THE HOLOGRAM—OR THREE-DIMENSIONAL IMAGE—ON this week's cover is not only a first for SI but also one of the most ambitious holograms ever mass-produced: a full-color image of a live subject in motion. It is fitting that the subject of this unique work is our 1991 Sportsman of the Year, Michael Jordan, an athlete whose reputation was made by reaching for new dimensions.
The idea for a holographic cover arose in early November when our editors picked Jordan as this year's Sportsman. "We decided to do three stories about Michael," says managing editor John Papanek, "because we naturally think of him in three dimensions. And if we want to show him three-dimensionally, why not a hologram on the cover?"
The task of bringing Jordan from 2-D to 3-D—he has long forced people to raise their D a level—fell to Sharon McCormack, of White Salmon, Wash., one of the leading holographic artists in the country. McCormack, who also created the hologram featured on the cover of Prince's new compact disc, Diamonds and Pearls, was thrilled with the idea of shooting Jordan for us. "I thought it was fantastic that SI was going to do something so current with someone so famous," says McCormack. "This involved technology that's been available only for the past three years."
To create the image, McCormack seated Jordan on a turntable in a Chicago studio and aimed a specially designed 35mm movie camera at him. Jordan began the shoot by facing to his right, but as the camera began filming, he was rotated 120 degrees, at approximately 1? rpm, so that from the camera's fixed vantage point, he ended up facing left. At a specific point in the rotation, McCormack cued Jordan to start smiling and slowly increase the width of his smile to its maximum. "Michael had a very hard job," says McCormack. "He had to smile and exude charisma in slow motion while keeping his body perfectly still. He couldn't even blink. He was very graceful and smooth."
McCormack selected a 200-frame strip of film—about 10 seconds of action—to be made into the hologram and sent it to American Bank Note Holographics in Elmsford, N.Y. Through a complex four-step process, ABN used laser light to optically combine the frames into a master hologram that was then made, through another four-step process, into a metal plate. Using the metal plate, they pressed 4.1 million foil "labels," which were then affixed to this week's covers.
To appreciate the full effect of the image, hold the cover of your SI about 16 inches away from your eyes and look at the center of Michael's face. A clear light source—such as a halogen track light—should be behind and above you, about eight feet away and at a 45-degree angle. Bright sunlight works too. At the correct angle, Jordan's jersey will appear bright red and the background a deep blue. By tilting the cover left and right, you will sec Jordan break into a dazzling smile.
"The hologram is like a sculpted image that you can interact with," says McCormack. "Because it captures a gesture, it can communicate the essence of Michael's personality. It's the closest thing to having Michael right in front of you."