Reality TV: TLC's <I>Trading Spaces</I>
Issue: February 1, 2018

Reality TV: TLC's Trading Spaces

When Trading Spaces debuted in 2000, it sparked a huge interest in home decorating shows. Originally produced by Ross Productions, and later Banyan Productions, the show’s concept followed the playful idea of allowing friends to redecorate a room in each other’s home.
‘Two rooms, two days, $2,000!’ was the motto. Couples would swap houses for 48 hours and pair up with a team of designers and construction pros, who collectively work to make it happen for under $1,000 each. The show resulted in both interesting and questionable designs, and the strict budget and time deadlines helped add to the drama.

Paige Davis served as the host of Trading Spaces for most of its eight-year run. The show never saw a ninth season, but by that time, cable TV was full of similarly-themed programs. Now, a decade later, TLC is reviving the show, and even managed to bring back the well-liked host, along with so many of the program’s past designers and carpenters. Fans will recognize many familiar faces, including Genevieve Gorder, Hildi Santo-Tomas, Ty Pennington and Vern Yip, and will be introduced to new crew members, too.

Producing and posting the new iteration of Trading Spaces falls on the shoulders of the team at Authentic Entertainment ( in Burbank, CA. The 2018 season will include eight one-hour episodes, along with two one-hour reunions. The concept stays the same, but the budget has been upped to $2,000 per room.

Will Pisnieski is the head of post production and chief technology officer at Authentic Entertainment. It was his job to put a pipeline in place that would allow editors and assistants to build each show as efficiently as possible.

“I am designing the workflow ahead of time,” he says of his role as post supervisor. “I work with the editors in terms of what their needs are — everything from music needs, trying to help them build music bins, sound effects. You send all of your questions to me and I’m the one who kind of makes sure everything happens and comes together as quickly as possible.”

Production has been upgraded since the show’s original run, thanks in part to the availability of new camera technology.

“Back in the day, they had some pretty inexpensive consumer cameras,” says Pisnieski. “The iPhone does create a pretty good video image, so we use that for Paige Davis to record her little moments that she has during production. We used a DJI Osmo camera just to float through the rooms. It really gave you a lot more freedom to navigate between all the different talent and what they are building. There’s a lot more access to newer, more innovative technology. That’s a big change.”

While the 2018 show was inspired by the original, it doesn’t use any of its existing elements. 

“All of the music is modernized and reworked, but it is definitely very similar,” Pisnieski explains. “The graphics have obviously been modernized. Everything is inspired by the original series, right down to even the frame rate and resolution. They wanted to stick with interlaced rather than progressive, which is pretty standard these days. They didn’t want to shoot 23.98. They wanted to shoot 59.94 to give a similar look to when they were shooting back in the day in standard definition.

The production’s main cameras are four Canon C300s. There are also numerous GoPros employed throughout.

“GoPros are attached to a lot,” says Pisnieski. “Obviously, they are put up in the corners of rooms. If Ty Pennington is building something, it would be on his drill press. You might see it attached to the tool table in Tool Town. They definitely tend to get camera operators into tight spaces. Especially the Osmo, which is a gyro unit. You can go all over the place with that type of device. You will definitely see some very interesting perspectives of what they were creating for this show.”

Outside each home, the production team uses jib arms to set up establishing shots. There’s also plenty of timelapse photography of the city the show is shooting in, the houses, the sunrise and sunset. 

“That’s used in every episode, you’ll see timelapses,” he notes.

Getting all of the footage from the different cameras ingested and converted to a common codec is what Pisnieski says is one the biggest challenges.

“For Authentic, it is a tough show because this is actually our first experience with it,” he explains. “It was with different production companies before that…There were definitely some challenges of figuring out the pacing, when to apply music. A lot of the original series would play dry. There wasn’t as much music. It wasn’t wall to wall, like traditional reality shows, so it was trying to figure out what worked in previous seasons and how to modernize it a little bit but still keep to what made it so magical early on.”

As each episode is shooting, there is a post team at Authentic accepting all of the media and processing it. Editorial begins towards tail end of production. Post is dependent of the production wrapping up at a certain time. On local shows, a PA will run the footage back to Authentic.

“But with this type of show, you really don’t know how long it’s going to take to complete these types of rooms,” says Pisnieski. “We have some very late nights that run to three and four in the morning. That leaves my team scrambling the next day to ingest as fast as possible.”

All of the video work for Trading Spaces takes place at Authentic Entertainment in Burbank. This includes ingest, editorial, color and finishing. Audio is the only service that is handled out of house. Wild Woods Picture & Sound ( collaborates with Authentic on many of its unscripted programs, including Flipping Out, Cake Masters and Toddlers & Tiaras. The studio handles the mix for Trading Spaces.

Authentic is home to 48 edit bays and another 12 assistant editors stations, half of which are used to ingest media. The studio uses DaVinci Resolve for color correction and creating looks for the company’s different shows.

“Creative director Mark LaFleur works closely with our colorist and designs a look for each of our projects,” says Pisnieski. “This show, I would say the colors are very saturated. They pop. If you’ve seen the show, you know they are wearing these pastel uniforms. We want all of those to play bright and playful on-camera.”

Trading Spaces is edited exclusively using Avid systems. There are four dedicated editors to the show and they’ll leapfrog each other as episodes enter the post workflow. Two dedicated assistant editors also help out.

“With Discovery, you also have to do international segments…so they jump in with that,” says Pisnieski of the editorial team. “There are some additional graphic deliverables, like picture-in-picture teases that appear during commercial breaks. It’s kind of all-hands-on-deck, but I would say there is a dedicated team of four editors, two assistant editors, and then you have the post management team.”

Pisnieski says the editing team is using “an incredible software called Group It For Me. Once my team syncs up the footage, they can send it through the Group It For Me program and within minutes, you are getting back all of the sub-clips that you need to create the multicam groups.”

A 300TB Facilis TerraBlock provides storage for the show, and StorageDNA software is used to archive media to LTO-7 tape. The eight-episode run, he estimates, will reach 75TBs. 

“Typically, by morning when my team comes in, the software has sent a verification email letting us know it has all been archived,” says Pisnieski of the StorageDNA backup. “We then do a quick check and make sure everything looks good, and then we delete everything from the previous evening and start again with the new media. 

We are never really keeping 75TBs of media online on a server at a particular time. We are just keeping the proxies.”