By  on September 12, 2008

These are the final days of television pancake faces. To be exact, D-Day for the layer-upon-layer look that imparts news anchors with a serious pallor is Feb. 17, 2009. That’s when stations will be required by law to go digital and the analog programming that entered living rooms for decades becomes a dinosaur in the dawning high-definition era of sharper broadcasts for all.

TV makeup artists haven’t experienced a similar job-altering event since the switch from black-and-white to color in the Fifties. The change comes with its share of trepidation. “People are very scared of it,” says James Vincent, director of artistry of The Powder Group. “The HD camera picks up exactly what we see with the naked eye.” Pigments are brighter, blemishes stand out, excessive shine comes across as sweat and wrinkles can appear wrinklier. “There is no room for mistakes,” says Kristina Duff, a makeup artist who has handled CNN talent.

Behind the scenes, makeup kits are being thoroughly reexamined. Sheila McKenna, who helped develop the HD-friendly line Kett Cosmetics, instructs makeup artists to home in on ingredients and shades. Muted colors are better than bright, and reflective cosmetics compounds such as mica are taking a backseat. Overly shiny lip glosses ooze unattractively onscreen, frosty eye shadows gleam intensely and deep cheek tints or bronzers overpower. To anchors painting their own faces, she cautions, “Throw out red lipstick.”

For foundations, the HD rule of thumb is if you can see it, there’s too much. Precise blending helps “everything look perfect,” says Chanty La Grana, a makeup artist on “Entertainment Tonight,” which is going fully HD in the fall. Make Up For Ever and Cargo have both released highly blendable HD foundations, but many artists are turning to airbrush techniques to provide complete, noncakey coverage. Temptu, Iwata, Kett and Dinair are among the brands popular with TV makeup artists.

HD tricks aren’t likely to stick to only the airwaves for long. Airbrush companies are figuring out how to capitalize on their rising visibility and follow in the footsteps of Max Factor, which expanded its professional and consumer appeal by deftly adapting to the switch from black-and-white to color. Although the current selection of professional airbrush products is mostly too technical and too pricy—compressors can cost hundreds of dollars— more brands are set to sell consumer airbrush wares as early as next year. Says Laura Morgan-Glass, an Iwata sales manager, “They are really starting to go mainstream due to the high-def format.”

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