Thursday, July 31, 2003

New technology is a mixed blessing
TelevisionWeek | Saving Face in Hi-Def
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. | Playboy in HDTV: Not Looking Good
Playboy TV President Jim English says his company is not planning to launch a High-Definition channel anytime soon.
English says that some adult film stars would not look very attractive through the naked lens of HDTV. The technology delivers a picture so clear that many have compared it to looking through a window.
The problem is not new in Hollywood. reported last month that make-up artists are searching for new techniques to cover up the facial imperfections of celebrities when they appear in high-def.

Tell you what, here's a wild idea: What if, and of course I'm just talking through my hat here, but what if viewers are actually able to accept that not everybody has flawless skin? What if the rest of us know what Hollywood's forgotten: That the contents matter at least as much as the package, usually more.

After all, if Humphrey Bogart could become a movie star, then Cameron Diaz might be able to do it too--if she works as hard on her acting talents as she does on covering her acne.


Y'ever heard of anyone having a "face for radio"? Soon we'll be speaking of a "face for low-rez".

The last time I went to (of all places) Sears, I saw a high-definition TV on display. I hadn't seen one before, and I was expecting to be underwhelmed. When Every New Thing claims to be the beginning of a revolution, you get jaded after a while.

I was stunned. Mesmerized. Compared to regular TV, it does, as advertised, look like you're looking through a window. As I walked up, it was a shot of tropical fish, and I thought it was a real aquarium--until the camera, and my point of view, moved.

I thought I'd fallen in.

I'm serious. If you're not prepared to drop the money on one of these things, don't go see for yourself, I beg you. Must...forget...

LATER: Good heavens. I forgot to compare this situation to its obvious analogue, in the early days of sound pictures, when actors' careers folded because their speaking voices didn't match their looks.

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