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Contact (Snap Case) (1997) Amazon
Director: Robert Zemeckis

One of my all time favorite movies. I must have watched this DVD a hundred times. The special effects are truly wonderful. A special place in my heart as I was once a 3D computer graphics and animation specialist working for big studios and small companies.

It stars Jodie FosterMatthew McConaughey, and Tom Skerritt. And is based on the book by the eminent astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author Carl Sagan.

There are a numerous extras on this disc.

    • Cast and Crew (text based feature)
    • From Novel to Screen (text based feature)
    • Creating a Fantastic Event (text based feature)
    • The Message (text based feature)
    • Constructing the Pod (text based feature)
    • Alien Encounters
      • Audio Commentaries
      • The Special Effects (all videos)
        • The Making of the Opening Shot
        • The Making of the NASA Machine Destruction
        • The Making of the Harrier Landing
        • High Speed Compositing Reel
      • Computer Animated Concepts (short videos)
        • The Machine Fly-By
        • Hadden’s Plane
        • NASA Control Room
      • Theatrical Trailers
      • Special Edition Credits

The Jodie Foster running commentary is a great piece for the student of acting. Her comments are thoughtful and concise. She talks about the art of acting, a bit of reminiscing, thoughts on the production, motivations, etc . . . She describes the talent and skill of Zemecks, the amazing talents in the SF/X crew, and her cast members. It was great to hear her talk about her experiences (be sure to have subtitles on so you can follow the story as Jodie talks). During the scenes of her in the shaking pod, she describes how sick it made her and she even got vertigo because of it (she did multiple full days of being shaken in those chairs).

The Robert Zemecks and Steve Starkey running commentary is mostly reminiscing but there are a few gems in there too. What I did like was the bits of analysis describing the motivations of the actors in their portrayals. But, IMO, it was uninspiring as these two show no enthusiasm for their craft. They sounded like a director and a producer who had done a few too many films. May be it’s just me . . .

The running commentary by Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum was the best extra on the disc. They describe in detail the processes for all of those absolutely incredible special effects in this ground breaking film. The opening sequence (completely CG BTW) was purely theoretical as we don’t really know what’s actually out there! But, relying on their own research and the artistry of John Lomberg (who was Carl Sagan’s primary illustrator for his books and the series), they did an astounding job. So much of what they did to make this film the best they possibly could is truly amazing. I really liked the fact that these guys are passionate about their craft.

Under Alien Encounters subhead: The Special Effects, Ken and Stephen talk about the opening scene in detail. This is a 20 minute extra feature. It took 6 to 8 weeks to choreograph the fly-through sequence alone. It’s a 3 minute long SF/X sequence. 4,710 frames, 117,384.16 hours of CPU time, 98 layers in the composite! You also get to see some of the source material used in their research. There is a cool wireframe animatic which was used for the timing, rhythm and transition choreography and they walk us through it in great detail. The remaining three features under “The Special Effects” are equally impressive.

Under Alien Encounters subhead: Computer Animated Concepts, Tim Wilcox talks about and shows a fly-through animation of “The Machine” which he worked on. He also takes us through the development of Hadden’s plane interior. In the NASA Control Room feature he gives a very brief description of the work done here.

Aside from the director & producer commentary, I loved it. The SF/X artist, the student producer, and even the actor will appreciate the many features on this disc.

So, I’d say you have to check out the extras on this DVD.

I give it ★★★★★