Behind TIME magazine’s drone cover: A Q&A with D.W. Pine

video credit: Time Magazine

So … who needs Photoshop or After Effects, when you have 958 drones at your disposal?

Time magazine collaborated with Intel to sketch its June 11 cover in the sky — a composition of light emanating from a fleet of choreographed drones, about 100 meters in height, photographed from another drone. The shoot took place in Folsom, Calif., earlier this month. The special issue of the magazine tackles the growing presence of drones in daily life, and the benefits, challenges and and ethical issues they raise.

Time creative director D.W. Pine in an interview with SND, discussed the inspiration and tricky logistics behind the cover shot:

How was this concept born?

We’ve been interested in doing a special issue on drones, and how they are touching all aspects of our lives, for quite some time. Mia Tramz, TIME’s Director of Enterprise, contacted Intel’s drone team – known for their amazing shows during the Olympics and the Super Bowl, and we were off and running. Figuring out the logistics took a couple months.


What were the challenges behind realizing this vision?

We worked with the Intel team producers to figure out how to precisely create the iconic red border and TIME logo in the sky. They were able to match our exact red color and figured out how to make nearly 1,000 drones work in harmony – adjusting for the wind and the downdraft from the drone’s propellers. We had to work out how to actually photograph it since it was produced at an angle 400 feet in the sky. In the end, we shot the cover with a Red Helium camera attached to a drone flying about 800 feet away. It was the first time in our 95-year history the cover was photographed from a drone. We did three separate shows – two at dusk and one at dawn – in order to capture the perfect image.

Is this cover your most difficult work/task?

Each cover of course has its own set of challenges and opportunities and this was no exception. The goal here was to make sure that the reader/viewer realized that the cover was made up entirely of drones – the entire cover was produced in camera. Just as the news business is never dull, the technology and different ways we can now present that journalism is changing just as fast. It’s exciting to stay ahead of that technology.

What are the skills for a designer to work in your design team just now? (in case if you are hiring one)

Even though the career path for designers is always changing with technology and new platforms, the underlying importance of being a great storyteller remains. I think the word ‘journalist’ in the title of visual journalist is even more important today.

See more:

TIME’s Drones Issue: Go Behind the Cover

D.W. Pine and Josh Raab from TIME review content on the screen.
Jake Stangel for TIME



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