Q: A post-production company called HOAX just revealed that it digitally slimmed Britney Spears for her "Work Bitch" video. Is she the only one?
A: Hell no, not by a long shot. Put it this way: I guarantee — guarantee — that you have no idea just how altered the average star is in a piece of film or video.
But the tricks don't end with her, or her slimmed-down bod in "Work Bitch."
The digital enhancement of stars is a huge, huge part of the entertainment business. It doesn't matter if it's a movie, a music video, even a weekly TV show. If you're looking at a celebrity moving around on a screen — particularly if that footage is expensive, like, say, a big-budget movie or slick video — chances are high that the star has had digital work done. Think waist. Thighs. Arms. Thigh jiggle. Nose, in at least one case.
Yes, we all know how much retouching goes on for magazine photos and movie posters. But it turns out the practice is just as prevalent on the video side of the business.
How do I know all this? Well, finding out wasn't easy. It took me about a month to even find a digital retoucher willing to talk to me about how he works. In Hollywood, the clandestine art of beauty work is so hush-hush, no one wants to talk about it. Nobody.
When I finally did find someone earlier this year, I told him I wanted to interview him for my podcast, The Fame Fatale.
He told me I had to agree to the following conditions: I had to withhold his name, his company name and his location. I had to withhold the names of every star he's ever done beauty work for, because it's a very small world and that world would instantly blacklist him.
I had to disguise his voice.
And I had to agree not to show, on my blog or via MP4 of my podcast, any of his work or mention any of the specific projects he's ever done. And they are some mega-projects — some of the most memorable footage of its type to air in the past five years.
As part of my visit with this source — let's call him Deep Pixel — he invited me to his Los Angeles-area office and showed me a demo reel of his work. To be clear: One gets to see this demo reel only by coming to Deep Pixel's lair and physically sitting down at his computer.
Because if the stars in this demo reel knew that he was showing people their befores and afters, I guarantee it would not end well for Deep Pixel. Things probably won't end well for the folks at HOAX Films, either.
Let me tell you what I saw on this demo reel.
I saw a huge, huge triple threat star getting about two inches removed from her waist and thighs.
I saw an A-list male star get the bone structure in his face redone. One side of his jaw was squarer than the other and Deep Pixel erased that and made the two jawbones more even. (The finished film went on to gross more than $750 million worldwide.)
I saw a half-dozen stars get their wrinkles removed, their marionette lines removed, under-eye circles, crow's feet, razor burn, pimples, even bad eye makeup. Right in front of me. Before and after. Before and after.
In one case, I watched as a computer gave a major female singer a nose job. The curve of her nose was altered for a piece of her video footage.
But it doesn't end there. That bulge that you sometimes see between the bra strap and shoulder? That little piece of fat? Routinely erased. That crease that you might get in your waistline when you twerk your butt? Wiped out. One talent had incredibly bloodshot eyes — as in, she looked like she'd been soaking in chlorine for a day before filming this piece of footage. And ... erased!
In my Fame Fatale interview, Deep Pixel said he recently redrew a set of abs for one female celeb, and rebuilt a jaw and neckline for an aging male star.
And speaking of famous male, he told me that one TV star liked to have the bald spot on the back of his head darkened for every episode of his show while it was on. (It isn't anymore and that's all I can give you there.)
Stars may want you to think that beauty is all just a matter of hair and makeup and lighting. They don't want you to know that there are people out there like Deep Pixel who essentially make them look skinnier and smoother on film and video, in the same way that magazines touch up still photos.
But now you do.