Few things raise arm hairs and quicken the heartbeat like a damn good hype video. In 140 seconds, the right hype video can take you from calm, cool, and collected to ready to punch a hole in some exposed brick.
Every school tries, but few succeed at weaponizing the hype video like LSU. I remember the first time I saw one about the myth of Saturday Night in Death Valley. It came out in 2010, and it still bangs:
Throughout a transcendent 2019 season, the staff of the Tigers’ creative department have taken something they’ve excelled at for years and ratcheted it up to an art form. They took something previously reserved for special occasions and hit us with it every Thursday afternoon to emotionally prepare fans for the game ahead.
The series is a labor of love meant primarily for Tiger fans. But if you watch even one of these entries and it doesn’t get you jacked enough to strap it up in the Big Cat drill, then we’re just built differently.
This is the story of how, week by week, a few creators have energized millions with videos that grab you through a small screen and refuse to let you go until you’re just as ready for kickoff as Ed Orgeron.
1. Get a theme that fits the opponent, no matter who it is
The second game of LSU’s season was Texas. That’s an obvious candidate for a hype video, and it got one. But Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, Vanderbilt, and Utah State?
“We started to say, ‘Well, how many games are we gonna do?’” Brandon Berrio said. Berrio is one of the people in charge of the department and the person who actually hits the button to send these videos out into the world.
For Northwestern State, the video became about togetherness. The original plan wasn’t even to do one for that game. It’s Coach O’s alma mater, but how much can you hype the upcoming drubbing of an FCS opponent?
Now what if I told you about a room fit for more than 102,000 close companions who come together in common cause... pic.twitter.com/3Ugwq7f2Kb— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 12, 2019
“It was more of like a fun Louisiana thing since Northwestern State is in Louisiana,” Berrio said.
Remember that these videos are messages to the fanbase. Take the Utah State entry. Preferring a night kickoff time for a football game isn’t remotely unique to LSU, but there is legit disdain for a day game among Tiger fans. The Utah State game kicked off at 11 a.m. local and was one of only two day games all season in Baton Rouge. Ryen Russillo voiced a video that’s all about how unique Baton Rouge is, whether the sun has found its home in the western sky yet or not.
This is as good as it gets.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 3, 2019
The Tigers are rolling. It’s Saturday in Baton Rouge.
Let’s have some fun! pic.twitter.com/VaHWKV3GKU
“We were just kinda communicating that one to fans,” Berrio said, “and it was like, ‘Hey we only get so many of these football games a year, and it doesn’t matter what time it is. Let’s just go out and have fun.’”
2. Write scripts that provide a through line
“That was the first thing that I would do on Monday,” Cody Worsham said. He writes them.
Worsham likes to get his colleague Will Stout (who does some of the shooting and basically all of the editing) at least some copy to work with before the narration track comes in.
The theme of the week isn’t exactly a spoken thing, but concise writing makes sure the idea comes through. The Vanderbilt video treats football like a performance on one of the world’s greatest musical stages in Nashville.
“They make records here ... ”
First, you pack the house.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 19, 2019
Then, you bring it down.
Time to Take Center Stage! pic.twitter.com/FxZabDxwwj
The bye week video — yes, they did one for the damn bye week — keeps that theme rolling by treating the season as a multiple-act show.
The story’s only just begun.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 28, 2019
Act two is up next.
Get your popcorn ready. pic.twitter.com/asuHeKCOIm
At times, getting the script ready was a cinch thanks to a spark offered by the SEC office. The expectation was the Florida game would be played at 2:30 local time. When that game got a night kickoff instead, the weekly theme was set:
A Tiger moves quietly.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 10, 2019
He’s never more quiet than the moment just before he attacks... pic.twitter.com/wrrB28hrbx
“Some of them are just so easy to write, maybe 30 minutes to an hour and they’re done, because whatever the theme of them that week was,” Worsham said. “That one wrote itself. It’s like Death Valley at night. It’s a tiger at night. They’re on the hunt.”
There are lines in some of these videos that channel Orgeron’s own speeches. The Mississippi State video, for instance, came right after Florida. Right then, LSU probably had the most impressive resume out of anyone after boat racing the Gators at home on national television, and the cowbells Bulldog fans shake every snap can create quite a din.
