SINGAPORE: MediaCorp, the parent company of several media channels, will officially open its new campus on Tuesday (Dec 8) at one-north, moving from its home for nearly 80 years - Caldecott Broadcast Centre at 1 Andrew Road.
MediaCorp logo at the Caldecott Broadcasting Centre. (Photo: Calvin Oh)
Television broadcasting operations in Singapore first came to this pre-World War II campus in 1937 and has been here since. Older Singaporeans still fondly refer to it as the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) or Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) - previous corporate incarnations of what is now regional broadcaster, MediaCorp.
A Channel NewsAsia presenter reporting the news. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
Studios make up a large part of the lives of employees at the centre, as it is where productions are made and where everything comes together.
"Studio 6 is one of the few places where I spent many days, many nights, many sweats, many tears,” said actor Tay Ping Hui. “I've showered there, I've 'died' there, I was stabbed there. I started a fire, I beat people up. There were arguments, there was crying, there was laughing. One of my first few love scenes was in Studio 6.
A set at the Caldecott Broadcasting Centre's Studio 6. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
“They actually built a set there. Almost every drama had a period of time where you shoot in that studio, and that will be Studio Six because it is the biggest studio. You can actually go up to the second story. It's quite a massive set, very opulent, very realistic."
Tay also remembers the time when he was shooting the third edition of "The Unbeatables". According to him, the set design team recreated a whole casino within Studio 6 itself.
The huge set was impressive, he said, but he recounted that the air-conditioning would be switched off at midnight even though they had to continue filming till daybreak.
The door to Caldecott Broadcast Centre's Studio 6. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
THE DRAMA STREET SET
Photo provided by Kwok Kit Chye of a set at Caldecott Broadcast Centre's old Drama Street
Another landmark is the drama street set. "After a period drama is completed, they will convert maybe a Shanghai street scene into 60s or 70s Singapore, so they keep on transforming the set into different things,” said actor Chew Chor Meng. “I had a lot a lot of memories there.
“In 2002, when I was in Taiwan, I received a call telling me that the street set was burnt. I was so shocked because the street set had been there for so long, for over 10 years, and all of a sudden, the whole place was gone because of a fire, so I was quite sad."
Photo provided by Kwok Kit Chye of a set at Caldecott Broadcast Centre's old Drama Street. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
"The street set used to be in front of the props store,” said Kwok Kit Chye, an assistant manager for Studio/Field Production Resources at Prop Supplies (Studios). “There were many period dramas in the 90s. After we set the props for various scenes on the street set, we would always take some photos there. Till now, I still keep some of them. When I look at them now, it brings back happy memories.”
Photo provided by Kwok Kit Chye of him with other staff at the old drama street set at Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
Mr Kwok has worked at the props store for about 25 years. His department supplies props for every production, big or small.
WARDROBE AND PROP WARRIORS
Another important aspect of TV is looking professional on air or looking the part in a drama role. That is the job of the wardrobe warriors.
Wardrobe kept at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
"Just look at all these, they're all our treasures!” said Loh Mun Kok, principal wardrobe officer. “I really have so much memories here in this wardrobe store. Look at this really old shirt. It's actually new, but my colleagues had to use certain tools to rub against the shirt in order to make it look old."
Both Mr Kwok and Mr Loh expressed a tinge of sadness that some of these props and clothes accumulated over the years will have to go when MediaCorp moves to its new campus.
Props kept in the Production Store at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
Part of the magic of television is getting camera-ready. “That's something that I have to do every single day as part of the news,” said Channel NewsAsia presenter Dawn Tan. “The place that I have to go to get on-camera ready is a good trek away from the TV building, to a place we fondly refer to as the hair and make-up unit. On any given day, there are all kinds of familiar faces there, actors, actresses and TV hosts that you may be familiar with, maybe part of your favourite drama, and that's the place I'm going to miss the most."
Actress Xiang Yun with other actors getting prepped for their shoot in the make-up unit at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
"I became a full-time artiste here in 1981,” reminisced veteran actress Xiang Yun. “At that time, I remember when we came for artiste-training classes, we would come to the make-up unit for make-up before we went to the studio. Hence, this place has left indelible memories for me, and also a place where I frequent.
“No matter whether we're filming outdoors or in the studio, the make-up unit is where I'll definitely go. I've been here for more than 30 years."
Vinson Leo, senior make-up and hair stylist, working in the make-up unit at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
"In the past, we used to film period dramas,” added Vinson Leo, senior make-up and hair stylist. “Make-up for period dramas was very fun and we learnt a lot. And because I've already been here for more than 20 years, I've developed special feelings for this place."
A SECOND HOME
Mr Aminuddin Abu, a former MediaCorp cameraman offered the tidbit that what is now known as the Camera Unit was once called the Film Unit. "Because we were dealing with film, 16mm film, shooting in black and white," he explained.
Photo, provided by Ng Sher Hak, of cameramen filming for MediaCorp, when it was still known as the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
According to Mr Amin, the Camera Unit was a tight-knit one and the crew used to play football in the evenings after work.
"The sweetest part of my life in MediaCorp - I met my wife there,” he shared. “She was working in Malay Radio as a deejay. Every now and then I would catch up with her in the canteen and we fell in love."
Many others also found their second home and family at Caldecott Hill.
Photo provided by former cameraman Aminuddin Abu of cameramen in front of the Caldecott Broadcast Centre's camera unit
"Where exactly I'm standing, we used to have a long bench here,” said Queen of Caldecott, Zoe Tay. “We loved to sit here early in the morning or in the evening. We're up the hill, so when the sun sets, you can see beautiful, coloured clouds and the leaves of the raintree fall when the wind blows. It feels like it’s autumn. That feeling is really so romantic," the actress said.
“Besides that, why this place is so special is because when I first joined Star Search training, when we walked past here down the hill, we'd always see some stars and idols."
Bench outside the make-up unit where stars would hang out while waiting for their call time. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)
Tay also said the area was a place where artistes would gather to catch up while waiting for their call time, something they would really miss after the move.
"I hope that what we can bring over is this sense of family, that each department will still stay together and work together,” added Tay Ping Hui. “Bring that spirit over, and not kind of let it dissipate."
Actress Kym Ng looking around the TV Theatre at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)