Enough with the HD

The other day I was talking with a colleague about a video project we were working on. There’d been some technical discussions previously about equipment and whatnot – but now – less than two days before taping he told me they were thinking about doing the whole thing in HD.

HD? Why HD? I was going to shoot a few interviews at a conference – just talking heads. Would HD be doing *anyone* any favors? Certainly it isn’t going to be flattering for most people – and who wants to see every one of an other person’s flaws or blemish.

It may seem a bit disingenuous of me to be saying this – given my focus on faces – but there’s something different between the frozen moment of a photography and the incessant ubiquity of the face in video. The static face is an expression that can be explored while the moving face can’t be explored in the same way – only accepted.

Maureen Dowd wrote about this issue today, from a different point of view but the column’s points are excellent – and sad:

Don Malot, a top L.A. makeup artist who works with television and movie stars, says that high-def is turning Tinseltown topsy-turvy.

“People who thought they looked younger on camera than in real life see themselves in high-def and say, ‘Oh my God!’ ” he said. “We can’t use the heavy makeup that used to cover flaws like a drinker’s broken capillaries any more.”

He said that television actresses in their 40s and over are starting to insist that their contracts say they have to be shot slightly out of focus.

“It’s getting rarer to see tight shots of a woman’s face,” he said. “Now the camera guys shoot from the waist up.”

In a photograph, flaws and blemishes can convey personality and character – it isn’t the same with video. I think it’s because we have different expectations of perfection – expectations that are constantly being raised by new technology.

In the arms race between image and appearance you eventually run up against an unavoidable fact – people aren’t perfect. And no amount of anything is going to change that. So what can we do?

I think it’s worth saying “enough with the HD” sometimes. I do totally love HD in a lot of situations – but I don’t think it needs to be used all the time for every situation. It isn’t flattering and it doesn’t add value to storytelling – in fact, it can be a distraction or a detriment as you notice things you never had in the past; things you would have been happy to have been unaware of.

As HD technology continues to become less expensive we’ll continue to see more and more unflattering content being produced. Things can go one of two ways as this happens: first, we could become more accepting of the reality of people or two, we could have a shrinking pool of people that are considered attractive. I hope for the former but expect the later.

In the end, I ended up shooting in standard definition and I think everyone looked great.

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