When Entertainment Weekly wanted to feature the Grateful Dead on the cover 20 months ago (issue 161), the most striking image was of Jerry Garcia, but it seemed wrong to exclude the band's other members. A brainstorming session led to the concept of superimposing a photo of the Dead at work onto Garcia's black T-shirt. This challenging assignment went to the magazine's in-house imaging department, whose high-tech capabilities made the ''impossible'' idea a reality.
This was not an unusual task. Each week, the 13 members of the imaging department use their artistic skill and computer wizardry to make sure our magazine looks seamless. ''We handle retouching photographs, illustrations, color corrections, and combining the images with the text before we send it, via satellite, to the printers,'' explains EW production manager Sue Barnett, who oversees imaging.
Put simply, the imaging department is our magic wand: Staffers take the green tinge out of blond hair, erase scars, smooth laugh lines, and help our editors get the effect they want. ''It's our job to take whatever it is and try to make it look better,'' says production associate Dan Thompson. Making a photo ready for publication, however, can take complicated turns. When we put Elle Macpherson on our cover last March, dressed in a bikini that looked like strips of film, the image was the result of 18 painstaking hours of computer work to get the swimsuit just right.
Given the technology at their fingertips, what keeps imaging from turning every cover subject into Elle? As production associate Bill Lazzarotti says, ''We understand and respect consistency.'' So not to worry: Sharon Stone really is that beautiful.