• Joe Canham

Ten Years in the Making

What happens when you hand an eleven-year-old a video camera?


A chain reaction, apparently.


The reason I'm writing this is to give some background to the video at the bottom of this page, titled 10 YEARS. The video is a compilation of 10 years' worth of personal video footage shot by myself, and its purpose is to celebrate a huge collection of memories by finally sharing them.



Anyway forget the intro, let's take a trip back to 2008 real quick. So there I was one afternoon, sitting at home, minding my business, probably looking forward to turning twelve sometime soon. Anyway, my big bro Matt comes through the front door and pulls a large video camera out of his school bag. I'm intrigued.


See, Matt was a tech dude at school back then (and still is), and he was always bringing home stuff that the school didn't want anymore. For some reason I was fixated on this particular piece of kit, and I was dying to have a play with it.


Being the big bro, he obviously wouldn't let me touch it, but after some slick tactics, I gained permission to use it whenever I wanted. Here we go.



10 years: an evolution of imaging


It was exciting to have a video camera in my hands, as our family had never owned one. We had only ever had stills cameras, so home video was a new concept for me. The camera itself was a beast of a machine which recorded to miniature VHS tapes and had great features like sepia and negative. I don't think the screen worked on this particular example - it was viewfinder all the way back in the day.


It was with this camera that I learned that you could point a piece of plastic at something and capture a moving image, and thus it was the start of the journey that led me to where I am today. Wholesome.


On the bottom is your regular old VHS, and above it is VHS-C which most video cameras used in the late 90s.

You'll notice some primo footage at the start of the 10 year video that looks like it's playing from a worn VHS tape. That's no cheap effect, it's what a degraded VHS-C tape looks like. Using magic, I digitised the old tapes, loaded the footage into modern editing software and was able to use them in the compile.



The ol' Canon stills camera, complete with a 1GB memory card. Image: DPReview

Sometime during this prehistoric camcorder phase I realised I could record video on the family's old stills camera, and while it was totally awful footage even at the time, it was a compact solution that did the job. I ended up rolling with this for a while.




With a flip-out screen, the G5 was the ultimate vlogging machine back in 2003 when it was released. Too bad vlogging wasn't a thing yet. Image: iXBT Labs

It must have been shortly after that when Dad brought an even older stills camera home from work, and instantly it was mine. It supposedly had a better lens than what I was using, so I tried my hand at photography this time - I soon gravitated back towards video though.



Proving twelvies in 2010 took landscapes, not mirror selfies.



Another camera to add to this ever-growing saga was the upgraded family Canon, with sleek plasticy lines and equally average video quality to its predecessors, but one feature that made it quite handy: size.


Its greatest moment was when I managed to put it in a glass jar and take it for a swim. This was my first underwater shot, and the camera didn't even get water damaged. Success.



After many hand-me-downs and fixer-upperers, it was time to get serious. It was 2010, I had about $12 in the bank and you bet I was going to spend it. I pulled up Trade Me in search of an upgrade, found a Sony camcorder with a broken screen and smashed that Buy Now button - days later I was shooting footage at next-level quality with reasonable audio to go with it.


Level Up. Image: Crutchfields

Goodbye, VHS, hello mini DVD. This beauty recorded beautiful interlaced footage onto miniature plastic discs, and though it was nearly impossible to get said footage into iMovie (which I used religiously at the time), I somehow found a workaround and this became my daily.


You'll notice footage shot on this camera from 2010 all the way through till 2013, partly due to me finding a second-hand waterproof housing that made it super useful in summer.




Cue 2011 and the arrival of devices with okay-ish cameras. The iPhone had been out for a few years now but I was 13 and couldn't afford one of those - my family kindly got me an iPad 2 for my 14th birthday which had a camera. Notable footage includes a shot of Tessa sliding down a flight of stairs on a boogie board and crashing into a wall.





Sometime during my time with the aforementioned Handycam and iPad I won an iPod Touch at a school prizegiving. This was my first pocketable camera that could shoot decent video, so I shot quite a bit on the iPod that made it into the compile from 2012 to 2013. It wasn't long after this that I made a major upgrade.