“When the sound and the fury reach their absolute loudest, greet them with silence. Let your actions speak for themselves.” That could be Stan Verrett, in the narration for this video below, or Orgeron in the locker room, trying to get a message to his team before taking the field.
Let your actions speak for themselves.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 17, 2019
And no matter how loud it gets,
You block out the noise. pic.twitter.com/J9bxs0N3xl
LSU’s creative department has a good working relationship with the football program. You’d expect that to be true most places, but it’s not always the case. Derek Ponamsky, Orgeron’s right-hand man on the football staff, has some say in OK’ing the videos.
But Ponamsky also helps with another vital part of the process.
3. Get well-known voices to take things to another level
Ponamsky does a lot of the work of getting the narrators lined up. LSU will never run short of famous people in media and entertainment with Louisiana ties, not to mention former players ready to lend their voices.
Sometimes things fall through, and the staff has to scramble. That’s what happened before the Texas game, when a couple proposed narrators didn’t work out — including Tiger legend Charles Alexander — and Stout brought in Jamal Adams. They cut it pretty close, but the fact that he’s from Texas also made him a perfect fit for the week.
This is where you should probably know that Stout’s a college student himself. He’s a junior on scholarship at LSU who works around his school schedule to produce these videos. He collaborated with Berrio in other sports before going whole hog into football the summer before the ‘19 season. His work on on a video before a massive basketball game against Tennessee, with former LSU coach Dale Brown, taught Worsham all he needed to know.
“A lot of times with these scripts we just kinda write them and I send them off to Will and he makes magic,” Worsham said. “With this one, I was able to see process. The shots he got of Coach Brown. The way he worked with Coach Brown. The way he got some emotion out of Coach Brown. I was just thinking, this kid is special. This kid has a future.”
When Stout doesn’t have the audio track for the narration until later in the week, he flies blind, trying to match the cadence of the week’s narrator in his mind and using Worsham’s script as a guide.
“Scott Van Pelt is gonna read something a lot different than Tim McGraw, so that will change how I write it,” Worsham said.
To do this, he’ll look at interviews they’ve done and other times they’ve spoken in public. With the Week 1 video narrated by Shane West, though, that strategy didn’t really work out.
“It almost misinformed me, because the voice that he brought to it was so incredible,” Worsham said. “I looked at some characters he played, and they were so different from the voice that he gave. He was so talented that he kinda took it and made it his own.”
It's here.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) August 29, 2019
It's that feeling in your gut.
It's Christmas morning and the first day of summer.
It's the Glory of the Purple Gold
And Victory for LSU. pic.twitter.com/Zv34wvoaK2
This particular style of video — the music, the images, and the narration — dates back to 2018’s Alabama video voiced by Ryan Clark, whom Stout calls his favorite narrator.
Things came full circle late in the 2019 season, when Clark voiced the video for the Arkansas game.
Right now, we’re feasting…— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 21, 2019
But we’re still hungry pic.twitter.com/rXRXJ7e3Dv
4. Get a visually unique style
That should go without saying, but don’t take the slick look of these videos for granted.
This one opens splicing old school LSU-Auburn footage together ...
When your moment comes. When your name is called.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 24, 2019
When time is running out and everything rests on your
Will you crumble?
Or will you rise? pic.twitter.com/Z9N3JVnI62
... then shifts the colors to drop everything but the LSU gold into black and white.
These videos are tours de force of visual effects thanks to Stout, who taught himself editing in high school while making videos for school projects and the school’s football team. He picked up Adobe Premiere and After Effects on the fly, and now that experience creates things like this:
According to Stout, LSU has “terabytes and terabytes” of footage of preseason practices, drone footage of the stadium, summer workouts shot on two cameras, game footage shot from three different cameras, and a library of sound files that includes both TV and radio calls from each game.
The amount of planning and effort that goes into a two-second transition makes these pop. Take these shots of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.:
“The Stingley one in particular, I remember shooting practice one day and getting that shot of him lining up against the receiver,” Stout said. “And then whenever I put it all on the computer, I watched that shot and this idea popped into my head: ‘I need to get that exact same shot during a game.’”
