Sometimes our clients aren’t sure what to expect when they receive a rough cut. They can be overwhelmed with information, thoughts, questions, or ideas. We hear ya! And we want to make sure that the process of reviewing a rough cut is easy, as well as informative and fun. Here are some pro tips for what to expect next time you receive one. (Maybe from your favorite production company Koi-Fly?) 

So, What is a Rough Cut?

A rough cut edit occurs after the stringout, which is when the audio and video footage is matched and put into a timeline. The goal of a rough cut is to take the best audio and video footage and begin to establish a storyline.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what should be in a rough cut video. Many people expect to see pretty graphics, smooth transitions, and perfect audio. 

While all your hopes and dreams will be in your final video, it’s important to remember that this round of editing focuses on story structure and ensuring that it’s exactly what the client wants for the end product. 

Emphasis on Rough 

Think of your rough cut as the first draft of an essay or a blueprint for a house. It doesn’t include the fancy furniture and finishes, but it gives you an idea of where the video and story will be going. It’s called rough for a reason. 

The video footage will be raw and uncolored, and the chosen clips are the ones that embody the heart of the story. Expect to see a timecode at the bottom of the screen, potential pauses between scenes, and white or black title cards. These serve as place holders for another shot that will ultimately match the dialogue or storyline. 

The Audio and Music 

The audio and music will also be in its rawest form during this stage of the editing process. The levels won’t be exact and it might sound like one person speaks louder than another. This will all be cleaned up in the next stage of editing, but again, we’re focusing on what’s being said, to make sure it aligns exactly with the brand’s message or purpose for the video. 

If there is music, it probably hasn’t been purchased yet. So, don’t fret when you hear a creepy voice in the background whispering something like, “audiojungledotcom.” 

The editors do this in order to save time and money in case you’d like to try other music options. The music gives the foundational feel of the piece, so this is an opportunity to change the rhythm, feel, and flow of the music.

Giving Notes 

Once you receive a rough cut, it’s important to give thorough and detailed notes about what is or isn’t working. Remember, the editor is completely aware of the long pauses of silence between scenes and the lack of graphics or VO, so think big picture. Trust that they will make your video pristine.

Continue to focus on the story and its structure. Have the important points been shown in a way that you like? Are all of the main characters involved enough? If there’s music, do you approve of it?

Include a timecode reference in order for the editor to address a note quickly and avoid any confusion. Try to avoid saying things like, “This doesn’t work,” since it’s unspecific. Instead try, “Let’s put this more towards the end instead of the middle.” 

This is your opportunity to have creative input on your video, so try and make your notes meaningful. 

Remember, the rough cut will eventually turn into the beautiful content that you’re hoping it will, but it’s important to both trust and work with the editor to reach that goal.


Do you have questions about rough cuts, or do you need high quality video content for your brand? Send us an email at or call us at 610-716-8579!




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