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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Contact



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#1 of 57 Cameron Yee

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Posted October 08 2009 - 06:48 PM

http://static.hometh...51d566aJRSL.jpg">   THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 480i or 480p standard definition Audio Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Portuguese 2.0 Stereo (5.1, 2.0, and 2S) Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German SDH, Italian SDH, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish None

The Feature: 4/5

When a radio signal from deep space reveals there is indeed extraterrestrial intelligence in the universe, astronomer Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is the perfect candidate to say "I told you so." She's spent her entire career on SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence), a passion that up to now has only yielded (at best) skeptical looks from her peers. But now she has a chance to not only prove all the naysayers wrong, but to connect with something she's longed for ever since she was a child. As a staunch atheist and dedicated scientist, she would never call her motivation to make extraterrestrial contact a spiritual or psychological need, but her own form of faith is challenged when she learns that for all her open-mindedness about the universe, she's also been quite narrow-minded about it. Her biases will ultimately deny her of the very thing she's been working towards all her life and though she eventually realizes the universe is bigger than even she was willing to admit, an unexpected series of second chances will help her see exactly how much.

As a directorial follow-up to his sentimental journey film "Forrest Gump," Robert Zemeckis's "Contact" (based on the novel by late astronomer Carl Sagan) probably can't seem more different. But watching it for the first time in 1997 I couldn't help seeing more similarities than differences between the two films, though I have yet to write the great compare-and-contrast essay I've had in mind all these years. Even without such a full-blown exercise we can see both movies explore fundamental questions about human existence, albeit "Contact" in more obvious ways. Though the opening sequence - a pullout from Earth to the far reaches of the galaxy and beyond - serves as a perfect illustration of key physics and astronomy concepts, what most will take away from it is our insignificance in the grand scheme. And the broad questions about faith and science posed to Dr. Arroway will challenge viewers regardless of where they fall in the spectrum of belief. Though the film ultimately offers few definitives to either its main character or the audience, it does highlight the fundamental importance of the questions as both the indicators and reflectors of our humanity. We may never have the answers but our questions will help take us to where we want to go.

Video Quality: 4/5

The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The image is free of physical blemishes and exhibits no signs of edge enhancement or excessive noise reduction measures. Black levels are solid and deep, though contrast is often affected by some slight, but notable, black crush. Colors during those moments can look oversaturated, though colors and flesh tones in general show satisfactory stability and depth. Fine object detail is quite good, star fields and fine textile patterns (houndstooth jackets seemed to be all the rage in 1997) standing out for their clarity.

Audio Quality: 4.5/5

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track effectively presents an impressive mix that logically tracks with the film's story development. Until the climactic machine ride scenes, surround activity is devoted mostly to providing support for the score and some occasional environmental sound effects. During the machine ride, the mix throws in enveloping directional and ambient surround effects along with some impressive levels of LFE, giving the adventure scenes great impact. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible as well, though I did have to raise overall volume on my receiver about 10 units to reach my standard listening levels.

Special Features: 3.5/5

The special features package uses commentaries to provide the behind-the-scenes information and devotes most of the video items to covering the film's special effects work. Overall it makes for a decent blend of material, with the isolated score being a rare highlight.

Audio commentaries: Of the three commentaries, I chose Jodie Foster's solo track to listen to. The two other tracks are by Zemeckis and Producer Steve Starkey and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston and Visual Effects Supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum. Based on the latter pair's commentary for the special effects featurettes, there should be plenty to keep the CGI-minded interested. Foster in fact admits up front she's not so interested in special effects, so spends her time talking about her production experiences and insights into the characters and plot. Being the star of the film (and known for her intelligence), most viewers will gravitate to her track first, as I did, and should find it suitably informative and entertaining.

