Cover story: Time’s drone age

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The latest front cover of Time takes advantage of the modern magazine cover’s combined role as print and digital poster. The iconic Time logo and red border are recreated by a swarm of drones in the California sky.

‘We were interested in doing a special issue on Drone technology and how they are now infiltrating all aspects of our lives,’ explains creative director D.W.Pine, ‘Figuring out the logistics of how to produce the cover took a couple months – certainly more time than we usually have for the weekly magazine.’

Pine worked with Intel’s drone team – known for live performances during the Olympics and Superbowl – to recreate the cover elements, taking three days using different light at various times to achieve the final cover shot, as well as a video of its making. The entire cover was created in camera. ‘It could’ve easily been done in Photoshop (and certainly take less time) but turning the entire cover over to drones really made the point clearly that their time has come – literally!’

958 drones carrying lights flew 400 feet in the sky above Intel’s Folsom offices. ‘We worked with the Intel drones pilots and event coordinators to create the red border and logo, matching the red color exactly. The challenge was adjusting for the wind and the downdraft created by the drones,’ Pine told me, ‘The final shot was produced at an angle so that the drone propellers wouldn’t create so much wind below to move them.’

The entire scene lasted for just three minutes and was shot from another, larger, drone. ‘We attached a Red Helium video camera to the bottom of a big drone from Astraeus Aerial Cinema Systems. The cover is a still from that video, which was shot 800 feet from the drone army.’

The result is a front cover designed as much for social media as for print. ‘Most people now see the Time cover digitally (with accompanying video/animation each week),’ says Pine, ‘The Time border and logo are very recognisable, seeing the whole thing come together made it even more recognisable that it was the Time branding.

Read the Drone Age story here.

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