As you may or may not know, Lucasfilm re-released Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D recently, reviving the question that many have asked since Star Wars: Special Edition was released in 1997: Which revision will be the last? For those who may not know, the original 1977-1983 films were revised slightly in each re-release, adding a subtitle here, or a new character there; George Lucas, creator of the series, has credited progressing technology with the several changes he makes to each release of the films. This brings to mind something that the digital age has made more accessible than ever before: editability.
Scott Kurtz, author of the webcomic PvP, touched upon this in a blog post discussing a colleague’s take on creating artwork. In it, Kurtz explains that fellow webcomicker Mike Krahulik (of Penny Arcade fame) dislikes the format of layers in Photoshop. However, instead of organizing the layers in folders and organizing that way, Krahulik simply merges all the artwork once he’s done, thus making future edits extremely difficult, if not impossible in some cases. Kurtz admits that flattening layers (in the age of digital convenience we live in) seems like a crazy thing to do, but realizes that it may not be a bad idea. He writes:
“You can’t take the color off a canvas to look at the pencil sketch below it. This is what [Krahulik] made. Now he’ll make something else. He’s not looking back.”
Artists certainly have the luxury to remake an artwork several hundred times until they get it to their liking, unless they’re constrained by other projects or people. George Lucas said of filmmaking “At some point, you’re dragged off the picture kicking and screaming while somebody says, ‘Okay, it’s done.’ That isn’t really the way it should work.” Taking advantage of his working relationship with the Star Wars property, Lucas has revised his films to the point where they satisfy his vision, and he’ll be more comfortable knowing that he’s gotten the chance to make his director’s cut the final cut.
Not all creatives have the same luxury, but that’s not a bad thing. Meeting any deadline means that you have to eliminate all unnecessary options as soon as possible, which is why it’s important to keep skills at their best. Mentally self-editing—throwing out ideas without even doing a thumbnail sketch—is a valuable skill, but trying out those ideas on paper may lead to new and better solutions. The idea is to exhaust the worst ideas as soon as possible to be sure that your final product is something you’re satisfied with; you won’t always get the chance to make revisions.