Mac Guff Makes the World Smile

I’m probably going to regret this later, but I’m a couple beers into the night, so what the hell. I’m going to use the word “delightful” in a completely non-ironic way. As in, Mac Guff’s new “Smiles” spot for Acura is simply delightful.

*Cringe* I know, I know. But it really is a delightful little ad.

I haven’t been posting much vfx work over the last, oh, year or so. I’m in what I might call my post-Citroen era. You know the spot I’m talking about: a seemingly innocent Citroen parked in a desolate parking lot suddenly bursts into Transformer mode so it can heat up the asphalt with some tasty break-dancing for no apparent reason whatsoever.

That was a turning point for me. Since then, vfx-centric ads have tried to surprise me with similar transformations or seduce me into impossible worlds, but I usually find myself uninterested.

Instead, I like spots like “Smile” that rely on a simple but charming concept to get the message across. The vfx work is almost transparent, although there’s quite a bit of it going on. From the release:

The challenge in “Smiles” was to integrate live action photography into natural-looking smiles. Mac Guff’s team used 2D & 3D matte painting to manipulate the landscape — creating and repairing the roads, enhancing mountains, adding and integrating brush. Most of the overhead shots were filmed with no “hero car,” meaning Mac Guff’s artists had to remove existing traffic on the roads before inserting a CGI car.

But you don’t think about all that when you’re watching the spot. You just watch it. You let the joke unfold without paying attention to the props and elaborate setup. I like that.

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



Mac Guff is and always will be amazing. Some of the best VFX out there since the beginning.


The bridge shot is the Coronado in San Diego, since you were all wondering, I’m sure.


oh my, i did smile!

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