PRACTICAL makes films and videos that are the culmination of cameras, research, travel, sketchbooks, sleep, screen time, and running wild. Based out of Traverse City and Grand Rapids Michigan, we love sharing our work and process with those around the world.

This Is How We Play

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Written by Paul Genzink - Project Release - November 14, 2017


When a project wraps, I'm always left with this excitement to jump into the edit suite and get an edit together to show the team and the client, probably before it’s wise to do so. Even with meticulous pre-production, storyboards, and demo edits, rushing through the post process isn't guaranteed to do favors for the end product.

What we noticed when putting together our latest commercial for Turtle Creek and Leelanau Sands Casinos is that when we began sorting through the footage and assembling a cut, the edit began to take on a life of its own. Shots we captured spur-the-moment were upstaging a lot of the shots that were planned. Many captured moments didn't time out in real life like they had in the demo edits, and the editing suite became a den of creative problem solving.


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Don’t get me wrong, the problem solving required wasn't a bad thing at all. It’s a beautiful part of the production process. It’s important to remain flexible, open to criticism and diligent to ensure that this altered direction remains in line with the projects greatest potential and what you, your team, and the client expects.


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What happened next was a revisiting of the script before we sent it off to the voiceover talent, nitpicking each word or line for content, timing, and emotional impact. It became a giant puzzle. Luckily we love puzzles. This, in turn, altered our direction for music and even sound design. Our motto became “I know we said this before, but ignore that, this is what we need now."


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In the end, we delivered a product that both we and the client were proud of, albeit four months after completing principal photography. Sometimes the best thing for a project is time. Sometimes not, but this had time to evolve, time to grow, and time to show its face; the important thing I want to remember from this is to be open to the opportunity to create something better than you initially imagined, even if it means slowing the approach to the finish line.



Armor Express, Michael Schuyler Reenactment

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written by Jake Burgess  -  Project Release  -  May 25, 2017


Now that we’re reaching the warm days of May and my fingers have officially thawed, it’s easy to cheerfully look back on our frigid December night shoot.

As a long time editor at Practical, I’ve seen more than my fair share of Armor Express footage. Every frame creates a new level of respect and appreciation for what they do, and sheds light on those who selflessly put themselves in harm's way to serve and protect. After seeing so much of that through a screen, it’s a truly humbling experience to meet the individuals in question. People like Michael Schuyler, who survived multiple shots. That was the story the Practical team got to tell.


This was a unique shoot. We were pressed for time (the least unique thing about any shoot), pressed for warmth, and were drowning in snowfall. After wrapping the RED Epic and a brand new lens in a state of the art protective housing (featured below), we decided to get our coverage through a series of one takes. This meant filming the entirety of the event in every take. This was chaotic, but efficient.

To answer your question, yes. That is a plastic bag.

Now onto the part I’m supposed to talk about - editing. As I mentioned before, our coverage consisted of a series of long shots covering the entire action. As an editor, this was a unique experience for me and presented its own set of challenges. Namely, inconsistent snow fall throughout. Some shots looked like they were taken straight from a snow globe, others looked like an icy tundra. We also had a series of shots containing crew members, who we had tucked away firing off camera flashes to get interactive complex lighting to justify the muzzle flares. Rather than lose very compelling shots for the sake of ease, in the middle of post production I decided to fix it all in post.

This is where things got tricky, and this is where things get sort of technical. We shot nearly everything handheld, which meant lots of motion tracking. We had police lights flashing, which meant emulating complex lighting. The crew member (hereafter referred to as The Flasher) was interacting with multiple planes - the ground and the background behind him, which meant multiplanar compositing. Our actors were moving around in the foreground, passing between the camera and The Flasher, which calls for lots of rotoscoping. And possibly the toughest part, there was heavy snowfall throughout. This throws off the motion tracking software, it also means the snow has to be composited back in over any CG elements. Simply put, it was hard, and I like to complain.

In closing, this was all an incredible experience. Every challenge made me adapt and learn something new, and the final product is something I’m truly proud of. And that’s the goal, isn’t it?


Armor Express, David Wagoner Reenactment


David Wagoner's Story

Working with Armor Express is always an honor. Their products have saved the lives of many officers and we had the privilege of creating a reenactment of Officer David Wagoner's story.  On April 16, 2011, David was shot by a 9mm handgun during a traffic stop. The HaloIIIA armor saved his life.

The traffic stop occurred around midnight so filming in the complete darkness of northern Michigan had it's difficulties. Throw in some snow and temperatures in the teens and you have a recipe for an incredible night of freezing. I mean filming.

We filmed at a parking lot between a main road and the East Grand Traverse Bay. This was a producing dream because we weren't slowing traffic, or trying to film in the middle of a busy road. This was also a producing nightmare because we had no protection from the wind and snow slapping us in the face. I understand the term "Lake Effect Snow" now more than I ever wanted to.

I'm not too proud to say I may have shed a few tears because I was so incredibly miserable. We had our permits, everyone was on set, the icicles forming on the camera were minimal, the schedule was running smoothly- my job was pretty much done. So I watched and offered hot coffee and hand warmers and huddled for warmth with any body that was close. But despite the frozen fingers and toes, I was honored to be there. We were telling the story of a man who kissed his children goodnight, went to his job, and was shot point blank in the abdomen. He was able to return home to his family because of Armor Express. I'd brave insane weather anytime to tell a story like this. 

Written by KATIE FOX-WEBB // Producer