Not Ready for Their Close-Up

The high-def format’s merciless gaze isn’t solely a matter of screen resolution. Color is a factor, too. For years, government standards have limited the range of colors available to broadcasters, based on the technological limits of the time. With high-def, more colors can be used, including some formerly forbidden shades of red — which means that blotches, zits and tiny nose-veins can be presented with the brutal clarity of a surgery textbook.

”It’s almost too realistic, too digital and computery,” complains Alexis Vogel, a veteran celebrity makeup artist who recently worked on ”Stacked,” a high-def show starring Pamela Anderson. ”We’d all like to go back to the old days.” Makeup artists are now engaged in an arms race with the new medium. But they face a paradox: while makeup is more necessary than ever, its artifice is more obvious. You can’t slather on powder when every grain looks like a boulder on your client’s face. And interestingly, many cosmeticians predict that high-def could actually reduce the amount of plastic surgery in Hollywood, because the tiny seams look Frankensteinian at such high resolution. High-def is, in essence, a medium peculiarly unsuited to dissembling. ”It’s harder to change people from their natural form,” Vogel adds. —Clive ThompsonNot Ready for Their Close-Up (NY Times)