The high-definition revolution calls for a slew of new products — big flat-screen televisions, pricey DVD players, surround sound stereo systems, state-of-the-art makeup.
High-def TV provides an unprecedented clarity of picture. Anyone who's bought an HDTV has compared regular and HD channels and marveled at the difference in quality. When the camera catches an actor in close-up, it's no exaggeration to say you can practically see the person's pores.
And therein lies the problem. The same technology that lets you see a perfect sunset in jaw-dropping detail also lets you see an imperfect face in jaw-dropping detail. Wrinkles and blemishes are suddenly visible. Actresses that look perfect in airbrushed magazine photographs or the more forgiving medium of film begin to look a little more like the rest of us in high-definition.
The cosmetics industry is responding. Several companies — including Christian Dior, Smashbox and Make Up for Ever — have developed products for use on actors and actresses filmed in high-definition and, in what looks like a first, one has just launched an entire line of them.
Cargo's new blu_ray collection, named after the recently victorious high-definition DVD format, is available to both the professional makeup artist and the regular consumer. It includes a pressed powder and a blush with "micronized light diffusers" to reflect light and hide imperfections, a mattifier that minimizes lines and stops shine, and lip glosses that plump lips and smooth lines. The best product, and the one most unlike its regular counterpart, is the mascara — you apply the product with a comb rather than a brush, making it virtually impossible to end up with the fake-looking clumps that normally result.
Toronto-based Cargo founder Hana Zalzal says the company developed the line after discovering there was a real need for it. "One of our top-selling products is a bronzer that's got a bit of shimmer in it," she says. "We were hearing from makeup artists, 'Can you develop one without shimmer? It's picking up on-screen.' "
One of the challenges makeup artists face is the competing demands between full coverage and a natural look. As anyone who saw Katherine Heigl at the Oscars in HD knows, heavy makeup looks extremely unnatural in high-definition. Cargo paid attention, and it's one reason the company is pitching its line at the consumer as well as the professional.
"As far as the actresses go, some of them don't like to wear a lot of makeup in their personal lives, and they were taking this home because it looked so natural," Ms. Zalzal reports. "And it's perfect for photographs, bridal parties and proms."
Cargo will add more products this fall, including one that would prep the skin so that less makeup needs to be used and a concealer that treats wrinkles while it hides them.
Two makeup artists questioned about the challenges of high-definition used the exact same words to describe their feelings: "We need to step up our game."
Sheri Kornhaber, a makeup artist on "Lipstick Jungle," NBC's dramedy starring Brooke Shields, says actresses are concerned about how they look no matter the format. Still, she adds, "There's no room for imperfections with HD."
She often works with lighting operators. "Lighting is just as important as good makeup," she says.
Although high-def offers better quality, it may not actually be doing actresses — or viewers — any favors. "If you look at older TV shows, they have that gauze look," Ms. Kornhaber says. "It's more beautiful. But there's no stopping technology."
Rumors abound that actresses may be putting limits on their close-ups in their contract now. "If I was an actress, I would put it in," Ms. Kornhaber says. "Actors, too. Men care just as much."
While HD transforms her industry, Ms. Kornhaber suggests it may give a boost to another. "That's why we see so much plastic surgery," she says.
Davida Simon of the Makeup Room Web site agrees. Actresses are "going to be as good as what their skin care is," she says. "They're going to have to make friends with their dermatologists and plastic surgeons."
Ms. Simon, based near Denver, has worked in television and feature film, including with such luminaries as Demi Moore, Jodie Foster and Brad Pitt. She says talent is "definitely more concerned" about HD. "I think it's to the point that they're running scared."
Makeup artists are worried, too. She's been airbrushing since before HD became big, but notes that imperfections not even visible to the naked eye are magnified by HD. "Things are going to get picked up by the HD camera that we don't even see," she says. Even wigs need to get better because you can see their edges in close-up.
She's a little skeptical about some of the new products. "HD has become a buzzword," she notes. New foundations are really useful, but other products she sees as a stretch: "Is a lip gloss really for HD?" She predicts they'll be hot sellers, though. "If [consumers] can purchase for $20 a bottle of makeup that says HD on it, even if it hasn't been tested, they're going to do it."
Still, she welcomes the lines, which will particularly help the television news industry. "It's something that in the smaller markets, anchors and reporters can put on themselves," she explains. "They can't get their faces airbrushed every day. It's too expensive for them to hire makeup artists."
Until cosmetic companies manage to beat HD, viewers will continue to be slightly disillusioned by what the best technology shows them. Cargo's Hana Zalzal doesn't think consumers should be too disappointed, though.
"I think everyone is wise enough to know that sometimes what you see in magazines is not reality," she says. "I think it's refreshing that they're just people also."