Building a show

The building is called the Fish Factory but the first thing you see when you walk through the front door is a 24-foot tall canvas photo of lumberjack Mike Sullivan and his hot saw.

It's the Little Rock office of Group CSE (formerly JM Associates) where the entire STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series is produced, edited and sent off to ESPN.

There are a number of ESPN shows produced in the Fish Factory (most notably the Bassmaster Elite Series), but the STIHL series is unique because it's the only show, editor and producer Justin Darling said, that the company produces "live to tape."

Live to tape means that they treat the show on site as if it were being aired live, but instead record it to a tape for later use. Darling said this style makes the finished product more exciting and elicits real reactions from the announcers.

"It gives the feel that this is happening right now and helps tell the story from event to event," he said.

But producing a live show means a lot more work on the front end. There were 30 television production staff at the championship event in Oregon this year, five of whom spent the week before the event driving three production trucks to the site.

STIHL TIMBERSPORTS television commentators Tommy Sanders and Kevin Holtz called every heat live from a tower at the Oregon State Fair, while five regular cameras and two smaller point-of-view cameras captured every cut, chop, climb and run. Darling said 95 percent of what you see on ESPN was produced on site.

"The smaller POV cameras are a new feature this year and add a lot to the show," Darling said. "It gives us a view of the competition that we've never had before."

The hard part, Darling said, about shooting a three-day event live to tape is cutting the hours of footage down into seven 24-minute shows. There are a series of cuts and final cuts, with hard decisions on which heats will make the show and which will be left out. The process takes weeks of work in the editing room.

"There's always stuff left on the cutting room floor that I wish would have made the show," he said.

The editing project continues up until the week the show airs before it's shipped to ESPN to be shown to the masses on ESPN2. The extra footage is put up on STIHLTIMBERSPORTS.com and the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS YouTube channel.

The first round of competition will air Sunday, December 5 at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. To see the full television schedule, go here.