Documenting Home

Bruce Royer and Javier Perez review the results of their 3D walk-in tour. Photo courtesy Royer Studios

Bruce Royer is the kind of guy who wakes up every morning asking how he can be of service to the planet and the people on it.

He has been combining production and education as a passion and career since the mid-eighties, when he developed an animation program with his brother, Bill. It was used by LAUSD to promote drug awareness. Remember D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)? Those videos were Bill’s. The program was designed to help at-risk teens craft an original voice for themselves through telling their story using his animation techniques.

When you live your life like that, synchronicities are bound to fall into your hands that enable you to help people in ways you couldn’t have imagined. This is exactly what happened to Bruce less than a month before the Woolsey fire.

“I travel a lot, especially with my latest television production, Canvassing the World. There’s this Villa Exchange company where you can stay in these beautiful villas all over the globe. We stayed in one in Italy this September. I took several pictures of the place and the grounds, flew a drone over it to get aerial imagery, and sent it to the owner, thinking he might like it for promotional use.

“He loved it and asked if I could do Matterport scans of the property also. ‘Matterport? I thought. What’s that?’ So, I googled it and was blown away! I went out and bought a Matterport camera that day and began negotiating with the owner of the Villa to exchange a world-wide Villa tour for full Matterporting of each of his properties.

“Less than a week later, the fires broke out and there I am, sitting in my office realizing that all these people are losing their homes. I looked around at the room I was in thinking, ‘could I even remember all the things that were here if I chose to evacuate and everything burns? Do I have documentation? Do I have receipts?’ I realized all my receipts are in the same room with everything else and suddenly a light bulb went off in my head! The Matterport came to me for another reason altogether: To support people to document everything and anything they have!”

What is this magical 3D documentation camera that sounds like a ride at Disneyland?

“The Matterport system is very easy to use. We just put the camera on its tripod, hit the scan button and it automatically rotates 360. We do that every five feet or so throughout your whole property and as it’s happening, you’re seeing it build three-dimensional imagery for the space right before your eyes. As each scan is stitched together, it becomes one fluid, three-dimensional walkthrough of the entire living space, top-to-bottom, every little detail documented and stored securely in the cloud, on your hard drive, wherever you choose to keep the file.”

In a demonstration of the Matterport 3D walkthrough of a villa in Costa Rica, the level of detail was incredible, so fine and clear. One could easily see, in pristine detail, for example, the heirloom pearl earrings and diamond ring on a china dish atop an antique embroidered lace table runner, lining an eighteenth-century oak vanity.

Any artwork in your home—whether it’s an original oil painting, a watercolor print, the filigree in the picture frame—all of it is as clear as if you were standing right there. You could also take a screenshot of any close-up in the walk-through imagery to keep as jpeg files, if needed.

Rodger Ilsley had his home documented by Bruce shortly after the fire.

“We have close friends in Malibu who lost their homes completely. We’ve heard their grueling experience with the insurance company, literally having to try to document every last thing they lost, down to the knives and forks in their kitchen drawers. We decided immediately to have Bruce document our home which only took about an hour to cover all 2,600 square feet. It’s an invaluable asset to have and really gives us great piece of mind”

Bruce’s friend, Monique, who is staying in his guest house after losing her home in the fires said, “It took me three days, listing everything I could remember that I had, what it’s worth, what it cost, what the cost might have been. There are so many things I didn’t have receipts or documentation for! The amount of time I’m spending on the phone with the insurance companies, going back and forth just trying to get back the things I lost, it’s like having a second job!

“If you have the opportunity to use the service and document everything with the Matterport, you definitely should. I wish I could have,” said Monique.

Bruce’s service also comes with an optional purchase of virtual reality-style 3D goggles that are a simple cardboard box design with two magnifying lenses and a sleeve to slip a smart phone into.

Looking through the goggles, a Matterport scan of a beautiful Basilica in Italy was like a scene in a sci-fi movie: I was sitting in Bruce’s office but through the goggles, I looked up and saw the ornate ceiling of the Basilica above me. If I held my gaze on one of the little blue “zoom” dots for a few seconds, I could zoom into that spot where the ornate, stained-glasswork of the ceiling was, right there in exquisite detail, inches from my face. Looking down, I saw each little line between the tiles in the floor; taking a few steps forward, the candlesticks on the altar came into clear focus. It was surreal.

Aside from the practicality of having everything documented for insurance purposes, there could be another, more nostalgic purpose for anyone who has lost their home. Imagine being able to relive the experience of walking through every inch of your home as it used to be.

It could even be an instrument of healing such a profound loss.

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