There is a memorable shot of the young Ellie (Dr. Eleanor Ann) in the 1997 film Contact. 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”.
Ellie is running to the medicine cabinet, as she runs up the stairs, we see her running towards the screen as the camera in front of her continues to capture her through the hallway up to the bathroom cabinet. Upon reaching the cabinet, the camera appears to pass through the mirror, giving us a magical perspective that the entire shot was captured inside the mirror.
The scene is a beautiful example of great filmmaking and was filmed in two ways. First, a steady cam shot in front of her. The second scene when she opens the cabinet was filmed with a blue screen in the place of the mirror.
The second shot was particularly filmed in such a way that the hand motions were synced with the steady cam shot. Then, the steady cam shot was flipped the other way in post-production and was composited onto the blue screen with a mirror overlay.
“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.”
– 1st Asst Film Editor Carin-Anne Strohmaier, in an interview with Steadishots, explains how the shot was taken.
Contact (1997) was directed by Robert Zemeckis and 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 portrays the film’s protagonist, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, 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, Rob Lowe, Jake Busey, and David Morse.