Taking things at face value is critical to makeup artists in the film and television industry. Oftentimes, their job involves making audiences forget they were ever on set.
If you've watched Netflix's popular new series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, you've noticed a mysterious yellow-to-orange Hue on the faces of some of the Actors some of the time. If you have not, try this: pull up the 10th Episode, scrub to the 20-minute mark and take a look at Harvey Kinkle's (Ross Lynch) face.
Is the young actor suffering from jaundice? I know Archie Comics are full of saturated color, but what's going on here? Is anyone talking about this?
I had to know more and so started the Mystery of the Yellowish Faces.
It all started with a simple Forensics inquiry with the analysts down at the lab: Twitter users. I entered "Sabrina makeup yellow" into the social network's search bar and clicked the small magnifying glass, as today's gumshoes so often do.
"Is it just me or does everyone in Sabrina have terrible makeup that often makes their face look yellow in the terrible lighting?" Tweets @dgraybarnett. "Someone needs to have a word about how the makeup is yellow on Sabrina," @nickrgilbert adds. "Harvey and Hilda are most obvious, but … yeesh."
Now wait a minute. The Stakes are unfairly high for makeup artists. If the facade drops at all, fingers – and tweets – are pointed straight at them. There was more to the story.
At the very least, my database search confirmed I was not crazy. Indeed, further sleuthing Revealed Reddit threads posted by users complaining about the same issue for other shows; victims included Jessica Jones, 13 Reasons Why … even Queer Eye.
There I was, chain-smoking in front of a pin board, pacing the room trying to find the connection. "Of course," I thought. "Netflix."
They say the truth is in the eye of the beholder. So I asked Philippe Champion, Toronto-based camera operator and focus puller, for his opinion on the scene in question.
"The practical lights in the scene are really warm and yellowish, and to me, that's what's reproduced on his face," says Champion, who has worked on Productions for the streaming service.
The plot has started to thicken – resembling the split pea soup I craved after looking at Harvey's face. But Champion had another theory.
"I have a feeling it might be due to the settings of your screen," he says. "Most TVs come out of the box all cranked up … which is okay for sports but not suitable for drama."
While that may be true for many Televisions – and Reader, you should check your set – my attempts at home-made color correction left everything on my screen looking bloodless – just like those poor stiffs down at the Morgue. In any case, the solution did not seem viable.
I was losing sleep. Luckily, a friend of mine – T. Cooper, a makeup artist based in New York City. What's the scoop, Coop?
"A lot of things could've gone wrong," Cooper tells me. "It could have been a post-production issue. It could have been that the lighting was yellow, and made the makeup appear to be this Unnatural color. It could have been that the foundation oxidized and got darker on his face over time – that happens often. Or it could've just been that the makeup artist made a boo-boo in color-matching the actor. "
As smoking Guns go, Occam should wise up: A razor's got nothin 'on a .38 Smith & Wesson. But what do I know?
Nevertheless, Cooper's acknowledgment that this could be faulty handiwork was honest, refreshing. Other makeup artists I spoke to – including a head makeup artist for Sabrina – slammed the door in my face, like I was asking the wrong questions in the wrong part of town.
Could it be a post-production issue, as Cooper says? Similar to a moiré pattern on a particularly busy road, could this be, for example, a posterization problem? The Cooper file was inconclusive, so I needed more color for the story I'd later tell the chief at debrief.
In fact, I needed a colourist – one of the digital Wizards who adjusts the final images in post-production.
"Would I put money on posterization as the culprit? Hell no! "Says Robert LeBlanc, a Toronto-based colourist. "Would I put all my money on makeup and insufficient time spent in post? Hell yes! "
LeBlanc admits Sabrina but it points out that none of these issues are apparent in some of Netflix's more Distinguished Dramas, like House of Cards or The Crown.
"You say David Fincher wants to make a series? Spare no expense! You say you want to reboot Sabrina the Teenage Witch? Umm, yeah, here's a little money. See what you can do. "
He tells me the only way to know for sure is to check the original raw media – an Autopsy. I thank LeBlanc for his time and walk out into the cold. As he says, time is money. And Frankly, I owe him at least a chocolate malt at Pop's.