Picture a 15 year old having just shot a summer holiday video on an iPod and an outdated camera that runs on DVDs. I was frustrated - and for good reason. Better image quality and more storage were what I needed. It was right then that my parents surprised me for Christmas with something unexpected.


Image: PC Mag

With full HD recording, high frame rates for slow-mo and waterproof-ness packed into a small package, the GoPro Hero 3 was a game changer for me, and you'll see footage shot on it from 2013 to 2014 in the video.









With the arrival of a smartphone in my pocket, I started recording more and more, not because the phones were miles better at shooting video, but because they were always on hand to capture whatever was happening in the moment. Then - with the advent of Snapchat and similar apps, I found myself collecting a huge library of bite-sized video clips that would prove a challenge to organise when it came time to edit the compile together.


Therefore in the compile you'll probably notice that vertical smartphone footage is dominant from 2015 to 2018. RIP to the several phones that were broken in those few years.



My return to Sony in about 2013 saw me shooting various projects at high school on one of their cameras. The camera looked awesome but the image quality unfortunately wasn't up to standard and the screen didn't work (again). Not to mention it recorded to tapes.



Image: B&H

If you thought that was all, you're mistaken. Sometime in the golden age of smartphones, my brother bought a Canon 7D which I ended up borrowing pretty often as I started doing more serious shooting, including early paid work - some of which made it into the compile. If it was between 2013 and 2015 and it looks slick, it was probably shot on this camera.





Another worthy mention is all the Sony gear I used at film school. At this point I was 17 years old, and I'd left regular school to pursue my film and video passion somewhere more specialised. I was studying Film & TV Production with a Post Production major, and some projects from my 2015 study year, shot on various cameras, made it into the compile.




When will it end? After graduating from film school I invested in this very cool Panasonic pro camcorder, as I was planning to pursue freelance videography work. It captured some stunning images and sound, especially in low light, but my freelance plans were cancelled when I landed a full-time production company role in 2016, so the camera was soon sold on.



And so we arrive at 2018, I'm saving up my income as I'm about to leave on a round-the-world trip, and the only personal camera I have left is a GoPro. What do I do? Buy a whole new kit, of course.



I was looking for something affordable that could shoot great video but also wouldn't be too bulky to travel with. I ended up settling on the Sony.


This was a big deal because it was the first time I'd bought myself a brand new camera.


Turns out the camera itself was quite affordable, so I invested in a set of prime lenses as well. The 24mm has always been my favourite.


Subsequently I returned to photography and learned how to take pretty alright photos with this kit. It takes great video too.



Not much footage from this camera is seen in the compile apart from a few shots near the end, but if you check out the Recent Work page you'll see some examples of what it's capable of.






Last one, promise. I used this Panasonic beast to shoot the beginning and end sequences (the parts with the old television set).





Cool, but everyone knows editing is more important right?




10 years: let's edit


I'll begin by saying this project was the most gruelling, long-winded edit I've worked on to date. Maybe not gruelling from a time pressure sense, but the sheer amount of material to process was overwhelming and the responsibility to do the material justice was something I ended up taking really seriously.


To anyone in any media industry, just imagine a video timeline containing footage from 18+ different cameras shot over a 10 year period, all in different formats, at different frame rates, mostly with incorrect timestamps.


The laughable thing is that when I started the project on January 5th, 2018, I was confident I could put something together in a day.


A day.


Needless to say it took much longer than that.


(A year)



In my defence, my expectations and aspirations for the project evolved over time, and what started as me being bored and wanting to edit something quick and fun (the project folder is literally named 'bored') became something I now view as a legacy.



So the edit began. I was working a full-time job at the time, and I was mainly editing during my spare time on weekends. As the video started to come together, I thought up more ideas for how I could make it awesome and I started to get more invested. I was really keen to get it finished in a month or two, which seemed achievable at the time. I also started spending weeknights working on it when I could.


It took a very long time to go through the material - the amount of footage per year seemed to grow exponentially from 2008 onwards. Somehow I found the energy and time to go through every minute of material - I made sure to leave no stone unturned.


