By Jeff Shearer
All-nighters are not uncommon at Auburn University. Usually, students pull them to cram for exams or complete projects.
This time, it's a talented team of directors, producers, and camera operators.
When crew call is at 3 a.m., a wake-up call is...unnecessary.
"You might as well just stay up," said Cassie Arner, associate athletic director for strategic communications. "There were probably a dozen of us who didn't sleep. You just don't feel comfortable going to sleep knowing you could still be proofreading things."
The lights stayed on all night at the Auburn Athletic Complex. The coffee machine worked overtime.
"There are a lot of people who want to be involved in this and make it a really awesome day," Arner said.
At 6 a.m., from the Tigers' Den at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Rod Bramblett welcomed viewers to six hours of live coverage on AuburnTigers.com and the watchESPN app.
"While we're comfortable with it, we're not asked to do it a lot," Bramblett said of being in front of the cameras. "It's everything behind the scenes that really makes it go."
Former Tigers Stan White and Cole Cubelic broke down each member of Auburn's Class of '16.
About 30 yards away, Auburn greats Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown, heroes of the unbeaten 2004 SEC championship team, added insights from the locker room, while interviewing fellow former Tigers Dee Ford and Corey Grant.
"It's different, being on this side of the interview," Brown said. "You've got to do your homework and be prepared, just like football. The good thing is football lets you know how to prepare."
With the 2010 national championship crystal football and Pat Sullivan's 1971 Heisman trophy decorating their set, Campbell and Brown discussed how much recruiting has evolved since they were high school seniors.
"When I signed, I went in my high school library, my parents came and they took a picture for the local paper for the next day," Brown said. "Now, when a guy signs, teams want to put it out there, and the guys have their school's jersey on their social media page.
"It creates a little motivation for the guys when they first get to high school," Brown said. "You want the opportunity to be part of national signing day. I'm thinking about the opportunity that's afforded them to go to universities they may not have otherwise. That's the meaningful part of it."
"It's taken a step forward," Campbell said. "For coaches, they really have to get on the same page the kids are on to have the same communication."
Guests included softball coach Clint Myers, baseball coach Butch Thompson, gymnastics coach Jeff Graba, soccer coach Karen Hoppa and director of athletics Jay Jacobs.
Across Samford Avenue from the Athletic Complex, in the War Eagle Productions studio, director Michael Sullivan called the shots after getting "around 37 minutes" of sleep.
"The great thing about this event is it's really something different than we normally do, a live six-hour studio show," he said. "It's a great challenge for both me personally and our crew."
Students comprise much of the 40-person crew, gaining resume-building experience.
"There were students right in there all night," said Andy Young, assistant athletics director for video services. "Getting everything loaded, ready to go, tested out. When you're putting on six hours of live television, anything can happen. It's a proud moment to see everything come together."
Tyler Trout created graphics for each of Auburn's mid-year enrollees, along with the prospects who had already verbally committed to the Tigers, and those who waited until signing day to decide.
That meant building 60 graphics, two each (social media and broadcast) for 30 student-athletes who had the potential to be Tigers before day's end. Auburn ended up signing 21 players.
"The primary purpose of the broadcast was to fully engage with the Auburn Family on one of the most exciting days of the year," said Ward Swift, chief marketing officer for Auburn Athletics.
"Information on our signees provided an exciting view to our future while the special features and guests reminded us all what makes Auburn such a special place," Swift said.
On a personal level, I remember watching online last year in amazement when Auburn's video team first tackled this assignment.
Knowing first-hand just how much work such an extravaganza requires, I tipped my cap to them for pulling it off.
This year, I observed from the inside.
The most impressive part? With the exception of just a few crew members, producing live video broadcasts is not part of their daily duties.
For example, Arner's strategic communications portfolio includes digital and social media and overseeing Auburn's contributions to the SEC Network.
On #AUNSD16, she served as "stage manager one."
"This year, we had to top ourselves," Arner said. "So we added a second set with Ronnie and Jason, who have been really good additions. We moved venues so we could get more of an audience feel so this could be an event, not just a show."
Making something so complex run so smoothly is a challenge for people who work in television every day.
For folks who are not "TV people" to pull it off is quite a feat indeed.
"Today's work product was months in the making," Swift said.
"It reflected our commitment to excellence," he said. "This is who we are. I am so appreciative of the Auburn team that made this happen."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: