When we started the first TV channel portable video cameras and video cassettes were at its infancy. News footages were shot on film and rushed to a film processing laboratory outside RTS for processing. Because of transport and processing delay getting news out on time was always a problem.. To improve the immediacy of news for the channel we had the first black film processing on Caldecott Hill. Mr Benjamin Cunha deputy chief engineer was asked to head the Film Processing Lab. He had this to say in one of the TV interviews when asked what were the teeching problems in the new unit:
“None of us had any training or experience in film processing when we started. We had the services of a BBC Film expert to help us along the way. We had problems of getting the right balance of chemicals for the processing. And we experienced during a period scratches on the film from the early processor. With time we managed to get the Film Laboratory running well and infact not only we were servicing news, current and affairs we were accepting jobs from outside RTS ”
Miss Jumiah Karim who started work in the Lab in 1975 and spent thirteen years remembers the heydays of the work in film processing laboratory. Camera and Producers would queue and wait for the films to be processed, then edited to ready for newsreels on the same night. Speed was the essence and later years when viewers were more appreciative of quality film scratches and other related defects had to be removed and edited quickly for transmission . When Electronic News Equipment became possible, the pressure on time was reduced somewhat. And in 80s the Fim Lab was made obsolete by the profileration of portable cameras and video cassettes (Jumiah now works as a Senirl Library Executive at MediaCorp.
Mr Mun Chor Seng Senior Cameraman during the period had this to say.
“On 15 February 1963, the inauguration of TELEVISION SINGAPORE with apilot monochrome service was launched on one channel. The Camera &Sound provided the filming needs for News and General Section. Thefilm used was 16mm monochrome Reversal Film and the processing wasprovided by Cinecraft at De Sousa Avenue, next to the Bukit BatokBoys' Hostel. The processing time for 100ft of filming took about 45minutes to complete. We needed at least 3 hours from the start offilming then the completion of film processing and editing before thefinished footage can be aired on the News Programme. Whatever footagethat could not make it for transmission in the News Programme will beused as soon as possible in the next News Programme as Newsreels.By 1968, Cathay Kris in East Coast Road, took over the processing ofmonochrome for Reversal and Negative films. In addition, they alsoprovided the prints from these Negative film.We set up our own Colour Film Processing Lab in 1974 for Kodak 7242Colour Reversal Film and later included the Kodak 7239 Colour NegativeFilm.The entire Chinese Drama for the Army Series was shot with Kodak 7242Reversal Film. It was transmitted on 4 March 1983."
Francis Chowdurie Senior Film Editor was one of those who loved film and was sad to see it go.He said:” Although film is slower than videotape, the new media did not do justice to actors and actresses. It made then 10 years older. Of course the advantage of video is you can see the results of your shoot almost immediately”