Special Effects Featurettes: Ralston and Rosenbaum walk viewers through the various special effects sequences, showing each phase of the painstaking CGI processes. Title cards provide additional detail about each sequence's specific objectives.
  • The Making of the Opening Shot (20:02)
  • The Making of the NASA Machine Destruction (5:52)
  • The Making of the Harrier Landing (8:55)
  • The High-Speed Compositing Reel (6:08)
Animated Set Tours: 3D computer graphic artist Tim Wilcox talks about the sets, which were realized in computer animated form before construction.
  • Machine Fly By (1:32)
  • Hadden's Plane (0:26)
  • NASA Control Room (0:23)
5.1 Music-Only Track: Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital at 640 kbps.

Theatrical Trailers: Trailer 1 runs 1:32 and Trailer 2 runs 2:28.

Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


A thought-provoking drama exploring both science and faith gets very good technical treatment and a decent set of special features.

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#2 of 57 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 09 2009 - 12:37 AM

Cameron,

Nice to hear that all the pre-release speculation based on
a few early screenshots about how bad this transfer was going
to look all turned out to be false.

People are now able to come out of their homes, feel safe,
and buy this Blu-ray which sounds like a real winner.

Love this film.  Have bought the Blu-ray.  Just trying to find
time to sit and watch it.

Thanks for the review.
 

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#3 of 57 Southpaw

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Posted October 09 2009 - 01:20 AM

Me too, Ron. I noted in another thread that I believed all the complaints about DNR and color being way off were completely blown out of proportion. I have never taken in a commentary on this movie so the prospect of listening to all 3 of them is a little daunting.

#4 of 57 Steve Tannehill

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Posted October 09 2009 - 03:09 PM

Good review, Cameron.

I had problems with the sound.  I was getting audio through an older Denon receiver and Sony BDP-S1 via analog outs.  The resulting sound was so anemic that I moved to a different viewing environment with lesser speakers, an even older Yamaha receiver but sufficient sound.  In the anemic environment, I had turned the receiver up as far as it would go and still did not get good sound out.  In the other environment, I did not have to turn the sound up at all.  Strange.  And disappointing, because the only surround environment I've got is the one that did not put out good sound.  The other environment is a Polk SurroundBar, which sounds good, but is not the same.

I've not had performance problems like this before.

- Steve


#5 of 57 Ron-P

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Posted October 10 2009 - 09:18 AM

Very impressive picture quality, and sound quality! Watched this last night and found it nothing short of impressive. Add to that, it's just flat out one of the best sci-fi films to date. If you're a fan of this film, pay no attention to those screen caps. I watched this on my 96" DIY screen from 6' away with an Epson 1080UB and a PS3. Most impressed!

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#6 of 57 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 11 2009 - 07:09 AM

Whatever I am about to write is not going to give proper
justice to CONTACT the movie or Blu-ray -- even by saying
it is probably the best title on Blu-ray at this very moment.

It has been about 10 years since I originally watched this
film on DVD.   I always knew this was a great film, but
watching it a decade later, I am surprised how good it is
today.

The film itself is remarkable.  It's a child of Robert Zemeckis,
who I think is one of the best Directors of our generation. Here
he has created a science fiction film that is not only
intelligent, but fascinating to watch.  Visually, from camera
work through special effects, this film is a feast for the
eyes and soul.

Despite all the false negative reports about this transfer
weeks prior to its release, it seems that Warner had the last
laugh.  What lies herein is one of the best Blu-ray transfers
I have seen to date.  If there was a film destined to be watched
in high definition, it was CONTACT.  It looks pristine and
sounds magnificent!

There is one scene that needs to be experienced -- LOUD.
It is the scene where Ellie is being escorted by two Asian
guards across the platform to the space pod.  That shot
of her stopping, looking down through the rotating circular
structure at the waves crashing beneath is breathtaking. It's
the perfect combination of CGI and sound.  With a transfer
this pristine, it is the epitome of what I consider to be the
perfect home theater experience.

