When High Definition Television first launched in the US in the mid-1990, the paranoia it caused among the resident LA actress population was almost palpable.
“I would work with actresses where we would do press junkets. Someone would come in [to interview them] with hi-def [cameras] and they’d say they’re not going to do it. They were so nervous about it,” recalls Karen Kawahara, make-up artist for TV show The New Adventures Of Old Christine (which stars Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
The stars knew, of course, that the technology would reveal them in such fine detail that every blemish, line, pore and pock-mark would become clearly visible. This is because HDTV has four times as many pixels as conventional TV, something akin to the difference between a standard and a magnifying mirror.
But, for all the angst it caused initially, the new filming technique had fortuitous knock-on effects in the cosmetic industry: it not only brought into sharper focus what was required from make-up for film and television but also demanded newly formulated products to do the job.
The main need that arose was for make-up that looked natural and flawless – suddenly the demands of a spotlit actress were the same as those of a working woman.
“I always say, if it looks good to me in person, it will look good on TV,” says Kawahara. A lighter application was necessary. So, where once a warm tint had been required to compensate for the lighting used for normal filming, now a foundation has to match skin tone perfectly.
Application also needs to be meticulous. “You literally have to pin-point any tiny blemish,” explains British make-up artist Lee Pycroft who has worked with actresses including Naomi Watts and Cate Blanchett.
Ultimately, of course, what was developed for starlets in Tinseltown has filtered into retail options for real women and cosmetic technologies designed for this new film format are set to benefit the consumer. First up, foundation: for the screen, this needs to appear invisible.
To achieve this, M.A.C. worked with micronised pigments (reduced to microscopic size – between 3 and 6 microns – by pulverising in a process called jet milling) in order to develop a texture that is ultra-fine and sheer.The result blends seamlessly onto the skin, such as Mineralize Satinfinish Foundation (£18.50). Prescriptives, Chanel and Laura Mercier have also worked to create foundation that looks as good as skin. For example Laura Mercier Oil-Free Foundation (£30) is sheer but can be layered for increased coverage where needed, and the light-reflective pigments in Chanel Vitalumiere (£25) give skin added luminosity without too much sheen.
Although not specifically designed for HD, the latest concealer pens, a consumer-friendly product inspired by professionals’ concealer brushes, are an invaluable HD make-up tool. They also work well in real life. Guerlain’s illuminating, Precious Light (£24) and By Terry Light Expert (£38), a foundation and concealer brush in one, are both worth noting, while Clinique’s CX Red Colour Corrector (£28) also hides redness, a common HD trouble spot.
Blusher and eye shadow are likewise improving in texture to give a more natural, flattering result. “Shimmer shows up on HDTV,” says M.A.C make-up expert Dean Rudd. M.A.C. uses the same jet milling process on colour pigments to create Sheertone Blush (£13.50) and Velux Eyeshadow (£10) – both add lustre rather than glitter or heavy colour. Plus, eye-shadow doesn’t sink into lines and wrinkles as noticeably as before because it adheres more evenly. “It looks much more realistic and flattering,” says Rudd.
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