Living Magazine Cover and Spread – Outside Magazine

Photographer Alexx Henry and his team show you how a magazine might look in the not-so-distant future with the October cover and spread for Outside Magazine. In this video, Alexx Henry takes you through the creation of the Living portrait of the triathlete Chris Lieto photographed using the revolutionary Red One cinema camera and the 5d Mark II.

Music is “Gone Gone Days” by Two Years Before the Mast and “I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool” by El Ten Eleven. Buy El Ten Eleven’s songs here:


The Evolution of Print

How dynamic content and developing technologies can revive an industry with an uncertain future.

by Alexx Henry

Picture this

It’s the year 2015 and a commuter is heading to work on the train. After taking a sip of his coffee, he glances down to see a moving picture of his wife blowing kisses to him on the front of the cup. Smiling to himself he turns the cup around to check the coffee level, shown as a horizontal line dancing with the motion of the train. Placing the cup down on the tray, he picks up the local newspaper and glances at the headlines. The paper is alive with moving pictures and type that begs for his attention. He swipes his finger across the top of the paper and when a password box pops up he taps something in. Suddenly the paper transforms itself into a much more pleasing layout reading “Welcome Mr. Smith.” All the articles are custom tailored to him.

For now this reads like a scene from a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster but the truth is we may be just a few short years from realizing this. There are  developing technologies with applications that look like they come right out of the future. We’re talking flexible displays that can bring us Mr. Smith’s “living” newspaper. This will change the way we ingest tangible media. This is exciting stuff. And I’m going to say something pretty unconventional here, given the current condition of the newspaper and magazine industries: this is an exciting time for the print industry, because these technologies might just provide a solution for an industry with an uncertain future. This could be the evolution of print.

I know. The Apple Tablet is coming. The kindle will be improved. Others will follow with their claims to save print and get people reading again. I don’t dispute this. I don’t even dispute that some of these devices will hit new levels of awesomeness, and get people reading digitally in record numbers, but I don’t see these devices as being able to shut down the presses. For one thing, not everyone will be willing to own a device that will cost several hundred dollars, no matter how great. What I do see is this: advances in electronic paper technology that will bring us flexible, portable and recyclable displays- inexpensive to make and distribute, and affordable enough to buy in the morning and leave on the train for the next guy. Now that sounds like print evolution.

The technologies that can get us there

There are two emerging technologies that have the potential of putting content on small, portable and flexible vehicles. OLED (Organic LED) and E Ink. If you’ve ever laid eyes on the Amazon’s Kindle, you’ve seen E Ink technology in action. Using the same technology, Plastic Logic, a company out of England, has plans to release a letter-sized flexible e-reader in early 2010.

OLED is fast emerging as the preferred display for cell phones and soon televisions. OLED is extremely color-rich and can be made light, portable and energy efficient. Flexible futuristic prototypes have been developed by Sony, Samsung and the Universal Display Corporation, who has even developed a flexible wristband that streams video. Most exciting is that as recently as August, scientists from the RIKEN center in Japan announced advances that would allow OLED devices to be manufactured as inexpensively as printing newspapers.

Given these developments, it’s no stretch to imagine how these technologies can be adapted to produce the next generation of “living” newspaper or magazine.

“Living Art” and a warning from DOOH

As a photographer, my interest is in the content creation side of all this, and as a content creator, I’m teeming with excitement, because with new technology comes new opportunities. Dynamic content will need to be conceptualized and developed specifically for this new media if it is to thrive. This is a great time to be in the business of content creation.

But before discussing dedicated “living”content, let’s take a quick look at the Digital Out of Home (Digital OOH) market, which uses existing technology (HD screens etc…) to integrate moving content into people’s daily lives. Digital OOH is just similar enough to “living” print to give us ideas about what might and what might not work. In fact, they’re conceptually twins. Both media rely on grabbing the attention of non-captive audiences. So unlike in television or film, where people have signed up as viewers, with this media, the motion or images need to be engaging rather than noisy. And content using the principles of still photography achieves this.

CBS Alive in the UK has done a good job of making Digital OOH a welcome part of the London commuter’s daily life. Many of their campaigns show still pictures, like the movie poster for Bride Wars, suddenly coming to life. What used to be flat still shots are now springing to life in a way unique from video. And according to research, most commuters are seeing this as a welcome and pleasing distraction. And there’s a lesson for would-be “living art” content creators in this.

London’s digital screens were not always embraced. As a matter of fact, when the screens first came out, the video that was streaming was basically repurposed commercials originally intended for broadcast. They were met with public scorn and some even cited them as harassment.

Mike Hemmings, the Head of Digital Marketing admits that they were intrusive. The lesson was to focus on the idea of attraction vs distraction. He states, ” [Digital OOH] failed to capture the imagination of advertisers, but more interestingly…the consumer.” He explains, “The multitude of blinking ads with an array of colours and sounds were cited as harassment rather than offering inspiration. From this very first incarnation of digital screen, we can learn much.”

So the trick is to create unique and compelling motion content that will attract- not distract, and convey its idea on one level at a glance, while offering more layers should a viewer choose to invest. This is great news for photography and image professionals, because many of the skills and disciplines used to make a powerful still image work are the same skills that will produce the best content for these next generation technologies. So if you understand how to communicate an idea through a single image or spread, you understand how to create compelling content for a future medium like a living magazine.

