High-definition broadcasting is a brave new world of detail — including some we might not want to see. Makeup artists are concocting all manner of techniques to save entertainers from visible brush strokes and pancake.
According to this piece on National Public Radio by Laura Sydell, there are now 100 million HD televisions in the United States. And that means 100 million more chances to be distracted by the buzzing colors of an anchor's tweed jacket — or the poorly blended foundation at an actor's jawline.
Just as every advance in film has led to attendant changes in makeup artistry, lighting, and cinematography, the advent of $400,000 high-def cameras capable of registering the hairs on a sitcom star's forearm is an opportunity for budding Max Factors - the man himself, seen in the image at left - to swoop in from the wings, pots and potions in hand.
Some of the changes are simple — Erin Kruger, a makeup artist for Nip/Tuck, mentions in the segment that she always airbrushes on foundation when the show is shooting in HD, since sponge or finger strokes would read on camera — but other adaptations in technique are the result of trial and error.
HD filming requires a different understanding of color, and the common TV makeup with-a-trowel look also won't read naturally on an HD camera. When she first made the switch, said Kruger, "there were a lot of issues with making sure reds weren't flaring — a lot of time, red lipsticks will really flare on [HD] camera." The handful of makeup artists I know who work in television with any regularity all seem to speak with a measure of awe about the brave new world of HD; most of them prefer to mix their own concoctions, rather than rely on any of the HD-focused cosmetic lines currently available on the market, like Cargo or Smashbox. It must be an exciting time to be in the industry, with an ever-changing scope for what's possible in terms of color and technique.
Watching HD television for the first time gave me a big shock — the vivid colors and detail are so divorced from regular TV, let alone the fuzzy YouTube videos that comprise most of my audiovisual input, that HD images looked frankly tactile, almost granular and seething with hyperreality, to my under-exercised eyes. This made me remember reading about a study that seemed to show that the generations raised on monochrome television still, even today, report unusually high numbers of black-and-white dreams. Younger people, who've only ever known color television, rarely dream in black and white. If the television we consume in our youth potentially has such far-reaching influence on our subconscious selves throughout the rest of our lives, what might the 21st century explosion of visual media mean for the dream lives of people today, now and in future? If we watch enough high-definition TV, will we start having high-definition dreams? I'm not sure I want to be able to see the beads of sweat on the upper lip of the hideous, deformed man who is, for reasons unknown, chasing me through the dark creaky house which is sort of like my childhood home but not really, or to see the different shades of blue in the glistening water that's lapping at the sides of the ferryboat I've just missed because my luggage is too heavy and I'm in a city where I don't speak the language and my wallet is inexplicably full of sand (I've been having — coincidentally? — weird dreams lately). But then again, if watching enough HD means I might always dream of friends who look radiant and glowing, and who always wear the right shade of red lipstick, I suppose I'd have a team of industrious makeup artists to thank.
Related: Black-and-White TV Generation Have Monochrome Dreams [Telegraph]