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TV secrecy’s a Suite thing

Producers try to keep their concepts away from copycats

Piracy has spawned plenty of paranoia in Hollywood, but one post-production company has jumped to a whole new level of super-secrecy: the Confidentiality Suite.

A special post-production room at Lightning Media’s Hollywood facility has no windows, no telephones, no Internet and no tie lines. A 24-hour security camera watches the door.

Inside is a linear editing system. Tape machines — up to 30 at a time — are brought in as needed.

Access is limited to the client and a single tape operator, who signs a draconian confidentiality agreement. And once the operator has the master tape rolling, the client has the option of either letting the operator keep an eye on the dubbing process or sending the operator out of the room and overseeing the process personally.

Lightning topper Stephen Buchsbaum says the suite was created for producers who had been forced to create their own makeshift confidential editing or dubbing bays — to keep prying eyes from seeing a big series reveal a season-ending cliffhanger or to protect a reality TV concept before it airs.

Security is a special headache for reality TV producers, especially at early stages when their concepts are vulnerable to, um, copying.

Recall the angst of ABC’s “Wife Swap” and NBC’s upcoming “The Contender”: Fox beat both shows to the punch with copycats “Trading Spouses” and “The Next Great Champ.”

Beyond showbiz, the Confidentiality Suite also caters to a different kind of client, the Pentagon, which has been a regular user of the room, according to Buchsbaum.

“I don’t know what they’re doing, and I don’t want to know,” he says. “We don’t even know what comes in the door.”