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Father’s Day project: How to interview dad on your smartphone

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Jefferson Graham offers tips for interviewing dad on smartphones for Father’s Day. #TalkingTech.

LOS ANGELES — This Father’s Day, as always, I’d like to suggest that you forgo all momentary gifts. Ditch the dumb tie, new shirt or golf clubs and give your dad something really memorable — an interview about his life, conducted by you.

With the digital tools now at our disposal, you don’t have to worry about finding a tape recorder. You’ve got a great digital version, in your pocket, the smartphone.

(Note to reader’s — this piece is a Father’s Day staple for us, and this is a nearly all-new update for 2017. The sentiment remains: sit down with dad this weekend and use digital tools to record his story!)

Let’s face it. We’re all here for just a short period of time, and when we’re gone, our stories go with us, unless they’re documented. That’s your job. And what parent doesn’t want to spend time with their kids, talking about themselves?

It’s a win-win for both of you.

Today, let’s explore how to do the interview, some suggested questions and what to do with the file once you’re finished.

You could do the interview with video or audio, but because many people are comfortable just having face-to-face conversations, let’s look at audio. There’s no worry about where to set the camera, or tripod to keep the image steady.

All you really need is your smartphone. The video quality has gotten so good, it rivals point and shoot cameras, and is the easiest to set up and share.

The tools you’ll need:

Steady the image

Hopefully you’ll be talking to dad for a good half hour, if not longer, and that’s just too long to handhold the camera. Camera shake is highly noticeable on video. You can pick up a cheap tripod for as little as $25, and you’ll also need a smartphone tripod adapter to fit the phone onto the tripod. This shouldn’t cost more than $10.

Better audio

As great as smartphones are, the internal mics leave a lot to be desired. They pick up sound from everywhere — the living room TV, people talking on the phone, feet being dragged across the carpet. Dad will have way too much competition.

If you have the time and the budget, I always recommend getting a decent microphone, because it will sound way better. The IK Multimedia iRIG mic starts at $60 and works with iPhones and Androids, so that’s a great tool to have with you. Get a tabletop mic stand as well so you don’t have to hold it for an extended period of time.

Another option: you can ditch the wired mic, and go for a clip-on mic that both of you can wear. Movo’s dual-mic setup is decent, and both of you can be heard on the soundtrack.

If you don’t have a microphone, use your smartphone mic wisely. Pull dad into a quiet room, with no TV blaring, other people talking or other distractions, and get real close. Use the phone like a TV reporter. Push it as close to Dad’s face as you can without being obnoxious.

Open up the audio app on your phone — on iPhones it’s called Voice Memos. For Android, download the Smart Voice Recorder. Another app, AudioCopy, lets you upload directly to SoundCloud, which is the YouTube of audio. If you want to share it, you should definitely pick up this free app. Now press record to start it going.

Questions to ask dad

• Tell me what you remember about the family home you grew up in. Describe it.

• What was dinner like with your parents? What did you talk about, eat — who all was at the table?

• After dinner, what did the family do? What shows did you watch on TV?

• Dad, who taught you how to drive? What kind of car was it? What do you remember about that experience?

• Tell me how you met Mom.

We can go on and on from here, but that’s a good start.

When you’re done, press stop.

Sharing audio

Now you have a file and you’ll want to share it with the world. Unlike photos, which are a one-click share on social networks, audio is not as easy. But I can get you to Facebook really easily.

First you’ll have to sign up for a free account at SoundCloud.

With AudioCopy, you can upload directly to SoundCloud and then share the file on social networks once it’s there. You can try emailing the file to yourself, but if the file’s too big, you’ll need another storage service, like Dropbox, which offers one-click uploads from iPhones and Androids. On the computer, send to SoundCloud to post.

Sharing Video

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Photos the choices are endless. Just click the share tab on your smartphone when you’re done and choose the social network of your choice.

(And if you want to edit it first, try Apple’s free iMovie app or the GoPro Slice app. Both are great for trims and cuts, adding titles and such.

Google Photos is your best bet for private sharing, or you could try backup solutions like Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, while the others are great for broadcasting to the world. And if you’re comfortable with everyone seeing dad’s stories, why not go live? It’s the easiest way to get the video out there, and you don’t have to worry about uploading.

Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope and YouTube’s mobile app are the apps of choice for live, with Facebook the most popular as a way to connect to your family and friends.

Have questions about recording video or audio on your smartphone? We’re here to help. Write me jgraham@usatoday.com, or on Twitter @jeffersongraham.

Subscribe to the new #TalkingTech newsletterusat.ly/2qaIVVQ, the #TalkingTech podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Tunein and wherever else you like to hear great online audio. 

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