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Shot / Scene of the Month

Contact is a 1997 American science fiction drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan`s 1985 novel of the same name; Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film.

Jodie Foster is a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life and is chosen to make first contact. The film also stars Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, Jake Busey, and David Morse.





The long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine is a shot that is practically impossible. The shot was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet.  

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"Mirror Flashback", By Gregory Lundsgaard   [Steadicam Operator]

This is a great shot that involves leading our actor as she runs through her house, up the stairs, ending in the bathroom for a surprise effects ending.

The shot was filmed normally and flipped in post to achieve the mirror image. The actual bathroom mirror was replaced with a bluescreen into which the original shot was superimposed.

Quote from Carin-Anne Strohmaier, 1st Asst Film Editor

I`m so glad so many liked this shot - this was one of Bob Z`s favorite in the show. Having had to do the counts for this optical to Sony Pictures Imageworks (who deserve the credit for the final look) this was how it was done - a Steadicam person with the Vista Vision camera strapped to his chest ran backwards in front of Young Ellie as he goes up the stairs and down the hallway - there was a speed change - we ramp from 24 to 48fps (though I can`t remember exactly - we could have ramped through three different speeds) - by the time she stops and puts her hand to open the medicine cabinet door ("A" plate ) - we are then inside the reflection. The medicine cabinet was the "B" plate (second plate) and then the door closes and we have the "C" plate (third plate) which was the reflection of the photo of Young Ellie and her dad. By the way - the first time we received this CGI shot as a final (completed & ready to be signed off) Bob Z noticed that the picture frame did not match the one in the Arecibo Puerto Rico bedroom with older Ellie and Joss so they had to have an insert crew reshoot the "C" plate with the correct picture frame and re-composite the shot over again - not an easy thing to do since timing was critical in getting everything to match up. I also liked to give our Avid assistant, Orlando Duenas, credit since he did the initial line up of the shots in our cutting room which Sony Imageworks used as a guide.

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During the development of Contact, the production crew watched Stanley Kubrick`s 2001: A Space Odyssey for inspiration.

Cinematographer Don Burgess shot the film in anamorphic format using Panavision cameras as well as using large format 65mm and VistaVision for special effects shots.

The film was released on July 11, 1997, to mostly positive reviews. Contact grossed approximately $171 million in worldwide box office totals. The film won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and received multiple awards and nominations at the Saturn Awards.


As a measure of the pace of technology, more than 117,000 hours of computer CPU time were required to render the CGI in the opening galactic pullback scene. The servers crashed more than 25 times in the process. Shortest amount of time required to render one frame in the sequence: 12 seconds. Longest render time for one frame: 18.4 hours. At the time, it was the longest continuous computer-generated effect for a live-action film.


The Author and Producer Carl Sagan was to have had a cameo as a member of the committee to select an Astronaut for The Machine, but died during production before the scene was filmed.


A famous quote by Carl is made throughout the movie by different characters, that if humans were the only life in the universe it would "be a terrible waste of space"







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