May 26, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cameron Diaz is beautiful, right? After all, the green-eyed blonde has been a regular on People magazine’s list of the most beautiful people in the world.
However, the magazine’s editors-and most of the Western world-do not have a high-definition TV. If they did, they would see that Diaz’s face is spotted with small pockmarks, the unfortunate consequence of a longtime acne problem. The actress recently discussed her skin troubles in the U.K. edition of Glamour.
“I want girls to realize that nobody looks like the women in the glossy photos without the help of a load of talented people,” said Diaz, who reportedly had to skip a Gangs of New York premiere because of a new acne outbreak.
When seen on film, Diaz’s skin imperfections are not noticeable, thanks to Hollywood’s talented makeup artists. However, with HDTV, the picture is so precise that the acne damage cannot be hidden. In a high-def broadcast of Charlie’s Angels on HBO, Diaz looks like a different person. She’s still very pretty. But to be very frank, I doubt that she would make People’s most beautiful list.
I am writing this not to discount the considerable charms of Cameron Diaz. But the story illustrates the impact that HDTV is having on the Hollywood glamour machine. As stars run for cover-literally-the industry is searching for new makeup techniques that will combat the evils of digital television. With high-def now in fewer than 6 million homes, the problem is under control. But if new solutions aren’t found-and millions more get HDTV, as expected-the technology could change our perception of who’s beautiful and who’s not.
People sometimes say that an actor looks better-or worse-on TV than in person. Well, there’s a reason for that. Heavy makeup-combined with the imprecise picture of an analog TV channel-can make an average-looking person look attractive.
However, HDTV’s ultra-realistic picture is the great equalizer. Someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones, who has naturally beautiful skin and hair, looks even better on HDTV while Diaz suffers in comparison. Younger actors look more vibrant while older actors, such as Becker’s Ted Danson, look their age or worse. Sorry, Ted.
In the early days of HDTV, makeup artists piled on the goo, thinking it would cover everything from wrinkles to blemishes. But heavy makeup is noticeable on HDTV, which can detract from a show’s realism.
The industry has recently developed a special makeup technique called “airbrushing.” Similar to the gloss-over done in glamour stills, airbrushing is intended to soften facial imperfections. The technique is not perfect, although it has been used well on the HD broadcast of NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
However, the makeup industry will continue its search. Because as Blanche DuBois begged to stay away from the light in A Streetcar Named Desire, the stars of tomorrow may beg to stay away from HDTV.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.