One of the most closely guarded secrets at LSU is a video.
There’s nothing extravagant or revolutionary about it. It doesn’t show anything you couldn't see on a tour of Tiger Stadium.
But the only way to see it is to be a football recruit, taking an official visit to campus.
When the tours end, when all of the pitches are over, the the final step is a trip to the team room.
On most days, it’s the auditorium where the Tigers meet and watch game film. A half-dozen rows of movie-theater style seats, all facing a massive projector screen.
This time, the room has a different purpose.
This is where LSU closes the deal.
The final thing recruits see on their visit is a roughly 10-minute film on the LSU experience.
Its content is simple, its message clear: highlight the traditions and experiences that await anyone who commits to the program.
The objective is to seal in the emotions of a Saturday night in Death Valley. Former players, some of the biggest stars to walk down Victory Hill, give testimonials about what it means to be an LSU football player.
The video is brief — but when it comes to recruiting, it’s arguably one of the best weapons the football program has.
“It’s unique to LSU, for sure,” said Alex Barras, LSU football video post-production assistant video coordinator. “I don’t know if there’s anybody else in the country that has something like that.
“Everybody has a highlight video. Everybody has a recruiting deal and talks about the atmosphere. But I don’t know if anybody actually has player (testimonials). ... We like it to be unique. When you come on a visit as a prospect, you want to see something you can’t see every day.”
The idea of “unique” is the driving force for everything the post-production department does.
Any school can string together a few touchdown runs with the latest pop song playing in the background. Barras and his partner, student videographer and video producer Will Stout, want to separate LSU from the pack, a few minutes at a time.
Fortunately for LSU fans, not everything Barras and Stout produce has the shame shroud of secrecy that surrounds the experience video. The post-production department tries to release a video every day, whether that be publicly through the program’s social media accounts, sent out to recruits, team motivationals or the hype videos shown during games in Tiger Stadium.
Each week after a game, they also produce a highlight reel from last Saturday. This year they plan to release those videos Monday instead of Wednesday, as they’ve done in the past.
Barras handles most of the in-house videos, while Stout is in charge of the public videos. On Sunday, Stout is scheduled to release a short hype video that cuts scenes from practice and life in Louisiana to the sound of Avicci’s “Feeling Good.”
“I have my idea before I even start,” Stout said. “Some people will just pick a song, a popular song, then just go shoot and throw clips in. I don’t do that. I usually find a song and then listen to it, visualize it in my head and then go shoot those specific shots.”
The videos can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to put together.
The post-production department is at every practice and game, shooting with at least three cameras. They’ll also work with television networks to acquire those shots.
Barras said the department, which works side-by-side with the team videographers that provide game footage for the coaches, is constantly on the cutting edge. They recently added video drones into their work, and they're looking into incorporating 360-degree cameras for a virtual reality experience.
Everything they shoot goes into a computer system that holds every play from the past four years — good, bad and irrelevant.
If they need older footage, LSU has digitized its “vault,” which holds highlights reaching back into the 1950s. If television crews need footage of Billy Cannon’s Halloween run, this is where they go.
From there, Stout and Barras comb through the footage to piece together their vision based on suggestions from coaches and players.
“I’m a defensive guy. I want to see the biggest hits,” linebacker Devin White said. “And then always good music. When you get good music, that’s always a good start to a good video. One of the coolest things our video people do is they add some type of movie base and different sounds.”
While the post-production team loves to show off its work to the world, the main audiences they want to please are recruits and the team.
Recruiting coordinators usually work closest with the department, but each head coach leaves his own mark.
Director of athletic video Doug Aucoin has been with LSU since the department was just him putting together film for Gerry DiNardo, who let his wife pick the music for the highlight reels because, as a mother, she would know what the mothers of recruits want to hear.
DiNardo was the first coach to start showing highlight videos to recruits — but back in those days, it was much more simple.
“Over the 20 years I’ve been here, it seems like every year there’s something new that we have to learn and adjust to,” Aucoin said “It’s constantly changing. You can see now with the drones and the VR, it’s always something new coming around. And you have to keep up. It’s an arms race.”
After DiNardo came Nick Saban, who, despite his success on the field, was less interested in hype videos. He only approved Survivor's “Eye of the Tiger” for all videos until players eventually complained.
When Les Miles took over, the movie buff loved to see scenes from famous films incorporated into the highlights.
Now that Ed Orgeron is in charge, the video department focuses on creating high-energy productions.
“If there’s on thing coach O loves, it’s energy,” Barras said. “We try to make that a common theme. A lot of things we do are high-energy. there’s going to be some slow-mo and some dramatic stuff, but it’s going to give you some energy at the end.”