Not long before Oklahoma kicks off Saturday against Louisiana Tech, Steve Sturges will be sitting nervously in the stands.
So will Matt Lowery and and a lot of other people about to have their work put on display in front of more than 80,000.
Max Toperzer and Matt Jaques won’t likely be in the stands, but just like the others, they’ll be holding their breath to see what the reaction is like when this year’s intro video is unveiled just before the start of the game.
“It is a feeling unlike anything I’ve felt before,” Sturges said. “I’m sure everybody that’s touched that video feels the same way. They sit there and they watch and people start cheering and you can just tell the energy in the place starts erupting. The best way that I can describe it, it’s like being Bruce Springsteen on center stage but no one knows that you’re there. Which in some ways is really cool because you can sit back and just enjoy it. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s fun.”
Sturges’ Oklahoma City-based company, VI Marketing and Branding, collaborates with SoonerVision — OU athletics’ video production group — to bring the annual intro video from concept to the finished product.
It was Sturges who, on the flight back from the 2005 Orange Bowl, frustrated and flat-out mad about the result, turned that energy into defiance. He came up with the “There’s Only One Oklahoma” slogan that’s gone far beyond just being the catchphrase in the football intro video.
“I think it’s been really a big hit,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “People like the videos. I think it’s been a real positive thing.”
Sturges came up with the idea after talking to some friends flying home from Miami, after watching USC whip the Sooners 55-19
“We left the game and we were all just complaining, ‘We’re just not that good, we’re not as good as Michigan, we’re not as good as USC, we’re not as good as any of these programs,’” Sturges remembers. “I was adding to the chorus. I was upset — we were all upset. But we got on the plane and I’m thinking about this and I’m like, you know? No. Damn it. We are not like those guys. We are different from the other programs. There’s only one us. There’s only one Oklahoma.
“I started thinking about that, and I thought, ‘That’s a great line.’ Out of the midst of that despair and that loss came this epiphany of, ‘We are different. One game does not define this program. We are a great program. We’re tradition rich. We do things differently around here.’”
Sturges’ company — which is celebrating its 25th year — has been involved in producing Oklahoma’s intro videos since 2000, when athletic director Joe Castiglione wanted to make an intro video that was less cheesy and cartoonish than the ones that used to be played.
James Garner narrated the first video, and things have grown from there, getting more and more sophisticated along the way.
The first few were shot on 35 mm film.
Last year’s video took advantage of a computer-controlled motion-track camera. This year, the videos were shot in high-resolution 2K and 4K video.
“We’re always trying to push the envelope and make it better,” Toperzer, creative director for SoonerVision, said.
The concepts for this year’s video started coming together in early May with a collaborative meeting between VI Marketing — including Sturges, cinematographer/editor Lowery Jaques and others — and a SoonerVision group that includes Toperzer and Jaques.
Jaques, who does motion graphics, started making his own intro videos for the Sooners when he was a student at the school in the early 2000s.
He’s been involved in about the last five intro videos.
“You kind of have to reinvent the wheel every year,” Jaques said. “You want to try to cater to the fans and keep the tradition, but as creative guys we like to do new stuff.
“We like to try to push the boundaries and challenge ourselves as well.”
This year’s video was primarily shot on Owen Field one night this summer. Shooting lasted until around midnight with current players and coaches participating. Shots involving former players are done when the players are available.
Sturges saw the final cut — although the audio had yet to be finished — Sunday night.
“Watching it and working on it for the last couple months, you’re seeing it and seeing it, but it’s a whole different experience watching it with 85,000 other friends and fans,” Jaques said.