In a photography workflow, you may be used to selecting shots, then color correcting and post processing before layout occurs. With video editing, the process involves continuous improvement. It is standard to quickly assemble an initial edit, then get feedback from the team and client. Along the way, improvements are made as the video moves closer and close to a finished state.
The following stages are common for most video editing projects. Depending on budget, some projects may have additional stages added or deleted. For example a feature film goes through many more rounds of editing than a broadcast news story.
- Assembly: The goal of the Assembly Edit is to simply strong the right clips the the right order. Initial selections are made and the goal is to quickly create an edit that can be watched. This may be called a “radio edit”, meaning that it is meant to be listened to more than actually watched. The objective is to get an idea of how long the video is running and get quick reactions from the stakeholders on how to approach the project.
- Rough Cut: The rough cut is a stage at which many elements begin to get added. It is likely for example that music may be placed (even if it is a temporary track for reference) and supporting footage (called b-roll) is added. Many other pieces such as graphics and sound effects may be missing. The project also lacks refinements like color correction and audio mixing. The truth is that there are likely several rough cuts, and as the producer, director, and editor interact with the video, they will reach a point of confidence in which the project is shared with the client or stakeholders for feedback. When showing a rough cut, it is essential that you identify what is still missing from the piece.
- Fine Cut: A fine cut is a video that is essentially complete. It is an attempt to achieve “picture lock” meaning that no more changes to the shot selection or the duration of the shots will be made. This version is done, but may lack some polish. The goal is to get the client to make any final requests while the editorial team begins final audio mixing and any tweaks to color correction and grading. Final graphics and other elements are generally placed. This is the cut that needs final change request made and the client’s last chance for budgeted change orders.
- Final Cut: The Final Cut is also called the Approval copy. The goal here is that all changes and minor improvements to picture and sound have been made. It is the belief of the editorial team that this video is done. The client is merely asked to review that all changes that were requested have been made. This is not a chance to make new requests, and most professionals communicate in their contracts that changes made to the final cut are considered out of scope of their were not raised during the Fine Cut stage.