Does HD make me look fat?

I love my HDTV set. I enjoy watching the crystal clear images and listening to the surround sound. I love everything about it! However, it seems that some of those in front of the (HD) camera aren't so pleased at the technology's high quality.

A film star was recently interviewed about her perfect image in film, in print and on TV. She responded that it was all fake. It takes lots of people and technology to appear flawless before the camera, she said.

As HD technology moves into productions where film used to rein, some of those same stars are beginning to realize that film, for all its failings, does wonders to one's skin and appearance on the big screen. HD cameras are not so forgiving.

Stars have always been able to demand certain treatment before the camera. Marilyn Monroe, for example, demanded that when close-ups were required, the lighting had to be positioned above and slightly behind her head so she had a halo effect around her face. Doris Day was able to demand that a soft focus be used whenever her face was the key image on the frame.

The scenario reminds me of my early days in television. Shortly after I began my career as a television engineer, the station purchased new studio cameras. We engineers loved them. The images were brighter, sharper and many times more precise than the much older systems we had.

However, it only took about two days for the news anchor to discover just how much better the new technology really was. It seemed that the new cameras were so crisp that the male anchor's beard was visible if he didn't shave twice a day. He hated having to shave again or use makeup for the evening newscasts.

It was even worse for his female co-anchor, who was livid because she thought the cameras made her look old. Her laugh lines were visible on close-ups, and she couldn't stand not looking 20 years old, despite the reality of her being more than twice that age.

So, the engineers were commanded to do something. Our first fix was to just soft focus during the newscasts. But that made everything look soft, from the weather map to guests and sets. Defocusing the camera was not the solution.

The next solution was to buy a post-camera device to electronically soft focus only the skin tones. It worked. We'd just used technology to again remedy a human problem — vanity.

Now, years later, we find ourselves in the same position. High-definition has allowed us to produce even more precise images. However, the camera still doesn't lie, and talent still wants to appear more handsome or prettier than they really are.

This desire has spawned a new type of make-up for television called airbrushing. Now make-up artists apply super thin layers of make-up to talent with an airbrush. It's all designed to fool the (HD) camera. No more layers of goop designed to hide blemishes. No heavy makeup designed to erase those crows feet or laugh lines. Today, you can look good thanks to a can of spray paint.

I can just see it now: Actors everywhere clamoring for the latest new color or tint. No longer content with a compact and brush, get out the air compressor and spray head.

You gotta love technology.

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