Understanding The Rough Cut

At LooseKeys we do everything we can to keep our clients informed on how a project is going. This not only helps us to continue to push forward on the project but it also makes sure we address any issues that could arise during the production.

One of the points in the production phase that is often confusing for clients is viewing a rough cut for the first time.

I’m sure all creatives have sent a rough cut to a client before and the feedback received hasn’t always been the best. “What is this?” or “This isn’t What We Expected,” are never words you want to hear. At LooseKeys our clients are often people who run businesses or startups and not necessarily clients that are completely familiar with all that goes into the creation of a video.

People who work in video or film tend to toss around phrases that aren’t always widely known outside of our industry; terms like rough cut, styleframes, compression, codecs, and VR. People outside that circle might not be too familiar with them. Being an animation studio we also are not totally familiar with banker terms like M&A, LBO and below the bar but that’s not our business so we don’t toss those words around casually.

It’s important to remember that we may need to spend more time explaining some aspects of the production to the client. As creative people, we tend to get upset when others, especially clients don’t understand our vision or process. You have to take the time to educate and inform clients on what they are seeing, otherwise you’re going to work yourself up and possibly take out that frustration on the client or others working with you.


A rough cut is one of the first steps in putting together a video, this is the first phase where the project starts to resemble a real video and not just a bunch of random pieces. Typically rough cuts will still undergo many changes before the final. If you’re working with video, assembling a rough cut is a time consuming process. The editor goes through all the footage trying to figure out what are the best takes and select what shots to use and in what general order it should all go in. You typically go through many versions of rough cuts before you get to the fine cut and are near completing the video. A rough cut can sometimes be more refined and be pretty close to the final. More often than not, it is very rough and more of an assembly edit to make sure all the pieces of the project are there. It’s the first major step in the editorial process, and there are often many more changes that can and will be made.

As a client, if you’re seeing the video for the first time it’s good to know that this likely is not the final completed piece.

Since most of the videos we create at LooseKeys are animated, our rough cuts are typically very advanced animatics. All the movements of the characters might not be in place yet but the pieces are there to make sure the scenes are working and flowing together.

No matter what is shown to the client, it’s important never to assume a client knows what we have planned moving forward on the video. If there are changes that need to be made, we’ll let the client know. This is an important collaborative relationship and good communication is vital.

When we educate a new client on our process so we all have a clear vision and are on the same page, it makes for a more successful project. If you’re looking to work with a creative team on a future project, get in contact with LooseKeys.

Portions were originally published at digitalhitchhiker.com on January 31, 2013.