you add tours.  
  3. Faster user experience – Smaller files means faster load times for your tours, and a better user experience for you clients. 

Steps for Optimization

Optimizing your imagery includes choices between file type, image size, and optimization software. 

File Type

Optimizing your imagery starts with the file type. Jpeg files are smaller than png files and easier to optimize. The 24-bit png file will be about double the size of an optimized jpg file. So whenever you do not need transparency, use jpg files. I do not recommend using 8-bit png files because they do not look good in my opinion compared to the png24 or the jpg alternative. 

Image Size

Image size is the single biggest impact on file size. The 360 tour software programs will provide resizing for panos, but the other graphic assets are included at the size you add them to the tour. Items such as a logo, floor plan, map, info popup, images for photo galleries, should be no larger than the actual needed size. As photographers we want quality, but larger image sizes are not needed for most viewing. Reduce the size of your images before you add them to your tour. 

Optimization Methods

There are several ways to optimize your images. Your can use Lightroom or Photoshop reduce the quality of your images when you export them or you can use a number of other software programs to optimize them on your desktop like JPEGmini, or online like with TinyPng, EWWW, or Short Pixel.  I have gone through comparisons with Lightroom, Photoshop, and JPEGmini, as well as comparing the online options. To optimize the images so Google recognizes then as fully optimized, you need to reduce the % quality to 60% in Lightroom or Photoshop. At that point the images do not look good. I also saw less than stellar results from EWWW.  After trying various options, I use JPEGmini. I use the plugin for both Lightroom and Photoshop, and I use the desktop version for optimizing entire folders. I optimize my photos before I upload them to my website, and then use Short Pixel to pick the best size to be displayed. 

The diagram below shows a comparison of various optimizations, file sizes, and file types.

Compare image file type, compression

My Workflow Test for 360 Tours

I wanted to see how big of a difference JPEGmini has on my 360 virtual tour size, and I looked at 3 different workflow scenarios: 

  • Tour without any optimizations: I exported my fully edited panos from Lightroom at 100% with no reduction in quality. 
  • Tour with JPEGmini optimization after tour publishing: After I published the tour, I dropped to total folder onto the JPEGmini desktop for in place optimization. 
  • Tour with panos optimized with JPEGmini before and after tour publishing: I used the JPEGmini plugin to optimize the pano files prior to adding them to the  

So let me tell you a little about the tour. It is a moderate sized tour of 50 panos, with no video or music and only a couple of additional assets such as floor plans and maps. The tour was created with 3DVista 2020.3.8 64bit. I included the download feature in the tour which adds about 6% to the overall size of the final tour folder. For the panos, I use 12288px x 6144px files. I use a multiple of 1024 for my file sizing because it makes a difference in some software programs do their own resizing. I do not reduce the size of the images for my tour export.  

Scenario Folder Size Percent Reduction
No Image Optimization 1.12 GB 100%
After 0.99 GB 88%
Before and After 0.95 GB 85%

Comparison of Imagery

After I created each of the tours, I uploaded them to my website, and tested them in GTMetrix to compare load speed. There was no statistical difference between the load times, so I did not include that data here. I also took screen shots on a 24 inch screen of each of the options, and then compared them in Photoshop. I could not tell a difference between the original un-optimized and the other 2 scenarios. I have the combined image below that has sections of the three scenarios layered together. You cannot tell a difference between them. This is consistent with testing I have done in the past with JPEGmini on my website. 

Comparison for Optimizing images for 360 virtual toursComparing JPEGmini for 360 panos

Cropped Version

Cropped comparison for 360 imagery - highlight

Recommended Workflow

Based on the results above, I plan to just optimize after the tour is published. The additional 4% is not worth it for me with the extra step from Lightroom. 

Video is another area which can really bloat your tour folder. I recommend hosting the video outside your tour for this reason. 

How do you optimize your imagery for 360 tours? 

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