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Digital Makeup

Digital Makeup

This post started out as a post-production update for the website of my new short film The Specimen, but since the most popular posts on this site are about color correction and picture profiles I thought I’d cross-post it here.

Film-making is a magic trick.  We take bits and pieces of filmed media and reorganize and juxtapose them to create a story and emotion.  The reality is an 8 minute short like The Specimen is shot over the course of 2 days, and also included 2 additional pickup shoots.  So different images from this film were all shot hours, days, and even weeks apart.  Try as we might to be perfect there are always going to be differences from take to take or shot to shot.

During the initial shoot I had retained the services of Branwyne Smith who had done the excellent FX makeup on Mercy, to do our actors makeup and make them look their best.  However on the subsequent re-shoots, we didn’t have the time or budget to bring Branwyne back.  You don’t really realize how much a skilled makeup person brings to the table until you look at some footage of an actor without it.

When cutting the pickup shots of Brian Pope without makeup in next to the takes from the initial shoot of him with makeup there’s a stark contrast as you can see below:

Original shot of Brian with makeup (click to see full resolution)
Pickup Shot Without Makeup (click to see full resolution)

If you click on each image you can see it in full resolution and the differences and evenness of the skin tones are much more apparent.  With makeup Brian’s complexion is a little warmer and even.  Without makeup, his complexion shows more blemishes and is a bit more (sorry Brian) pasty.

Now having slight differences between shots is going to happen, and it’s why people color correct their films.  In color correction you compensate for differences in lighting, white balance, color to make all the shots match.  One way to correct between these shots would be to warm up Brian’s skin tone in the non-makeup shot to get the same warmth, and until the advent of new digital tools that would probably be all we could do, but now we can add some digital makeup to make this shot look even better.

Enter Red Giant Software’s Colorista II’s Pop tool.  Colorista is a powerful color correction plug-in for use with a variety of editing systems including Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and After Effects.  It’s my go to color corrector for its speed and intuitiveness.  In version II of the software they introduced the “Pop” feature, which is a simple slider that increases and decrease local contrast in a unique way that adds or in this case removes details from a shot.

By using this feature, along with Colorista’s built-in keyer, you can isolate the skin tones and decrease the “pop” to  smooth it out, giving the effect of having used makeup.

Colorista's Keyer Quickly Isolates the Skin Tones
Pickup Shot with Digital Makeup (click to see at full resolution)
With Digital Makeup

While this isn’t a substitute for having a real makeup artist on set, it can do in a pinch.  If you’re interested in learning more, the inventor of Colorista, Stu Maschwitz has created a tutorial on this exact subject that you can watch here.

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