HD has put makeup artists under the microscope


For viewers, the clarity of HD television has been a joyful epiphany, revealing heretofore unseen details like the fine thread of fabrics and individual tree leaves. It also shows every pimple, pockmark, line and wrinkle, along with any heavy-handed efforts to conceal them.

Consequently, TV makeup artists have had to step up their game.

"There's no room for mistakes," says Sheri Kornhaber, makeup department head on NBC's "Lipstick Jungle." "You really have to be aware when they're about to go to camera, because you're trying to protect these people."

Those often needing protection are actresses in their 40s and 50s, whose careers and self-esteem sometimes depend on appearing youthful. "You have to be careful with powder, because the powder can make them look older," observes Lori Madrigal, makeup department head for NBC's "Heroes." "I'm a firm believer that, for HD, natural tones are the best." That means favoring beiges and browns, avoiding reds, pinks and whites, and blending the colors together seamlessly.

For men, Janice Berridge, makeup department head on CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine," says she finds herself forgoing full-on cream makeups in favor of hydrating moisturizers that give skin a "nice, healthy look."

HD resolution can also present challenges with younger actresses, who might be showing the effects of a late-night photo shoot or partying till dawn. "Ali Larter, she has a glass of wine, and the next day she can be puffy," Madrigal says. "So I can go to my cinematographer (Charlie Lieberman) and say, 'Give it about an hour and shoot on this side.' Because you will see it."

Fortunately, technology can hide imperfections as well as expose them. Like most one-hour dramas, ABC's "Desperate Housewives" is shot on 35mm film and then transferred into the digital realm. "If there's a blemish that's not covered correctly, one press of a button, it's gone," says John M. Elliott Jr., the show's makeup department head.

"It's amazing."