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02.20.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
HD is changing the face of TV

High-definition television has brought significant changes in television broadcasting, but it’s also having a profound effect on the physical aspects of production.



It seems that some of those in front of the (HD) camera aren't so pleased at the technology's high quality.

A new report in Women’s Wear Daily states that NBC Today co-host Katie Couric has changed her hairstyle in preparation of a brow lift. The reason cited: her on-screen appearance in HD. A Today Show spokeswoman declined comment. While NBC does not broadcast the Today show in HD, there are negotiations to do so either later this year or sometime in 2005.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Cap Lesesne is quoted in the magazine as saying “I’ve had three major TV people come in expressing specific high-definition television concerns.”

“HDTV is a nightmare,” said one beauty magazine editor.

Indeed, HDTV’s higher resolution is giving stars and set designers worry lines. “The Young and the Restless” star Melody Thomas Scott was quoted in The Chicago Sun-Times stating, “If you didn't quite blow your hair out straight enough, you're going to see a little fuzz,” says the 47-year-old actress, referring to the CBS network’s HDTV broadcast of the daytime soap opera. “You can't get away with anything anymore.”

The image-obsessed television business is worried that a growing HD audience will see more reality than it wants: the wrinkles on once-ageless actors, the cracks in set walls, the brush strokes on painted backdrops. To avoid turning off viewers, television’s illusion specialists in makeup, set design and lighting are finding new ways to counter HDTV's less-forgiving eye.

St. Charles, Ill.-based HDReady, which co-produces WTTW-Channel 11's national weekly music series Soundstage, said lighting costs alone to tape concerts broadcast in HD on the Chicago PBS station are 30 percent higher than with analog TV.

To flatter their stars, cameramen on sitcoms and dramas often use a camera feature called "skin detail" and it's getting considerably more use with HDTV. It involves an adjustable setting that blurs flesh tones but maintains the sharpness of other colors.

Bruce Grayson, head makeup artist for the Academy Awards, which will be broadcast live February 29 in the 720p HD format by ABC, said “HD really scared us at first because the images are so sharp. A blemish on a face becomes a volcano.”

Paul Starr, makeup artist to stars such as Renee Zellweger, said he watched Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in HD and didn’t like the “very bright” and “very heavy” makeup used. He armed Zellweger with a powder compact to keep in her purse to reapply to avoid shine. Starr also counseled her to confine herself to air kisses to prevent smudges.

On the local station level, the issue has been discussed, but only in passing as the number of HD viewers is still relatively small at about 100,000. Yet anyone who has seen the unforgiving close-ups in HD images can attest to the need for innovative techniques to hide blemishes. HD video doesn’t lie.

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