YouTube Rewind 2013: A Peek Behind The Curtain With Portal A

YouTube Rewind 2013: A Peek Behind The Curtain With Portal A

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It’s become an annual YouTube tradition to take a look back at the ground-breaking, meme-making moments on the site. The “YouTube Rewind 2013” video, released just a few days ago has already racked up over 44 million views and 652 thousand likes and celebrates the most iconic scenes from the last 12 months, recreated by some of the biggest YouTube stars such as Jenna Marbles, SMOSH and Freddie Wong. We talked to Portal A, the agency behind the video about the creative process and collaborating with YouTube on the project. But first, let’s take a look at the video:

Surprising Facts About YouTube Rewind 2013

  • 60+ partners from the most popular channels on YouTube made an appearance including Rhett and Link, Smosh, Jenna Marbles, Ryan Higa, Epic Meal Time, Freddie W and The Fine Bros
  • All content was completely originally. The Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Macklemore shots were all specially re-recorded for the video.
  • The video was shot over 10 locations in 6 different cities and 4 different countries, including Brazil, Spain, Korea, Japan, England and the U.S.
  • Portal A flow to Brighton in the UK to film the PewDiePie footage.
  • A total of 30 goats were used in the filming.

The Making Of YouTube Rewind 2013


ReelSEO spoke to Zach Blume, Partner at Portal A about the agency’s creative role in the YouTube 2013 video:

ReelSEO: Portal A were involved in the making of the 2011 Rewind video, how does it differ from the 2013 version?

Zach Blume: The 2011 video which was basically a montage of clips from that year, although we intentionally featured Rebecca Black as the lightening rod. It was a very different format, basically an annotated list. The 2012 Rewind video was made by a company called Seedwell, who we actually bought, and it was a major step up, capturing around 30-40 YouTube partners. We wanted to go even bigger and better for 2013. We wanted something epic and grand and we are thrilled with the end result.

ReelSEO: How did the process of collaboration work with YouTube?

Zach Blume: We started with a massive brainstorming session, with the Portal A team, YT and the partners. Nothing was off-limits but in the end we went with a selection of shots based on data and subjective choices. It was a great creative process, very fun and all credit goes to YouTube who allowed us the creative space. YouTube Brand Marketing Manager Dom Elliott made the whole process a smooth and enjoyable one, he did a fantastic job of organising the team at his end. All the partners we approached wanted to be involved, with only logistics or work schedules stopping one or two.

ReelSEO: What has the feedback from viewers and those in the industry been like?

Zach Blume: Absolutely phenomenal. Even though we knew we had a great video that we, and all those involved could be proud of, we were prepared for a mixed reaction from the YouTube audience, who are very knowing and savvy. Even though we have created many, many videos over the years that have been hugely successful, we are aware of how fickle the audience can be and we wanted it to do well. We are so proud of the video.

ReelSEO: How long did it take it take from conception to release?

Zach Blume: The decision to use Portal A was made around September 2013 and the whole process from creation to production to release took approximately 10 weeks. That’s a very short timeframe. It was all hands on deck, with many, many late nights and all the Portal A team were involved at some point.

ReelSEO: What’s your favourite scene from the video?

Zach Blume: We have so many of them – but the one that really stands out is the explosion scene. It was the first one we’d ever done and the logistics involved lots of different camera angles with four different takes. We used an aerial camera, a moving camera and a couple of static ones.


ReelSEO: What were the goals for the Rewind 2013 video?:

Zach Blume: YouTube wanted to create something that reflected the dynamic eco system in 2013. They wanted something that viewers would be proud of and would talk about and share. As for Portal A, we wanted to create a flagship project, something huge, something to be proud of.

ReelSEO: The actual video last around 4:30 seconds, why pick this timeframe?

Zach Blume: There was so much content we could have easily have made something that lasted 15-20 minutes. There were so many partners and references to fit in, but we a long video wasn’t really viable so we decided to go with around 4.30 mins with another 1:15 minutes of annotated links to the partners we included.

ReelSEO: The music is an integral part of the footage – what was it like to work with DJ Earworm?

Zach Blume: DJ Earworm was our first and only choice. It was a very close working relationship, with DJ, who is San Francisco based like us, spending a lot of time at the Portal A office. In total, there were approximately 30 edits of the track. We knew we needed a mash-up and we knew we needed someone talented but flexible enough to work with us throughout the entire project and he was such a team player.

ReelSEO: Do you have any future collaborative projects in mind?

Zach Blume: We love YouTube, we started off on YouTube ourselves and we love the platform, we believe in it. We’re excited about the whole concept of online video and we are excited about the massive changes in the way content is being consumed. We want to further collaborate with big YouTube partners on projects. Our goals are to create better content and be at the forefront of creativity and collaboration is a huge part of that.

Agency Spotlight: Portal A

Portal A, is a San Francisco and Los Angeles based video studio that makes award-winning video. Partners Nate Houghteling, Zach Blume, and Kai Hasson started Portal A in 2009 because they were tired of Portal-A video production agencyworking at prehistoric media companies, and because they realized that “the way brands and entertainment outlets were thinking about video content made absolutely no sense.”

A quick tour of Portal A’s past video work reveals a breadth of clean shots, great pacing, and comic mischief. Between a NSFW promo they made for Benefit Cosmetics called “Nice Package”, a MOBEAM supermarket musical (you have to experience it for yourself), and “Naruto, The Movie” (a NigaHiga collaboration with over 9 million views on Youtube), one thing’s clear: Portal A gets it:

They’ve internalized virality, repackaging it in a way that makes sense for pop culture in the moment, and brand accordingly. Their videos are also really, really funny. Portal A gets that humor is the human side of a brand, and that laughter is the quickest way to bring people together and tap into positive energy. If a video is about anything, after all – it’s about engagement. And the best way to measure engagement is to measure shares. To date, Portal A’s videos have a combined 100 million shares.

The world has taken notice, too. In late October, Portal A took home a Davey Award, which recognizes the “Creative Davids” of the business world (not the big-budget Goliaths). They won in the Online Advertising & Marketing category with their Kimpton Hotels short, “Meet Mat.”

But Portal A doesn’t just make viral videos that they feel have a shot at being shared in a big way, they also make viral videos for causes that affect real people in real ways. Ever heard of Ed Lee? He’s the current mayor of San Francisco, and when he took office in 2011 it was no small part thanks to Portal A’s groundbreaking political video ad for Lee’s campaign. A remix of MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit”, the video got around half a million views, but also garnered acclaim from Time, NY Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post for taking political ads outside the box. It was even the subject of a YouTube case study.

Another example of Portal A’s ability to positively impact the social media ecosystem comes in the form of a sketch comedy video collaboration between Maz Jobrani and Elon Gold, two comedians who happen to be an Iranian Muslim and a Bronx-born Jew, and who both want to try and “Give Peace a Dance.” The two-minute short was created for Ploughshares Fund, a nonprofit which used the video to launch a campaign aimed at increasing diplomacy between Iran and Israel.

Nate Houghteling’s Twitter description reads: “I make videos for the internet and you.” When it really comes down to it, the two are inseparable, aren’t they? The internet and you, that is. In the hyper-shifting bit bonanza that is our e-world, videos for business have to be videos for the consumer, not just videos that make a brand feel good about itself. Portal A understands this important distinction, and makes great, sharable video. “We’re always reminding our clients: be timely, be relevant, be authentic, and, if it’s at all your thing, be funny.”

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