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Turning Ideas Upside Down and Inside Out

When it comes to building a better business through innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, independent production house Upside Down Concepts has it all worked out.

Turning Ideas Upside Down and Inside Out

Since the company’s inception 18 years ago, director/producer Mr C K Chan has been constantly tinkering with the company’s products such that innovating is now part of Upside Down Concepts’ DNA.

Wired for Innovation

Mr Chan credits his innovative psyche to his background in industrial and furniture design plus his interest in research and development (R&D). Strangely enough, film was actually his least favourite subject in school. 

However, creativity seems to run in Upside Down’s blood as both Mr Chan and his partner Mr Michael Chua started their careers and partnership in this field. What gets Mr Chan’s adrenaline pumping is solving filming challenges as this is exactly when a creative and innovative point of view is needed. This is how the company’s TBOX time-lapse camera ­– used to shoot long-term footage in harsh conditions, for example in the construction industry – as well as new LED lighting solutions came about, even before they became common in the industry.

“Our products were never created for commercial intentions but were born out of necessity to meet our production needs. TBOX, for example, was created when we started filming time-lapse scenes in rough conditions. Normal cameras could not cut it because they were not waterproof and did not have a sound power supply,” explains Mr Chan.

Mr Chan believes in the collaborative economy and notes that Upside Down works with other Singapore companies and experts. “We are lucky to have some really close and strong partners with whom we share and bounce ideas, and even collaborate to create products and build prototypes,” he says.

Mr Chan adds that it was a natural transition for Upside Down to sell its modified creations. Explaining this move, he says, “We saw the opportunity in the market for the time-lapse cameras we created as many existing solutions were extremely costly. We decided to test our products at the Broadcast Asia trade fair and received great response. It’s then that we realised we were sitting on a gold mine.”

Turning Ideas Upside Down and Inside Out

Pursuing Growth in Unconventional Places

While Upside Down Concepts still produces corporate videos and commercials through its video arm, Alta Productions, its main business together with its newly formed company Skyshot now focuses on niche sectors like construction, shipbuilding, oil and gas, and aerial filming, with around 50 percent of its customers coming from these industries.

Mr Chan elaborates, “Being innovative and agile allowed us to move into our niche speciality and differentiate ourselves from other video production houses. Time-lapse technology is not taught in school. It’s something we mastered through our experiences, a lot of R&D and the drive to innovate.”

He adds, “Unconventional problem solving is something we always do and it has helped us keep ahead. Of course, adjustments needed to be made; for example finding the right people, making space for our R&D and preparing our people for change. Yet, it is very rewarding for both the company and our team as we get to work with new technology and try new shooting methods.”

Turning Ideas into Reality

When Skyshot was formed, Mr Chan and Mr Chua decided to seek funding as they agreed that it would help them focus on their innovations. Mr Chan explains, “R&D can be expensive. We self-funded part of it but realised fast that a grant would help us focus on innovating while allowing us to keep our company and our intellectual property (IP).”

Upside Down tapped into SPRING Singapore’s (now Enterprise Singapore1) Capability Development Grant, which helped it meet the cost of implementing new technologies. They used it to apply a new remote monitoring system that they could access via cameras in their office. “Taking up the grant helped us to focus on improving our product rather than looking for means to fund our innovation. It was the right move and there’s been no looking back since,” concludes Mr Chan.

Visit https://spring.enterprisesg.gov.sg/CDG to find out how the Capability Development Grant can support your innovation projects.

1SPRING Singapore merged with IE Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore on 1 April 2018.

Last Modified Date: 04 Oct 2018