Rolling Stone gives readers perspective with its 3-D cover art

May 07, 2006|By ERIC BENDEROFF | ERIC BENDEROFF,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

In a throwback to a technology popular when kids still put baseball cards between their bicycle spokes, Rolling Stone magazine is printing the cover of its 1,000th issue in 3-D.

The special cover - a montage similar to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album that includes images of hundreds of pop culture luminaries since the late 1960s - is intended to be an eye-popping attention-grabber. It was scheduled to begin hitting newsstands Friday.

"We wanted to do something that wasn't done before that would instantly stand out," said Will Dana, Rolling Stone's managing editor. "We wanted a `wow' factor. It looks amazing."

For the Wisconsin printing company that produced the 3-D image and the Chicago firm that is finalizing the production, the exposure on 2 million magazines bolsters their belief that the complex printing technology behind 3-D images is coming back.

"The technology is getting a new life," said Bill Benedict, sales and marketing manager for National Graphics Inc. in Brookfield, Wis. The 3-D images increasingly are showing up on mailers, DVD packages and store displays.

Printers began toying with 3-D printing, known as lenticular imaging, in the 1930s and put 3-D pictures on baseball cards, buttons and postcards. It eventually fell out of favor when the novelty wore off and printers tired of the difficult production process.

But now it's easier and with today's crisp 3-D images, balloons float off a page, images change when looked at from different angles and the depth is remarkable.

"A lot of printing techniques started to come together in the '90s," Benedict said. "Now the technology is really grabbing hold. ... The quality is so much better than what we saw years ago."

Lenticular images have become more flexible, too, a key reason Rolling Stone can use one for its cover. And multiple images can be put in one display.

"The image changes completely when looking from side to side," Benedict said.

Creating the Rolling Stone cover was a complex task.The challenges ranged from ensuring the lenticulars would adhere to the magazine to keeping the corners from snagging during final binding. It must also accommodate staples.

The lenticular image is actually a lens pasted onto another image. In the 1990s, National Graphics developed a lens thin enough to run through a standard printing press. The process has been patented and the company has other related patents pending.

The cost of printing lenticular images is higher than standard costs. The Rolling Stone cover will cost publisher Wenner Media about 10 times more than normal, Benedict estimated.

Rolling Stone did not comment on costs for this story, but in a November New York Times piece, founder Jann Wenner said the "3-D cover would probably be the most expensive in magazine history."

Eric Benderoff writes for the Chicago Tribune

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