Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dawn of Chinese Dramas

In my view 1 Feb 1980 was the turning point for local productions especially Chinese Dramas. On this day RTS became a statutory board Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. The late Ong Teng Cheong was appointed Chairman Cheng Tong Fatt General Manager and the late Wong-Lee Siok Tin the Deputy General Mnager. According to Chairman Ong “ Western values and standards alien to our society are being introduced all the time. We must therefore produce our own programmes with standards and values suited to our society.” With this direction local entertainment productions increased and the Chinese Drama Production Division was set-up. It was not easy for our locals to meet the challenges of this venture. Production experts from Hongkong were recruited and on-the-job training started. The first drama produced with the HK producers was a film titled the Seletar Robbery – a true story about three men robbing a construction site. This was followed by the Army series in 6 parts telecast in March 83. Viewership climbed steadily. And the best series I ever watched was the 26-episode The Awakening – the story about Singapore immigrants from the 1920s. I could identify it with my father’s early days when he came to Singapore in a tongkang from Swatow. Then came Flying Fish a 8-part series on swimmers. After that there were many more successful ones. Please refer to Wikipedia for a full list.
I remember some of the incidents that happened during early stage of Chinese drama productions. I was the engineer-in charge of TV Studios and Outside Broadcasts. There were incessant complaints from the HK experts that our locals were not creative, our talents were dumb-dumb for example. In one of the post mortem on Seletar Robbery the producer pointed out the actor just took the money under his arms and ran and his facial expression did not appear that he has robbed someone. In another incident, a bird in a cage used as an extra flew out and could not be retrieved. The producer had to change the script to a cat instead. In another incident in TV Studio 4 the producer banged the production panel and shouted to an actress (she is with us till this day) “Cry , Cry damned it cry..” No tears came out. There were many retakes. After the recording the actress went behind a backdrop and cried this time for real! And there was this diligent HK producer who could not work without smoking in the TV Studio...........

Please email me if have any interesting memories of the early days of Chinese drama productions.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seah Hong Gim and F1

Seah Hong Gim ,a TV lighting expert in this region , helped to light more buildings along the F1 route again. This year STB asked him to light up three more buildings. The new areas included the Pit, Sheares Bridge, and the Merlion area. According to him the lights used this year doubled to 3,000. This would give the buildings greater contrast, a 3-dimensional effects and with an overall night-glow. With this the whole City skyline gave an impressive sparkle to the whole event.

Hong Gim worked for MediaCorp for more than 30 years. He was responsible for lighting up some of spectacular outdoor shows. And most memorable must be the 1986 NDP when for the first time the night entertainment displays segment was introduced. It remains a hallmark of NDP shows till this day. He is now a free-lance lighting consultant after his retirement. For F1 he worked through Showtec the show contractor.
At 65 Hong Gim is till active in work and enjoying his passion for TV lighting. He gives lectures frequently to TV production people in the region.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union(ABU) is a non-profit, non-government, professional association of broadcasting organisations, formed in 1964 to facilitate the development of broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region. it provides a forum for promoting the collective interests of television and radio broadcasters, and engages in activities to encourage regional and international cooperation between broadcasters. It currently has 199 members in 58 countries, with its broadcaster members reaching a cpotential audience of about 3 billion people.

I have been associated with the ABU for more than 30 years, having attending its technical meetings and contributed to its deliberations. It is a platform where one makes the contacts for business and career. Over the years I met many broadcasters from all over the world. It was through these contacts I could contribute more to the growth of my company in knowledge and skills of new broadcast developments. Many producers and management attended ABU meetings as well.
It was with great pride and honour that I received the award of the ABU Engineering Industry Excellence this year at the annual meeting in Ulaan Baatar Mongolia. It is for my work in introducing digital television in Singapore and promoting common digital TV standards in the ASEAN region. I am especially pleased to share this honour with engineers from the MDA , MediaCorp and RTB Brunei who are part of a team to promote common digital television standards in the region.

(Photo shows the ABU General Meeting in Singapore( in the early sixties. By courtesy of National Archives)