If there’s one thing pretty much all RVers have these days regardless of the type of vehicle they travel in, it’s a smartphone.
Besides being an RV travel reporter, I am also a technology journalist for NBC-TV. But even I am surprised by how smartphones and the marvelous apps have changed our lives over the past few years. The last stats I saw showed 80% – well more than three quarters – of all Americans now own a smartphone.
For RVers, this ubiquitous technology has enhanced our travel lifestyle in ways that, just a few years ago, would have seemed dubious a best.
Take, for example, just one part of our mobile lifestyle that has been a part of RVing since the very first road trip: Photography.
Now, instead of a separate camera, we can do it all on the smartphone. No just high resolution quality photography but video as well.
When Jennifer and I began our RV lifestyle in 2012, I used to take along a giant professional news grade videocamera, a heavy tripod, a big battery charger and more. Now, except on very rare occasions, I shoot everything on my smartphone. In fact the quality of the video that my current smartphones (the iPhone X) produces is actually superior to what my professional ENG (Electronic News Gathering) camcorder does. Five years ago I never would have believed that would ever be possible.
Nor would I ever have believed that with that smartphone, I could instantly go live on Facebook, have 50,000 people tune in to see Jennifer and I do a video report with he only mention being a short notice on our Facebook Page that we were going live in an hour. The audience not only saw and heard us live but was able to interact with us in real time as well, posting comments and questions.
Because our smartphones can do so much because of apps – the little programs they use for various functions – I thought I’d share some of my favorites that deal with the camera feature on our devices. From sunsets, to travelogue-style movies, the latest smartphones and tablets allow us to capture more video than ever in our RV adventures. Apps for video editing are getting better and better the videos you take on your RV trips can now look very slick and professional.
On the iPhone, Apple’s iMovie is the first app of choice. It is very simple to operate and, for most RVers, is the only tool they need. With iMovie you can share your video to Facebook, send it as a text message and send it as an email. I costs $4.99.
For Android users, most of us will do just fine with Adobe Premiere Clip (search the Google Play Store for it by name), the light smartphone version of the very powerful desktop video editor Adobe Premiere Pro that is used by many video pros. It’s quick and easy and, best of all, free,
For those looking for more full-featured video editing tools, here are three video editing apps I sometimes use for more involved projects:
- Mavis (www.shootmavis.com) is for iPhones only. It shows virtual knobs and dials like the pros use in-studio. Just about every aspect of a video can be manipulated with the Mavis app, from light balance to exposure. Sound too complicated? With the tap of one button, users can hide many of the knobs and instead focus on basic controls. The app – called a “professional filmmaking camera and film production tool” by its developers –is $16.99 for iOS.
- LumaFX (luma-touch.com/lumafx) is another Apple-only editor that allows for extensive manipulation of video and audio. Videos can be resized, reframed, reversed, rotated and mirrored, while clips can be sped up or slowed down. Audio levels can also be adjusted. LumaFX offers great color and effects features. The app is $2.99 for iOS (Apple).
- Android or Windows Mobile users look at PowerDirector (search PowerDirector on the Google Play Store). The app uses timeline video editing, slow motion, and more. Take advantage of the apps numerous video effects, transitions – even the ability to record audio over existing video. The PowerDirector app is free.
Those are apps for video editing.
For smartphone photography, and for some elementary video capabilities, I am totally sold on Google Photos. It works with Apple and Android devices and, in my view, is superior to using the standard photography Gallery apps that come with either platform.
I have my smartphones set up to save all the images and video I take to the Google Photos app. Google stores them in the cloud and I can use them on any device or my laptop or desktop computers. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about losing them as my photo and video library is instantly backed up in the cloud.
If you want to tweak and fine tune the photos you take on your smartphone, here are three apps that can turn those travel pics into works of art. Well, sort of, anyway.
- PhotoPills (photopills.com) is made for landscapes with its ability to tell users the best times of the day to shoot based on location – perfect for if you want the brightest part of the day or warm glow of a setting sun. The app also offers a slew of other options, too, giving users the opportunity to do things like calculating exposures, depth of field, and more. The app is $9.99 for
- Photogene (www.mobile-pond.com/MobilePond) is a full-featured photo editor for the iPhone. Users can do so much with the app: crop, straighten, adjust color, sharpen, retouch and more. You also can store photos easily to cloud-based storage like Dropbox or post to Facebook, Twitter, and more. And if you don’t want to mess with adjustments, just use one of the many presets. The app is $1.99.
- For Android devices, the Perfectly Clear app (Search Perfectly Clear on the Google Play Store) makes up for what a phone camera lacks by applying 18 so-called automatic corrections to photos. The developers of Perfectly Clear say it’s like having a top-level digital camera in your pocket all the time, making it perfect for an unexpected display of fall colors in just the right sunlight. It has features such as panorama, and the ability to brighten up photos. The app is $2.99
There are two essentials and one luxury gizmo I recommend for those who use their smartphones to document their travel.
The essentials are:
- A selfie stick, which lets you get a little further back or a little higher and thus captures more detail. I use the Yoozon Selfie Stick (http://amzn.to/2EItFGD).
- A smartphone tripod, which makes for non-jerky video and lets you take time delay photos so you have time to get in the frame before the shutter clicks. I live the Joby GorrilaPod (http://amzn.to/2r9PjBJ). It's small but has these amazing legs that can wrap around anything.
The luxury? The Smove (http://amzn.to/2EHRHl8), a hand-held device that holds your smartphone and turns into a sort of steadycam, meaning you can talk and move around and capture smooth video that looks like it was shot by a Hollywood cinematographer. AT $139, it’s may be considered overkill for all but the most serious RV video fans. But if you want your smartphone videos to truly look professional, this gadget will really help.
For a complete list of all the products, gear and apps mentioned by Mike and Jennifer on their podcast, YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel and here on the blog, go to https://rvlifestyle.com/gear
Technology, for video vans, is pretty darn amazing!