Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 25 January 2018


Many films made before the 1980s are not being featured on new digital streaming platforms such as Netflix and iTunes today because they were not in the digital HD format required by these online services.

That meant a number of classic films, shot on analogue equipment in the past without today’s digital capabilities, can no longer be accessed by a new generation of audiences who have yet to see them. The only way forward is for the films to be digitised into a modern format.

Singapore’s first boutique digital film lab

Mocha Chai Laboratories is Singapore’s first boutique digital film lab and the company has embarked on a quest to provide a solution.

“There is so much excellent content shot on analogue in the past, that it’s a pity it is not easily available on online platforms that reach out to millions of people,” said Chai Yee Wei, CEO of Mocha Chai Laboratories Pte Ltd. “We wanted to find a wy to digitise the films for wide distribution.”

With support from IMDA’s Enterprise Assistance (E-Assist) grant, Mocha Chai Laboratories was able to build a film scanning lab to take analogue content and digitise them to high-quality digital formats – at up to 5K resolution. This will future-proof the content for years to come.

The scanning and mastering process require the negatives or inter-positive film prints to be manually inspected, repair, scanned, colour corrected, mastered and optimised to the desired digital format. In addition, audio can also be processed and restored. This process could take up to three months or more, depending on the condition of the film. However, time is of the essence as film prints tend to be stored in less than optimal conditions. Over time, colour will fade and eventually the structural integrity of the film prints will be in jeopardy.

Technology gives great content from the past a new lease of life

Mocha Chai Laboratories aims to preserve Singapore’s film heritage. Classic Singapore films such as 12 Storeys and Mee Pok Man by Eric Khoo, are now available online on digital platforms in restored versions. In the past, the only way to watch these films would be on a DVD, which is becoming increasingly uncommon today.

“The technology gives great content from the past a new lease of life, and opens up opportunities to re-monetise the content on new platforms,” said Chai. “New audiences will be able to appreciate pieces of work that are no longer easily accessible in today’s digital age.

Visit SMEs Go Digital Programme for a list of Pre-approved Digital Solutions, or find out more about Accreditation@SGD.