The Rough Cut

The rough cut is where the magic happens." We all experience struggles with being creative, believing in ourselves, and finding the best language to share our ideas. There's an infinite battle between the concept in our minds and what gets put to paper. This short is all about the creative process, and how vulnerable we are as artists.
Because this is a universal experience, we connected with friends from around the world and enlisted their help in telling this story. Oh, and we also used their true voices in the voiceover. Here's to the artists! Here's to the creative process! Here's to the rough cut!

Creative by Coat of Arms
Creative Direction by Clara Lehmann & Jonathan Lacocque
Design Direction by Ryan Butterworth
Written by Clara Lehmann
Edited by Jonathan Lacocque
Titlecard design by Dennis Hoogstad & Ryan Butterworth
Design & Animation (in order of appearance) by Ryan Butterworth, Nuria Boj, Arm Sattavorn, Romain Loubersanes, Aaron Ray, Mantas Gr, Ricardo Nilsson, Ana Hill, Susanna Basone, Steve Savalle
Sound Design & Mix by Sarah Krohn
Voiceover (in order of appearance) by Clara Lehmann, Ryan Butterworth, Nuria Boj, Lucy Lacocque, Sarah Krohn, Amy Butterworth, Arm Sattavorn, Mantas Gr, Jonathan Lacocque, Aaron Ray, Jodi Krangle, Lucy Lacocque, Friedrich Detering, Grace Lawson, Ricardo Nilsson, Lola Butterworth, Charlie Butterworth, Oliver Butterworth, Steve Savalle, Susanna Basone, Patrick (PK) Dow, Pablo Lozano, Nidia Dias, Sophia Lacocque

Visit our website for full section-by-section credits.
And check out for access to our project files!
Near the end of 2019, we came up with an idea to make a short animated video all about the creative process. But more specifically, on the struggle creatives go through during the process of creation.  So we created a paper doc, and wrote up the above concept.  Part of this idea came out of a continuing discussion we started many years ago, that perhaps the best part of a project is when you're in the rough cut stage. In fact, it led to the creation of the below T-shirt, with design by Dennis Hoogstad. 
              Design by Dennis Hoogstad
From there, Clara wrote a script:

1. Every story begins a little bit ugly. It bubbles near the surface, masked by our fears, blocked by our insecurities. It’s awkward. [beat]…This shit is hard.  
2. So you put on some tunes, get some exercise, or stress eat some chocolate chip, cookie dough ice cream and search for that spark of inspiration.  
3. A good story looks easy. It makes sense. It flows effortlessly. But don’t be fooled by the siren’s song. 
4. Stories are shaped, designed and wielded into something presentable. 
5. The rough edges are smoothed. The inconsistencies are removed. The defects are revised. 
6. [Ack or UGH or sigh of disgust/disappointment] What am I talking about…this isn’t nearly good enough. 
7. Scrap it, tack it, repeat it. And do that 10 more… 25, 100 more times. 
8. Uncomfortable yet? It’s exhilarating, right? 
9. The truth is…. The rough cut is where the magic happens. It’s that moment where you teeter between genius and total crap. Failure or grandeur. 
10. But now, more than ever, we won’t give up, if you won’t. And ain’t that beautiful. 
Initially, our concept was to follow the life of a tree becoming something else, as a metaphor for a creative idea. We had Chris Moberg on another project, and after ending early, we worked with him for a few days to test out our visual concept. Here are a few early tests:
During our initial explorations, our Design Director Ryan Butterworth, started to create an overall style and color palette for the direction.
But after some time away from the project, we came back to it with renewed energy and a new perspective on things. We decided to adjust the overall look and style. 

We wanted to incorporate a bunch of our friends from around the world, and different styles, to help pronounce the fact that this is a universal aspect for all artists. Every artist has vulnerabilities, insecurities, and struggles with creation at times. With that, we invited friends to get involved, and worked section-by-section from beginning to end. 

We wanted to keep a thread throughout and landed on wood and wood textures to keep a connection to our original 'rough cut' idea. We're surrounded by trees where we live in West Virginia, and Clara's dad owns and operates a saw mill. So the texture of wood, and the story the grain can tell is something we're accustomed to seeing. We felt this would be a fun (albeit subconscious) element in the visuals, tying each scene together in some way.
For the opening of the video, we wanted to represent the shuffling of concepts and ideas (much like we experienced on this project), where it takes time for that one 'right' idea to shine. Maybe it was the first thing you thought of, or the 100th. But time tends to be our greatest friend when it comes to the process. Here's an early board-o-matic we edited where we considered keeping some of our early explorations. But this ultimately got nixed.

This section was for this voiceover: "Every story begins a little bit ugly. It bubbles near the surface, masked by our fears, blocked by our insecurities. It’s awkward. [beat]…This shit is hard."
Here's an alternate version of the open Ryan explored during his work on this opening scene. You'll here some of our initial sound and temp VO on early progress versions like this:
Nuria Boj helped put together style and storyboards for this next portion of the video. Here, we wanted to express some of the things we do to try and get inspired. Whether it's music, exercise, or other activities.  And let's be honest, sometimes we just need to reach for the ice cream and give ourselves a pass.
Color palette:
Here is are some early roughs from Nuria:
A screenshot from Animate:
Romain Loubersanes helped with some refinement, adding more textures/grains, and beginning the last part of this section:
A look under the Ae hood:
Aaron Ray came on board to help with the next scene. It was important to have fun with this section. We knew we wanted to have one of the kids speak the lines (harkening back to our Lullaby Theories series). It became a fun mix of techniques all in one moment, merging 2d, frame by frame animation, and 3D.

Here are some of Aaron's storyboards:
A few finished frames, showing the whale flipping our surprised boat.  
A peek at Aaron's PSD setup:
A few poses from Aaron's sailor. Mantas Gr came on board to help with cel animation of this bearded feller:
Here are some of Mantas' super smooth lines for the Sailor and Siren:
And here's an early render of Ryan's transition from Section 3 to Section 4:
In this scene, we wanted to do something that had a tangible feel to it. Arm Sattavorn designed and animated this section beautifully, incorporating some cool (and functional) dowel joint construction. In fact, Clara's dad built his house in West Virginia using this method!

Here's an early styleframe:
A good idea is precious. In this next scene we wanted to show the process of refining a creative concept. Cutting out elements that don't work, messing with the overall flow & timing, making sure the story is right. 

Ricardo Nilsson illustrated & animated and Arm Sattavorn helped with clean up and finishing. Here the original storyboards:
Shortly after storyboarding, we put together an animatic to finalize movement and timing:
an early 3D test for transitioning the rock from rough to smooth:
Once we had a rockin' render, Ricardo added cel fx to round things out.
Here's an early version of the eyes and hand portion of this scene. 
For this next section, we wanted to have our creative idea to tumble and fall, but to juxtapose that with vibrance. Ana Hill designed this scene and Susanna Basone & Arm Sattavorn animated.

Here are the original boards for our scene:

Early styleframes, before we adjusted the ball for continuity, and adjusted the environment slightly:
Here's a bts sequential process of how Ana created and refined the pool stick in Photoshop:
A first pass on motion with Susanna:
A peek at her After Effects file when she got started on animation:
Arm helped pull together all the scenes and make sure there was continuity from section to section. During this process, we updated the ball to 3D, which you can see the beginnings of here:
Initially Steve Savalle created a really fun looping 3D animation meant to show the scale of failed ideas, creative missteps, and maybe projects that couldn't get finished. This evolved into a little more complex wooden world to hint at how difficult this whole creative process can be, how the pieces need to fit together just perfectly. Here is his first creation:
Like Ira Glass' brilliant discussion about "the gap" between our taste and abilities, we often have a gut feeling that something is working, or isn't. And sometimes we can't put into words how to fix it, or we don't have clarity on what we need to technically do to make a concept or piece of art, sing. In this section, Aaron Ray illustrated a bit of the technical process when it comes to something like animation or editing, where we have to experiment a bit to find what works. CTRL+Z for the win.

Here are his storyboards with details for animation:
Here's an early version of Arms' animation for this scene. Essentially working out how each block will come in transitionally:
Will this work? Am I any good? Will others think it's good? How do you value art? Ugh. This thing we do can be so precarious. 

Mantas Gr illustrated & animated this fun section. Here are some quick boards Mantas did to finalize the concept. Things changed a little from here, as you'll see, but a lot remains:
Some of his first styleframes:
An early 12fps export from the middle section of Mantas' scene:
Screenshot from Mantas' Ae project:
For our ending and credits, Ryan did a great job tying the original scene and branding back together to bring us home. 

Here's an early version of the ending. The material of the horse is different here from what we ultimately went with. Texture/grains aren't animated yet either:
Thanks for reading!
The Rough Cut

The Rough Cut

The rough cut is where the magic happens." We all experience struggles with being creative, believing in ourselves, and finding the best language Read More