I saved last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine to read on the plane. In it there was an article by Clive Thompson on how the growing changeover to high definition (HDTV) is affecting actors, actresses, talking heads, and all the rest who make their living in front of the camera. Just as many stars of silent films couldn’t make the transition to talkies (ditto for some making the transition from black and white to color) a number are not faring so well in the switch to HDTV. Because of its tremendous resolution HDTV makes the slightest little imperfections such as wrinkles or acne scars stand out as if they had been spotlighted. Even heavy makeup (the solution with standard def) doesn’t help because the makeup itself is hugely visible.
”I’m seeing people in a whole new way,” says Phillip Swann, president of OnHD.TV, an online magazine. ”If somebody’s aging or if they’ve got any old acne damage, it just jumps out at you. They’ve got no chance.” The editors of OnHD.TV examined several dozen stars and compiled a list of heartthrobs who (they claim) wither under the unblinking gaze of high-def, including Cameron Diaz (”littered with unfortunate pockmarks”), Jewel (whose makeup ”looks like it was done by Ringling Brothers”) and Bill Maher (”scary”). I’ve seen the effect myself: when I recently watched a high-def close-up of Bradley Whitford — a handsome star of ”The West Wing” — a normally insignificant mark on his forehead suddenly stood out like a third eye. I couldn’t stop staring
It causes me angst because every episode of our TV show has been filmed in high definition. I haven’t seen a single episode in High Def; in fact, I’ve only seen two episodes out of the whole year’s worth, both of which were taped to VHS in standard definition. After reading this article and having looked at the thousands of imperfections in my own face every day in the mirror, it’s making me uneasy. I don’t want to have a third eye (or forth or fifth).