I lost a few DVDs off my shelving today during that very 
scene.   My shelf sits right next to my SV Subwoofer,
one of the original circular models that stands nearly 5' high.  
The amount of LFE activity coming off of that subwoofer was
strong enough to shake my floor, and obviously, my wall shelves.

The only thing I was disappointed with was missing the
infamous Zemeckis shot early on in the film.  I have talked
about it for years, but for some reason -- perhaps because I
was waiting for it -- I seem to have missed it or was not fooled
by it.  Those who know what I am talking about will chime in.
On the other hand, I was reminded of the use of footage
involving President Clinton in this film and how much his people
were not happy of its inclusion.

...but I am getting a bit off point here.

Warner should be applauded for this transfer.  It is the
perfect example of how a transfer should look and sound.





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#7 of 57 Scott Merryfield

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Posted October 11 2009 - 09:59 AM

Thanks for the review, Cameron, and to Ron for the additional comments. I am so glad to read that the early reports about this transfer were not correct. My copy arrived while I was out of town, and I am really looking forward to seeing this film again. It's probably been 8-10 years since I last watched this movie.


#8 of 57 BillyFeldman

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Posted October 11 2009 - 10:18 AM

 As I stated in another thread (and being one of the first to actually watch the thing), it is an exemplary disc, both in sound and image.  I don't find the film as brilliant as others, in fact, I have real problems with it dramatically, but it's always well-meaning and its heart is in the right place - I just could have lived without the cliched stuff with James Woods and Tom Sellick - the film didn't need it - it's more interesting than that stuff, but I know that everyone thinks you need to have villains and obstacles - I don't mind the latter but just not when they're so tritely drawn as here.  

As to the screencaps, I've said for ages that one cannot trust them, especially on certain sites - other than for this particular film, there has always been a surprising amount of disagreement with that attitude (that you cannot trust them) - now people are finally catching on.  As I stated earlier, for people who love this film I cannot imagine them being happier than with this Blu-Ray.

As to this review, good job, but when did all these terms come into play and what exactly do they mean?  Everyone uses them but their proliferation in every review I read, here and elsewhere, as if these were the only descriptive words available, borders on being satiric. Crushed blacks?  What exactly are they?  Over saturated color - exactly what do you mean in regards to this disc where I saw absolutely no color that was over saturated.  















#9 of 57 Cameron Yee

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Posted October 11 2009 - 10:42 AM

Crushed blacks Reduction of the detail in the black regions of an image by compressing the lower section of the contrast range. Going from memory, an example would be Arecibo outdoor scenes.
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#10 of 57 cafink

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Posted October 11 2009 - 12:30 PM

What is the "infamous Zemeckis shot"?  I've seen Contact many times, the most recent of which was only a couple of months ago, and I confess I am not sure what shot Ron is referring to.

 

 


#11 of 57 Southpaw

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Posted October 12 2009 - 01:09 AM

I'm not sure what he's referring to either. He's known for long and complicated opening shots and Contact certainly has that so I don't know what else it could be.



#12 of 57 Carlo Medina

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Posted October 12 2009 - 02:57 AM

I think the shots he's referring to are:
When cameras seeming start outside a structure (say the Arroway house) and then smoothly track into the structure (moving through closed windows, etc.) to focus on the people inside...Zemeckis does this a couple of times I think in Contact.

Or the scene where Ellie's father dies and it shows her running up the stairs in dreamy slow motion and then pans back to reveal it had been shooting her reflection from the mirror (which is an impossibility since the mirror can't have reflected her from downstairs).
All instances are still in the movie, and all caught my eye as a still-cool trick. :)


#13 of 57 cafink

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Posted October 12 2009 - 03:06 AM

Those are indeed a couple of impressive shots.  I've always liked the "mirror" one, in particular.