So let’s evolve

So while it may be another 6-8 years, depending on market demands, until we can hold a living magazine, let’s get people excited for the promise of what may come, before we get stuck repurposing old rules for new mediums- which we already saw did not work for the DOOH market.

Let’s make content that offers a unique experience unlike that of watching TV or surfing the Internet- that will be integrated into the consumer’s daily lives: at the newsstand, on the train, in a cafe. Let’s make content that takes what we love about newspapers and magazines and bring it to a new level, enhancing readers’ experiences. We don’t have to worry about the future of print. We can evolve.

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  1. Just saw the video via the Chase Jarvis blog link…very cool stuff. Looks like the magazine is jumping off the shelf into your hands. However, I do wonder how big the impact will be when all mags are like this?

    • Good point. Like anything else I’m sure we’ll see some growing pains, but we can take a lesson from the Digital Out of Home industry. There’s a bit about that in the article below. Eventually I believe the content that provides the reader with the best experience- the content that follows the principles of attraction vs. distraction, will prevail.

  2. Great work. This paradigm shift in technology will most certainly transform the still and film industries.

  3. I’m sorry, but all I can think of when I hear about electronic magazines is more e-waste. Is it really a good idea to move toward one-time use, disposable electronics? Who’s going to accept responsibility for recycling the screens and power sources in these magazines? The publishers, municipalities, poor people in third-world countries? It sounds like a terrible idea to me, and as usual we get all hyped up about technology without fully considering it’s impact on our lives and the planet.

  4. As a content creator I have been jazzed by the possibilities that rigs like the 5dmk2 are creating. And was looking forward to the video after reading the article… But then I watch the video, and I see what amounts to a full blown film crew on the beach… For a magazine cover shoot? C’mon. Mags are in serious financial trouble, right? And Currently a nice cover shot costs in the neighborhood of 10-12 grand. Photographer, assistants, talent, et all… Possibly 25. But the economics are pushing the numbers down.

    So when I see a director, a DP, an LD, a few grips, a dolley, at least one jib arm, multiple cameras, kraft services, unions rules, and all of that other crap on location at a beach, I’m thinking easily 50-60 grand for the day, and you still have writing and post production to do. Outdoor life is gonna spend $75-$100 grand on a cover and one story? Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t see that happening. Show me a good run and gun shooter with a mk2, an assistant and some lighting support… And that is sellable. Am I missing the point here?

  5. The project is just fabulous. And the results were wonderful. I think Confuego raises some extremely valid points about the cost and the client’s willingness and ability to pay what most probably is a very expenseive shoot. I’d like to hear Alexx weigh in on this.

  6. The e-waste point cannot be ignored. What is being created for one-time use must be looked at closely. As far as the expense of these types of shoots: a few high-profile magazines will do the full-blown union/motion picture type shows while the rest will go with lean crews analogous to photo shoots.

  7. In view of Andrews point about the waste involved i think the delivery system will be either a persons laptop or X gen Kindle type device and the mag is auto downloaded at night while you sleep.
    As for the expense involved in the actual shoot, I think we can all agree that a magazine does spend some amount of money to shoot stills for its cover and regardless of the financial scale of that shoot the possibility of shooting motion with todays technology is practically the same. You still need a cool concept and aside from hot lights as oppose to strobes very little else is needed. (Audio maybe?). It seems Alexx choose a sports based topic and used resources available to him, but certainly you can create Living ads without all of that. And just like photography you will see the whole spectrum of quality vs time, budget and talent. I for one am super excited about this idea.

  8. ” I don’t even dispute that some of these devices will hit new levels of awesomeness, and get people reading digitally in record numbers, but I don’t see these devices as being able to shut down the presses. For one thing, not everyone will be willing to own a device that will cost several hundred dollars, no matter how great.”
    -Alex Henry

    In his statement, he’s not comparing apples to apples (pardon the pun).
    He’s comparing the future THEORETICAL price of his magazine (a few dollars) to the high cost of EXISTING technology (the Kindle, iPad, etc.).

    If the price of his Living Art magazines are going to come down to the few dollars level then SO will the price of the Kindle and the iPad. The screen itself is the main cost of these devices. The electronics (microprossor, ram, power supply, voltage regulators, etc. etc.) are relatively cheap. Those components would be needed in his electronic magazine as well. (unless he really has found some magical Harry Potter ink)

    But, being in the electronics industry, I really don’t foresee OLED or any other flexible screens being as cheap as a paper magazine and being sold off a “newsstand”

    OLED screens may become much less expensive for sure, but probably in the $50 – $100 range for a magazine sized one.
    Currently, a magazine sized flexible screen is in the $3000 – $4000 price range.

    In the highly unlikely even they DO become cheap as paper…seriously, are people going to be throwing these away and then picking up the next “issue”.
    I don’t see that going over to well with Al Gore minions.

    Why do we have to have a physically discreet object in our hand for every different magazine we want.
    The “newstand” is an outdated dinosaur and so are individual “hard copies” of magazines and book – the tablet/download route (1 unit that can store ALL your issues of Parenting, Spin and Fancy Cat magazine) is the wave of the future.

    In the end he’s just talking about a variation of the Kindle and other curerent technologies. Current technologies that will also slowly improve into thin flexible media displays.

    Anyway, that’s my engineering 2 cents


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