If you saw Contact, you know it is a marvelous film, not only for its plot, but also for its wonderful cinematography. In one of the more memorable scenes in the movie, Ellie (Dr. Eleanor Ann) discovers that her father died, and runs to the bathroom medicine cabinet to get his pills. It is a single shot that follows Ellie from the bottom of the staircase all the way until she reaches out to the mirrored cabinet and opens it, only to reveal that the entire shot was taken “through the mirror”.
How is this possible without us seeing the cameraman?
Here is the shot again, only explained by Contact visual effects supervisors Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum.
1st Asst Film Editor – Carin-Anne Strohmaier – explains how the shot was taken. Not trivial to say the least:
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. #