 

 


#14 of 57 Jason Charlton

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Posted October 12 2009 - 07:00 AM

The mirror shot is undoubtedly one of the most impressive, but I also liked how one of the commentary tracks reveals:

how the shot that follows Ellie from her car (after just discovering the transmission) into the building and up the stairs to the control room was shot in two parts - one outdoors on location and the other indoors on a soundstage.  They very creatively and effectively hid the cut at the moment she opens the doors.
 

Zemeckis and David Fincher are two directors that excel at finding creative and subtle ways to use CGI to enhance a shot.

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#15 of 57 Paul_Warren

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Posted October 12 2009 - 08:45 AM

To me Zemeckis is probably the top director in the world today. He can blend stunning CGI with a warm human interest story like no-one else. Its a shame he has been sidetracked with 3D CG motion capture movies as I would love to see him tackle another big budget live action movie like the When Worlds Collide remake Spielberg owns the rights to and has been prepping for years now (Stephen Summers was due to direct). Zemeckis would be perfect for that!

Look carefully at both Cast Away & What Lies Beneath as both contain several stunning CGI shots similar to some in Contact which need a couple of viewings to fully appreciate the amazing technical design & execution.

In Contact SPI built a CGI window & door for the shot where the camera appears to pass through it!



#16 of 57 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted October 12 2009 - 05:11 PM

Ron,
 
You're not talking about the final split second (foreshadowing) reveal in the transition from the impressive opening, history of (analog) radio/TV broadcast signal, space sequence into Ellie's eye bringing us to the present story context, are you?

That's the one shot early in the film that nobody has mentioned yet -- and would be something easily missed if one's not paying enough attention.

BTW, I haven't purchased my copy just yet, but I just sold off my DVD in a stoop sale yesterday (along w/ a sizeable batch of other DVDs).  Can't wait to get the BD and watch it again (after quite some time now)...

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#17 of 57 Parker Clack

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Posted October 12 2009 - 11:00 PM

I finally got around to watching my Blu-ray copy of Contact and I agree that this is one of the best Blu-ray DVDs I own to date.

Ron I am not sure what you are talking about either. All the opening sequence is there as it always has been.
Quote:

You're not talking about the final split second (foreshadowing) reveal in the transition from the impressive opening, history of (analog) radio/TV broadcast signal, space sequence into Ellie's eye bringing us to the present story context, are you?
 Man:

That scene is still in this transfer.


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#18 of 57 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 12 2009 - 11:51 PM

Sorry for all the speculation.  Was hoping someone could
explain the shot better than I.

No, the opening scene with Ellie'e eye is too obvious.  The
shot I am talking about is less, but just as impresssive.

Jason Charlton explains it best in the other Contact thread
located within this forum area:

Quote:
Ellie starts downstairs and the camera leads her up the stairs (i.e. the camera is moving backwards), across a hallway (turning a corner) and into the bathroom. When we get there, the camera pulls back to reveal that we're watching Ellie's reflection in the bathroom mirror (a practical impossibility, due to corners and stairs). The commentary track mentions how the VFX guys even added a distortion effect that mimics the bevel on the edge of the mirror and how such a minor detail really helps "sell" the shot at the end.

It's a very famous shot.  Talked about endlessly at the
time.  Funny thing is, I missed it in this viewing probably
for the fact that subliminally I knew it was being done.


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#19 of 57 Brian Borst

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Posted October 13 2009 - 06:55 AM

I've been calling Robert Zemeckis the 'Invisible FX Wizard' for years, he's just one of those directors who knows how to use CGI. Not overdoing it, and using it on instances where you don't expect it (like the many shots already discussed here) are prime examples of very good CG. I'm glad the disc turned out to be great after all, I was a bit worried Warner wouldn't get one of my favorite (and underrated, too) sci-fi movies right. Glad to know this is not the case, and I can order it without hesitation.

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#20 of 57 Sam Davatchi

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Posted October 14 2009 - 09:41 AM

I love this movie and it was one of my first DVD purchases. It was released in the first year of the DVD launch if I remember correctly.






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