Folks from Silicon Valley are sometimes criticized for thinking that there’s a tech solution to every damn problem. The Roominator, as demonstrated in the video below, is a prime example of this. Thanks to a complicated rig that mounts the video conferencing device of your choice in the front and a custom background in the back, The Roominator gives users a chance to pretend they’re in the office when they’re really — well, wherever they need to be.
If this sounds a little nuts, even for a crazy startup product, that’s because the Roominator isn’t real. Or rather, it does exist (in fact, you have a chance to win one — more on that in a second), but it’s not something anyone’s actually trying to sell you. Instead, Nate Houghteling, executive producer at production company Portal A, described it as “a fake product used to advertise a real product.”
Portal A was hired by Blue Jeans Network to create a video promoting its online video conferencing service. And yes, if you look carefully, you’ll see that Hasan Minhaj, the video’s star, is actually using Blue Jeans videoconferencing as he dashes through the streets of Los Angeles, desperate to make it home in time for the birth of his child while continuing an important sales call.
The goal, Houghteling said, was to create something that feels like “a short film,” not a commercial. It was shot over two days in Los Angeles on a Red Epic camera with a crew of 30, and was directed by Portal A’s creative director Kai Hasson (pictured with Minhaj above).
I know the Portal A guys through White Collar Brawler, a web series that they created a couple of years ago. (I was briefly and tangentially involved because I participated in their Tech Beach Up event, where tech industry employees used giant boxing gloves to fight each other in a bouncy castle — I lost to the eventual champion in the first round.) Houghteling said the show helped put Portal A on the map, and since then its noteworthy clients have included Microsoft, Airtime, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and the sf.citi initiative.
Houghteling said that, unlike some production studios, Portal A doesn’t treat its client work as a way to pay the bills for its own videos. Instead, he said all of the work is done in the same spirit, creating content that’s really “native” to the web.
“They’re like Internet blockbusters,” he said, later adding, “This Blue Jeans video is a perfect example of an idea that we were really passionate about, we did it exactly the way that we wanted, and it felt like something that was original, but it had the messaging that a brand wanted.”
And yes, a real-life Roominator was created for the video. If you’re interested in acquiring one for yourself (along with an iPad mini and three months of Blue Jeans service), you’ll get a chance to win if you share the video from this page.