LSU’s drones, meanwhile, can create shots like this:
Lay some music on top of that — in this case The Cadillac Three’s single “The South” — and voila. “This is where I was born / and this is where I’ll die” plays as dusk frames Tiger Stadium, and you’ve got something special.
5. Pick the right music, and don’t mess around with copyright law
“Fans don’t really understand,” Berrio said. “They’ll say we should use this music or that music, but if we don’t have rights to it, we can’t.”
Sometimes you can cut corners, try using a small snippet of a song, remix it, hope the artist doesn’t notice — or hope the artist likes it enough to not put up a fuss. It’s generally just easier to use generic tracks available through a service like APM. All of this matters to ensure LSU’s account doesn’t get taken offline. Copyright strikes are often automatic, and can hit at the worst possible times.
So the creative team has to be careful. Take the video made to rile fans up for Joe Burrow’s Heisman win in December. The script was ready, and Tyrann Mathieu was lined up to read it. Right around the day of the SEC title game, Stout got an email from Trill Entertainment authorizing LSU to use Baton Rouge native Lil’ Boosie’s “Set It Off.”
“I knew getting Boosie to clear it would probably be easier, because he’s from here,” Stout said. “And also I didn’t want any trouble with that Joe video, because I had a feeling people were really gonna like it.”
He was right.
He Has Set College Football Off— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) December 9, 2019
A Name You Will Never Forget pic.twitter.com/PN7cif69v2
6. Get tone for the Game of the Century right, even though you had to do that already and will have to do it again.
There are a bunch of Games of the Century. LSU-Bama was that game twice in the 2010s alone. There is pressure to not under- or overdo it. When you have the biggest game of the season against a rival you haven’t beaten in years, against your former coach who left you and became a boogeyman at that other school in the same division, you have to get the video right.
“That one took a couple days of me sitting there and writing drafts and hating them and throwing them out ,” Worsham said. “The bigger games that are more broad and less specific, those are harder to write.”
LSU has a storied history of knocking the hype video for this game out of the park. The Thursday release of the hype video is integral to the process of making you believe that this is the year the Tigers will finally beat Saban’s Tide.
LSU’s done that in a few ways. There was the true movie trailer style in 2012 ...
... and some incredible music in 2013 ...
... and the Clark narration for the 2018 game that ended up being a sign of things to come.
WE COMIN'... AND WE AIN'T BACKING DOWN! pic.twitter.com/sUcv2I8k9x— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 1, 2018
In 2019, Shaq got the call to narrate the prelude to the #1 vs. #2 game.
Win your battle. Win your match.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 7, 2019
Impose your will. One on one.
Winner Take All. pic.twitter.com/IWnJncYGPs
And lo and behold, 2019 was the year it finally happened. For the football team, this was proof to the nation that these Tigers are for real. For a small group of people in the LSU communications department, it was a huge win of a different sort.
College football team accounts (IG+TW+FB) generating the most combined interactions this past weekend (Saturday+Sunday). #smsports— SkullSparks (@SkullSparks) November 12, 2019
340k @ClemsonFB pic.twitter.com/odIpfUmnE1
Mission accomplished, but then the page had to be turned. There’s always more to do.
Get all of the above factors to twine together and thread a weekly needle. Then do it all again.
Worsham, who’s also LSU’s in-house digital reporter, sometimes skips Orgeron’s pressers so he can deliver a script to Stout, and leaves Coach O’s weekly Monday address playing on one screen while typing on another. Stout skimps on sleep and a social life to make sure the videos are right — while also trying to, ya know, not flunk out of school. It’s a process that began before the 2019 season and just kept working out.
It’s not like LSU is bereft of good sports teams, but the question of what’s next for the department does loom large. Gymnastics, baseball, and basketball all have varying degrees of promise, but what football done has been special in large part because the team has been so special.
If LSU had had three losses in 2019, this whole train would have likely been derailed. But the wins kept coming, and so did the hype reels. As long as football continues to up the ante on the field, their creative department will make sure you stay ready off it.