Face up to colour
15 Nov 2016 0 comments. tbs.pm/10175
From the TVTimes for 15-21 November 1969
Preparing the stars for colour television has produced some intriguing problem — and pitfalls — for the make-up artists. But could you spot the screen make-up mistakes? Would you know how to recognise a pre-show drinker, a false hair piece, or the significance of red ears? Printed [here] are familiar TV faces wearing their specially-blended colour television make-up. Without it — or with just normal make-up — they would appear unnatural on the colour screen. Here some of TV’s leading make-up artists tell us their secrets…
They’re a pretty dedicated lot these TV make-up girls. They have to be. Everyone who appears on the screen from stars to extras relies on their every brush stroke and dab of panstick to give them that Just Right Look.
After all, who else knows personal secrets like who’s worrying over faded roots, warts, moles, bald patches on their bad side, or an outsize nose.
For the make-up girls disguising these problems — and dozens more — is all pan of the day’s work. But the arrival of colour on the TV scene has brought a few unexpected surprises.
Putting the stars over in colour is not as simple as it looks. And putting a natural look on the colour screen means a whole new approach to make-up techniques previously geared to black and white.
Thames TV make-up supervisor Pearl Rashbass explained: “Colour means a whole new dimension to your picture. Faces come to life much more. It’s a bit like 3-D. Instead of being flat like a painting they acquire an almost sculptured look.”
In the days of only black and white transmissions the make-up was predominantly corrective, to cope with cameras which tend to show up every blemish and exaggerate faults. The make-up of the future must be finer, more luminous and above all subtle.
Some of the mistakes from which the TV girls have already learned a lesson have been hilarious. Like the bleached blonde star who came out with lime green hair and pre-show drinkers who came out on the screen like beetroots.
I talked first to Pearl Rashbass who was making up Honor Blackman for a children’s story reading. Here are some of the major colour secrets and pitfalls I learned:
- Faces are not the same shade all over — a base that may look fine for black and white looks flat and unnatural in colour. Foundation is almost polished into the skin to give a natural shine.
- Red lips are the kiss of death… in fact all reds have to be avoided. Lipsticks, rouge, face shaders with red in them are far too dark. Instead: shades with yellow overtones. A yellow tone rouge gives a soft coral shade. Lipstick is often topped with cool gold to neutralise a too dark shade.
- That five o’clock shadow: About 99 per cent of men show a heavy beard and moustache shadow. To the eye it may be minimal, but on camera it looks like a three- or four-day growth. Now make-up must be so subtle it means complete camouflage.
- Bald heads are a technical problem, even in black and white. The reflection of light causes flares in the camera and they always have to be powdered. For colour, foundation has to be continued over face and head, too.
- Ears come out bright red unless the are made up. For colour, any area skin that shows must be made up – hands, the neck, arms, even the whole body if needs be.
- Hair pieces are great giveaways, even if they match to the eye they come out on the screen completely differed colours. It’s to do with the light reflection off the two kinds of hair. The only answer is a complete wig.
- Shadows under the eyes become far more prominent in colour, and have to be lightened. The eye bone beneath the brow reflects light and so appears large, making the eye seem smaller. The bone has to be darkened.
- There’s no such thing as a natural beauty on colour TV. People who refuse to wear make-up would just look sick green.
Yorkshire Television senior make-up artist Judy Mounsey told me her department has been experimenting for colour over the last nine months. Among the many problems they’ve discovered are…
Smokers: Nicotine-stained fingers which didn’t show in black and white suddenly look revolting. Yellow is one shade colour cameras can’t resist.
Drinkers: because even the smaller amount of alcohol makes the face bright beetroot red.
Bottle blondes: because bleaches, however good, reflect off a lime green shade.
Judy pointed out, too, that nail varnish, a bit pointless in black and white is now a must. The star’s wardrobe too, have to be examined carefully before planning make-up.
Much of the make-up is done on pre-rehearsal day. The make-up and lighting staff have to work more closer today than ever before. But said Betty Wager, who has been 10 years with ATV, summing up the whole make-up story “I don’t really think there is any problem with which we cannot cope.”
So now you know the secrets — keep an eye open, remembering that the “natural look” you see took a lot of time and skill to achieve.