How'd They Make The Yearbook Photo Super Bowl Ad?


I'm fully aware that, by definition, we're currently living in the most technologically-advanced era ever. But that doesn't mean I don't still get excited over things that feel like magic to me. Honda's yearbook photo Super Bowl commercial is one of those magical things. You know the one I mean, with the real-life school photos of current celebrities coming to life as their younger selves and giving advice from the pages of a yearbook. Apparently, the process was just as complicated as you might imagine, requiring multiple steps, long hours, and a ton of work.

The 60-second spot for Super Bowl LI was released Thursday in advance of Sunday's game, as part of its "Power of Dreams" campaign. Said campaign was in support of the 2017 CR-V and that vehicle's 20th anniversary, and apparently Honda's agency RPA pulled out all the stops. According to a report in Ad Age, the production team "had a few 24 hour days," as "they wanted to make sure they captured [each] celebrity completely, perfectly."

The process began with choosing the group of celebrities who would be featured in the ad: Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Amy Adams, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Steve Carell, Missy Elliott, Stan Lee, Jimmy Kimmel, and Viola Davis. Then, they placed the photos they provided in a yearbook template populated with era-appropriate photos of RPA and Honda employees who worked on the project, as well as their families. Then it was time to make them come alive, which was understandably the most difficult part. As RPA Executive Creative Director Jason Sperling shares,

It's a dialog-driven piece, but it's also an effects-driven piece. It was really hard determining, do we want a performance director, or do we want an effects pro who made sure no one looks creepy?

Luckily, they found Angus Wall, who's the best of both worlds; the dude literally has Oscars and Emmys for editing projects like The Social Network and Game of Thrones. He jumped in head first, walking that delicate line between overloading on equipment and relying on good ol' human talent.

In Sperling's words:

There were almost too many layers, from my pedestrian perspective. We had a 3D camera, witness cams, we had lookalike stand-ins who were basically delivering [the celebrities'] pre-recorded voiceovers.

So, basically, to dumb this down to my level, it sounds like a very advanced version of the Snapchat filters for face replacement that you're probably used to using. There's an existing image, in this case a celebrity yearbook photo, that's overlaid on a moving, speaking human. Except... slightly more high-tech than that video of yourself as George Washington from the one dollar bill, eating a bagel, that you sent to all your friends. Just slightly.