SIOUX CITY, IOWA - I've been on the ground here in the Hawkeye state for several days, chatting with voters, tracking candidates, and generally following the volatile primary race. Caucus day is less than three weeks away. Earlier this afternoon, a friend at Fox News was kind enough to offer Townhall an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse into how tonight's nationally-televised (and potentially quite consequential) GOP debate will end up on your television screens at home. The program is produced out of a large portable control room, generally known as a "production truck," because it's housed in a high-tech trailer. Its equipment is state-of-the-art, and extremely valuable; seven figures, easy. Over a dozen producers, directors, and other staffers set up shop inside this technological nerve center during the debate. In short, they make it all happen -- and do so in (happy) anonymity:
Live television is a complex and exhilarating beast. Tonight's shoot will feature nine cameras, including the standard "wide shot:"
In case you harbor any doubts over whether audio producers and technical directors have stressful jobs, try answering this question: Would you want to operate these devices with almost zero margin for error, with millions of viewers watching your handiwork, in real time?
Bret Baier will host tonight's festivities, flanked by his Fox News colleagues Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, and -- for the first time this cycle -- Neil Cavuto:
Speaking of Megyn, here she is hosting her afternoon program from the make-shift "spin room" set, where Sean Hannity will anchor post-game coverage later tonight (note the fan banner in the window):
We're now backstage, where the candidates will be held just before they are introduced to the house audience. Rick Santorum will occupy the far left podium (from the viewer's perspective), so he's last in line:
Tonight's starting lineup (from right to left): Huntsman, Bachmann -- who has a foot stool, since she's considerably shorter than her rivals -- Paul, Gingrich, Romney, Perry, Santorum:
Here's where much of the action will likely take place, front and center:
How Mitt Romney will see the room:
"Quite frankly, I feel fundamentally profound" (channeling Newt):
The Sioux City showdown begins at 9pm ET on Fox News Channel. Stay tuned for my debate preview, and follow our team coverage all night. Many thanks to Fox News for this special peek behind the curtain.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography