What is the definition of rough layout?

Rough Layout is the stage in a CG Animation pipeline between storyboards and animation. It is literally the translation and transition of storyboards into 3D space. It is designed to give the animators a frame of reference and a stage on which to work.

After the concepts, animatics, models, sets and characters are finished (or underway), Rough Layout artists review the storyboards from a particular assigned sequence with the Head of Layout and the Director(s). The storyboards should portray the intent of the action and the general idea of direction from the characters. The director may want to use them as a springboard for the artist to explore a wider scope or may call for the boards to be followed very closely due to special compositions from the board artists.

Rough Layout (RLO) begins to finesse the action, the timing, and the cinematography of the sequence. RLO artists take the set, lo-poly characters, any props called for and a scratch track and load them into a scene file like Maya. Using principles of design and composition the artist will set the stage for the characters, place them in 3D space and place a camera in the scene to begin blocking out shots. The important thing about blocking is that the sequence needs to flow and abide by certain rules: Noting Characters' eye-lines, keeping characters on their respective sides for crosses or scene direction, and watching for tangencies within the camera frame. Film terminology like OTS (Over-the-shoulder), Screen Right/Left, Pan, Dolly, Track, Zoom, etc will be used as well as knowledge of lens ratios and AOV (Angle-of-View). Each shot can tell its own story if composed correctly and all the shots together need to pace the sequence and determine the overall tone of the movie.

As each shot is completed, they will be strung together by Editing or another production program like Mplayer so the artist can review the shots in order and make tweaks before review by the Lead or the Director. These reviews are the fun part of the job because you get to hear feedback from the director and be a part of the early story development. Once the sequence is approved, it will be screened again by various other departments so they can get a handle on what kinds of effects, props and texture will called for. After it is given to the animators, that is usually the end of the RLO process. RLO animatics will generally not see the light of day once it it has passed animation.

Some studios employ a department called Final Layout (FLO) which comes after Animation and before Effects or Lighting. FLO is more technical in that the artists will swap out lo-poly objects or sets for hi-poly ones and set up base effects files like grass or particles so they are ready when the Lighters open the file.