Carrie Trownson

High definition television (HDTV) has changed the face of the makeup artistry industry: those armed with brushes, glosses and pencils have had to change their ways to evolve with technology to continue creating flawless looks.

With softer set lighting and five times the sharpness of regular television, shooting in HDTV means makeup artists must pay more attention to detail.

Rob Closs is the owner of The School of Professional Makeup in Toronto, run entirely by industry professionals. With peak enrolment at about 30 students, the school offers courses in makeup art, special effects with advanced gelatine, hair works and prosthetics with silicone and foam.

In 1998, Closs  converted a small studio basement in Mississauga into a place where he could teach his skills. Ten years later, Closs says the biggest growing pain he has experienced has been high definition television, “because it wasn’t a smooth transition,” he says. 

Jackie Shawn, a makeup artist for Canadian celebrities and instructor at Humber College,  is all too familiar with the headaches high definition television creates.  

“Every pore, every hair, every follicle, everything is visible,” she says.

Even the most simple technique can be problematic when working with HDTV. Just applying lip gloss, like many do daily, will make the mouth look like a pool of water, says Closs. His colleague once had to wipe all the lip gloss off of a guest on a high definition TV show they were working on because it was so distracting.

The way artists think about colour is changing too, because of HDTV. Shawn says colours, can appear completely different in high definition. Closs says a large area of red, like a jacket can look like it’s glowing, but a small area like red lips can look nice and natural in high definition.

Closs and Shawn agree that their best ally is airbrushing when working with HDTV.  Closs teaches the technique – spraying base foundation onto the skin in a fine mist - at his school and uses it often in the field.  With an airbrush, Closs says he can use less makeup, the key to making skin look natural in HDTV..

“You get more bang for your buck,” he says.

While HDTV has proved to be challenging for the industry, both Closs and Shawn agree that the art of makeup will evolve with television and film technology advances.