My usual editing setup during the project's early days.

Unsurprisingly, more than a few months passed, then one afternoon I had a lightbulb moment while editing. At this point the video was over 10 minutes in length, and I doubted many people outside of my close friends and family would sit down and watch the whole thing unless it was entertaining, relatable and real.


My lightbulb was to use the old family TV to introduce the video and give it a bit of a theme while trying to hook the viewer at the start, and I was so keen on the idea that I shot the scenes that evening.


Entering the television set signifies a dive into a time capsule of memories captured from 2008-2018.


With some help I got this 80 kilogram television down 4 flights of stairs and put it in the car, then I made the trip into work to spend my Saturday night filming it. I'm not really sure how I lifted it out of the car at the other end without breaking my back, but I survived. It was a very bare-bones shoot involving a skateboard as a camera dolly, and I was there until about 3am before I was happy, but I think those parts really add something to the video.



I took inspiration from a shot in Lorde's 'Yellow Flicker Beat' music video (above) for the opening sequence. I love the imperfect camera movement in that video and I was able to achieve a similar look with the TV. In the compile, the images seen on the TV after the camera stops tracking were added in post.



During the edit, life got in the way a couple of times as it does, and the process took way longer than I expected it to.


My 21st birthday came and went, then it was time to leave for my 3 month hiatus in Europe. The video was essentially edited at this point, but there were things I wanted to add, like animations that give context to certain moments, and a general polish - things that I knew would take a while. I had a loose plan to finish it while I was travelling, but it turns out I was quite busy enjoying my time away, so I didn't get a whole lot done in those 3 months.


One thing that helped me hugely while I was away, however, was showing it to a director friend I'd edited projects with in film school. While visiting her in Sweden, I showed her a draft of the video, and she gave me some feedback that gave me a lot of confidence. After that part of the trip I was really keen to hit the ground running when I got home, with both the 10 year video and with general life plans.


It was near the end of my trip that I realised if I didn't finish this project before the end of 2018 it would become an eleven year video, so I set some time aside to finish it in December after I returned home.


And that I did - come Christmas I was working 3-5 days a week on the video. Funnily enough the deadline of 2018 is what pushed me to finally call it done, and I sent it out to friends and family on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, December 31st.


I was really surprised with how it was received.



One of the big things that kept me going was the fact that this 10 year filmmaking milestone was tied so closely with the 10 year anniversary of meeting one of my closest friends, Tess, who you'll see in most years in the compile.


I've felt a little guilty over the years about sometimes not getting around to editing footage, so for me this was a bit of a "here you go" to everyone who may have wondered what happened after I pointed a camera at them that time. It also served as a precursor to me starting this company, Champion. I wanted to show my friends and family what kind of storytelling I’m capable of these days.


This project was of course a very personal one that I finished to the best of my ability at the time I created it, but it taught me a handful of powerful lessons that I didn’t realise it would, some of which would carry over to my work.


I proved to myself that I could see a massive and complicated project right through to the end, no matter how much labour is required.


I learned that the best gift you can give, as a creator or not, is something you poured your time and effort into.


Work ethic was another thing I found while working on 10 YEARS, and it came at a time where I wasn’t really sure if the film industry was my cup of tea anymore.








I learned that I was still a proficient editor. I was working a job at the time where opportunities for editing were scarce - that, paired with my indecisiveness about what my development area should be, meant I hadn’t created a video so personally fulfilling for years. Finishing this project confirmed I could still edit well and make things flow in a unique and punchy way.


I also remembered why I do what I do for work - I had reproached filmmaking as a hobby instead of as a job, and that was hugely rewarding. I now know the importance of it in my creative life.


The sense of fulfilment and the confidence boost I got from sharing this project with the world was one of the things that pushed me to start a production company, and continue doing what I love.


- J


Click here to watch 10 YEARS.



If you haven't heard me say it already, Champion is a video production company that I started, one that aims to push the boundaries of quality and sustainability in commercial video production. It's a continuous work in progress - if you'd like to know more, check out the About page or The CM Standard.

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