'Cloudy' 3D ad marks magazine milestone

Virtual Images pioneered technology for THR's print cover

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Monday's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" cover of the print edition of The Hollywood Reporter is a milestone: the first time a 3D print ad looks about as good as the movie it promotes.

The ad was made 3D by Virtual Images, the same company that creates 3D packaging for DVDs like "Watchmen: Director's Cut" and posters for movies like "Final Destination 4."

Print publications have dabbled with 3D in the past, with results that weren't exactly attention-grabbing. But Virtual Images uses a proprietary technology that has already impressed studios, which have not only embraced posters and DVD packaging but also more unusual promotional pieces created by Virtual Images, like 3D movie images on collectible celluloid.

Monday's THR marks the first time that Virtual Images' highest-concept 3D technology has adorned the cover of a magazine, though plans call for more 3D pages, courtesy of an exclusive relationship between the company and THR, terms of which were kept under wraps.

"We're producing a lot of prototypes for The Hollywood Reporter," said Virtual Images president Dave Corey.

"This is an underused communications medium," he said. "It's about cutting through the clutter, and 3D tells more of the story -- with that sweet depth."

Typically, the company needs from 10 to 14 days to create a print ad similar to the one on Monday's cover.

While the cost of a large movie poster that must display its 3D qualities even when viewed from several feet away can be relatively expensive -- as much as $300 per unit -- such is not the case when working on a smaller scale, said Corey. Turning a DVD cover into a 3D piece of art adds just 15% to the manufacturing cost.

"The ability to have a cost-effective technology for the print publication, with that same technology available online, is a way for us to super-serve our industry," said THR publisher Eric Mika.