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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Sarris

4 Tips for reviewing a rough cut video

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Video editing is the process of manipulating and rearranging vide

usually considered to be one part of the post production process — other post-production tasks include titling, color correction, sound mixing, etc.

Editing is where the story comes to life. It’s taking the raw ingredients and baking a cake out of them.

One part of the editing process is the client review. Client review is a way for me to make sure I am on the right track, telling the right story in the right way.

Usually that means that as a client you’ll be receiving a link to a video file from us that is labeled “V1” or “Edit01”.

This file is a “rough cut”. This means that it isn’t the final prod

uct. It often doesn’t have “b-roll” (supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot). It may have temporary music that still has an audible watermark and the audio levels are not mixed well. The video likely isn’t color graded. And it may not have any graphics, or only have temporary “placeholder” graphics. The term “rough cut” describes it well. It’s the basic shape of the video we are making, but it hasn’t been finished yet.

Finishing a video is a labor intense process. Graphics need to be created and animated, music needs to be chosen (or written and recorded!) and cut to fit the timing and mood. B-roll needs to be placed strategically over the interview footage to enhance the story. We don’t want to buy and cut the music, add the “b-roll”, and create graphics that will then need to be moved, re-cut or taken out, because this adds time and money to the project.

So, what am I looking for you to tell me when you review this file?


1.) Is the story being told the story you want to tell?

Another way to say this would be, is the messaging right? Is the arc of the story compelling?

In any given interview or set of interviews there are multiple stories to tell. Editing is culling out the extraneous information so that one story (or set of stories) shines through. I want to make sure I am telling your story not mine.

Often, I will “paint with a broad brush” and include more story beats than may be needed. This is often because the beat is adding more detail or flavor to the story, or it’s a nice moment or sub-story that would add to the emotion if there is time in the piece. I want you to help me in determining what to sacrifice. Maybe you have a time constraint. Maybe you’d rather dive deeper into that story. It’s up to you not me. If the project is a written script, this step is more important in the writing stage. But it’s still part of the feedback I need on a rough cut, as sometimes seeing the images and words together shows the flaws or redundancies in the script.

2.) Is the mood and emotion working to tell your story?

Is the video you are looking to create fast paced and energetic? Or is it more emotional and introspective? Is the video I sent you in line with what you expect?

Everyone is different when it comes to style and emotion (we’ll get to this next). Music that causes one person to feel an emotion may not work on another person.

I want to know if the emotional content and mood of the video is working for you. Making you feel the emotion of the story and want to keep watching. You know the purpose of the better than anyone, so I want to make sure that it’s working for your purposes and not just working for me.

3.) If there is music, is the style working for your video?

Everyone’s taste in music is different. Some people like epic, orchestral music. Others like punk rock. Both could work in any given context.

I choose music based on my tastes, and what I think works in the video. You may have a different opinion. I need to know that so I can make sure the final product matches what you want to see.

You may think the music is too loud or too soft. That’s ok. In a rough cut, you may hear a voice in the background saying something. That’s a “watermark” in the music, and it is there because I’ve only downloaded a temporary music track. Just ignore it in the rough cut. It’ll be taken out when I purchase the music.

I always run the videos I produce through an audio mixing process to smooth out edits, reduce background noise, and level out the music and voice levels. This is also where I buy the music. The mixing process is labor intense and requires copying the project into another piece of software. If I need to make changes to the story I’ll need to go through that whole process again, so I don’t do it until the video is not going to materially change. This is called “picture lock” in the industry, and I will ask that you approve everything except for the audio mix before I start that part of the process.

4.) If there is b-roll, is it complimenting the story?

Much of the time I’ll add basic b-roll to the video in a rough cut. I do this to make sure the b-roll is matching the style of the video you want, and because I’m using the b-roll as content to help tell the story. I can cut between shots quickly, or let the b-roll video sit longer (maybe in slow motion) to make more of an impact.

I like to know how the shots are affecting you as you watch the video, and if they are helping to compliment the story you are telling. You may see a “watermark” on some pieces of video. This means the video is from a “stock” footage site, and I will need to pay for that footage in order to use it. I don’t want to buy it until you are sure you like the footage.


Once I get feedback on the “rough cut” I’ll start to incorporate it into the video, and start to polish the video. As you see the new iterations of the video, you’ll start to see b-roll and graphics added to the video, the audio will sound better when it’s fully mixed, and the colors will start to balance and pop as I color grade the video. I’ll need feedback on all of this as the process goes on.

My ultimate goal is to make sure that the video you get at the end of the process is as close to what you wanted at the beginning as possible (maybe better!). Sure, things change, and sometimes there are problems encountered in the process that affect the outcome. But ultimately, I hope that the end product tells your story and accomplishes your goal.

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When you edit videos, I suggest you try converting them to different formats, for example from dvd to mp4. It's fashionable to do it here, I use the converter all the time and work on my videos.

By the way, if you know any good free video editors, tell me about them please!

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