Behind the scenes at MacFormat

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at MacFormat? As a student in the final year of a journalism degree, I wanted to know, and Editor Chris and the team in Bath kindly allowed me to join them for a week to see how the magic happens.

Deputy Editor Matthew Bolton may have described the process as organised chaos, but there’s a lot of effort put in to ensure that you get your copy of MacFormat every month, whether that be in print, or via the HD iPad edition.

I join the team shortly after issue 257 has gone to the printers, so the team are busy at work finalising the interactive iPad edition, so it can be downloaded by users the same day the print edition hits the newsstand. Monday sees me looking at  all the  covers of MacFormat over the years, spending some time looking at them in depth; how many copies each edition sold, what the structure of the cover is and how subjects have been handled, to see if there’s a pattern to the issues you like best.

On Tuesday, I spend time with Editor-in-Chief Graham Barlow and begin to work through back issues of MacFormat to get some fresh content onto the website – watch out in the next few weeks for some interesting ‘I use my Mac for’ features appearing on Tuesdays, and on Fridays the site will publish some Q&A tips from the SOS section that you might find handy, or jog your memory.

The other thing I looked at on Tuesday was FutureFolio, the incredible iOS ‘magazine’ creator developed in-house at Future, for publishing of interactive editions of magazines such as MacFormat, Tap!, and many others across the company. This software runs natively within iOS – on a virtual iPad – and allows all the fantastic animation effects you’ll see, and also generates files that are easily downloadable, and accessible to users with visual impairments, because all text is rendered within the iPad itself. It’s very clever tech, and if you haven’t yet experienced the MacFormat iPad edition [http://goo.gl/HTsPi], you’re missing out.

On Wednesday I’m given the chance to write a review, for some rather fetching Marley in-ear noise isolating headphones, that were really rather good. You might have noticed MacFormat has a variety of review lengths, so it was a challenge to produce the review to three different lengths – you have to be quite picky as to what to include.

The team here are a very precise bunch, so instead of word counts they use character counts, which was a good experience – your writing has to be a lot more precise. Production editor Tim Hardwick gave some great tips to improve the writing, which was very useful.

On Thursday I worked with Chris to flatplan and wireframe a feature for a upcoming feature. Every issue’s cover feature is planned to the nth degree, making sure all shots are noted and there is a clear plan for each page. I was also given the opportunity to work on one of your submissions for the Me and My Mac section, writing captions and packaging your wonderful collections into a readable article.

To round off the week, I spent Friday with Chris and photographer Joby in the nearby Future Photo Studio shooting some images and video of a piece of review kit for the next edition. It’s a painstaking process that involves immense level of detail and precision, but the quality of the photographs produced is well worth the time spent. The team spend two or three days in the studio per issue, making sure the range of photographs across the magazine are original and of a high quality.

It’s incredible to see the sheer amount of work that goes into putting together your magazine every month – I’ll never look at it the same way again. I’ve learnt an awful lot about the way magazine publishing works, and in particular how publishers are beginning to adapt to the use of digital. MacFormat certainly seems to be at the forefront of this change – you’ve got to do something different to stay ahead. I think being it being a technology-based magazine definitely helps, everyone here has a real passion for new things, without which I don’t think you’d see the clever stuff coming out of MacFormat that you’re starting to see today. A big thank you to Chris, and all the team, for making me feel so welcome, and sharing their world with me.