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Contact: You Are Not Alone


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I'm pleased to announce that my edit of Contact is finally finished!

I've submitted the appropriate info sheets and download links to fanedit.org so it can be included on the site.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share the info here. Everything is uploaded to rapidshare and will also be uploaded to megaupload in the coming days. PM me if you'd like the rapidshare links to download!

Without further ado, here's the info on the edit! :


What kind of fanedit? : TF (true fanedit)

Fanedit synopsis (aka what is this fanedit about):

Contact: You Are Not Alone strives to improve upon an already-solid film by reorganizing the storyline and removing annoyances observed by the faneditor and reported by others. To that end, I felt that a careful hand was needed. I experimented with many different story arrangements, endings, etc., until I developed a combination that remains true to the spirit of the original film while improving the overall flow of the story.

Tagline: If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.

Basic details:

Original film name: Contact
New film name : Contact: You Are Not Alone
Film studio name : Warner Bros.
Edit crew name : Ultimist
Date Original Film Was Released : 7/11/1997
Date Edit Was Released : 1/11/2011
Original Runtime : 149 minues
New Runtime : 112 minues
Amount of time Cut/Added : 37 minutes cut

DVD details:

Region-free DVD-9.
Disc image size: 5.58 gigabytes.
Audio and video taken from Blu-ray source.
Anamorphic 2.39 aspect ratio.
4-pass encoded video for superior image quality.
AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.
Brand new full motion menus.
Chapter selection screens with motion video thumbnails.
DVD presentation designed for 16:9 widescreen displays.

Fanedit details:
Intention (why did you do it): I've always loved this film, but felt that the slow pacing, forced romance, over-the-top religious points of view, and somewhat disappointing ending made it far less than it could have been. With this edit, I hope to make the film into what it always should have been.

Editing Details (how did you do it): I first attempted an edit of Contact 2 years ago, but lack of time and other concerns prevented me from finishing that first attempt. Now, with more time and a far greater skill set for video editing and compositing, I've worked consistently for over a month to create this new version using many of today's top editing tools.

Cuts removed/added/extended (add list of what was changed):

When I approached this edit, I first identified the various "problems' I desired to overcome with the new version. The somewhat disappointing ending is where my thoughts first landed. I have always felt that Ellie Arroway's amazing experience in the film was overshadowed by all the nay-saying, commission hearings, etc. A woman receives an incredible message from another world and is transported xyz light years from our own galaxy for a rendezvous with an alien life form, only to return and be grilled by Congress on national television as if she's some sort of criminal.

Some people feel that happy endings are cliché these days, but I think an inspired ending filled with awe and hope is just what this film needs. I have restructured the flow of the story so that we get some of the nay-saying out of the way right from the start. This new version opens near the end of the original film, with Ellie's return and the fallout surrounding the question, "Did she go, or didn't she?" I've shortened the hearings to a single scene that I feel sums up the argument for and against the truthfulness of Ellie's claims.

From there, we travel back in time to Ellie's childhood, where the story proceeds differently from the original. All of the childhood scenes now appear together, rather than being interspersed between "present day" scenes.

With the pains of childhood behind us, the story moves into a higher gear much earlier than in the original film. Next on my list of improvements was to tone down as much as possible the romance between Ellie and Palmer Joss. I won't go into details, but I've removed almost any hint at romance between the two of them. Now they just seem like really good friends.

A small peeve of mine was the compass passing back and forth between Palmer and Ellie several times. In YANA (You Are Not Alone), Palmer gives Ellie the compass and it never changes hands again.

Next on the "hit list" was the pacing of the film. Many people felt that it was too slow, taking too long to get to the interesting stuff. In a way, I agree, although I do have an appreciation for the meticulous pacing of the original. Through careful experimentation and a fair bit of trial-and-error, I've been able to prune several scenes without affecting the story in a negative way. Ellie receives the "message" nearly 20 minutes earlier in the film, and the pace only picks up from there.

I always felt that the opening, a 3-minute backwards journey from Earth to the star Vega, was much too long. I haven't cut the scene from the film, though. I just found a new way to use the footage involving some careful time remapping. The entire sequence appears twice in the film, but both instances combined run at less than half of the original scene's length.

Another sore spot with some viewers of this film is the over-the-top science vs. religion theme. I've removed some, but not all of it. I experimented with a version that removed the Christian terrorist subplot entirely. That necessarily excluded the existence of the first machine. Without the first machine, there would be no "machine seat" for David Drumlin to win by pleading to the religious and moral "consciences" of the committee.

In the end, the version without the first machine and religious subplot was rather boring. The trials Ellie must endure to get what she deserves provide the conflict at the very heart of the story. With this in mind, I decided to leave the first machine and terrorist subplot intact, but resolved to tone things down as much as possible.

Ellie never sees the religious terrorist at the rally outside the VLA (Very Large Array). She first encounters him as she arrives for the committee reception.

In all, I've removed some of the more annoying religious references. But to keep balance, some of it remains. Through editing this film, I've become aware of the care one must take not to fracture a storyline for the sake of saving a few minutes of film runtime.

Some people are also bothered by the character S. R. Hadden in the movie. Personally, he's one of my favorite characters. I tried versions with and without him, but ultimately decided to leave him in because of the gaping plot holes that would be created in his absence. When "improving" a film, I feel it is important not to make matters worse by excising too many things.

There's an old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There are several scenes in Contact that are perfect (or nearly perfect) as they are, and so I've left them largely untouched. I believe it is a faneditor's duty to recognize when something is good and let it be, rather than changing something simply for the sake of changing it. As a result, the middle 45-percent of YANA largely resembles the original. Nearly every scene has been tweaked and tuned a bit here and there, but some scenes are simply fantastic the way they are, and don't need any help.

As Ellie approaches her rendezvous with the alien, the filmmakers chose to do some weird warping of her face. I guess they intended to imply that Ellie had seen something so spectacular that even a gifted actress like Jodie Foster couldn't portray the emotion properly. Shame on them for tainting her performance with obvious face-warping that looks strange and detracts from the impact of the moment. All of the face warping has been removed, except for a small portion that was actually done well and adds something emotionally satisfying.

I've always been bothered by the strange coloring of the "alien beach" scene. The alien creates surroundings that remind Ellie of Pensacola, Florida. But as a child, Ellie didn't draw Pensacola with a pink beach. Hers was golden. I have a feeling that the filmmakers were trying to give the scene a mystical or ethereal feel by using such strange colors... Personally, the scene just hurt my eyes as well as my sense of color balance. The skin tones were too red, the trees were too green, and the beach was pink! I've completely recolored the alien beach scene to more closely match young Ellie's drawing of Pensacola. No more overly green trees, and no more pink beach!

Since, at the beginning, I took care of some of the things that annoyed me about the original "letdown" of an ending, I was free to construct an entirely new ending that is more hopeful, an ending that leaves us on a high rather than feeling like we've just been dragged through the mud at high speed. For the ending, I created a special 6-second sequence involving the star Vega, using After Effects.

I didn't keep a comprehensive list of all the changes I've made, but there are many. Here are just a few more changes that come to mind:

- A new dedication to Carl Sagan (author of the original book) at the beginning of the film.
- Cut a fair portion of the CNN news footage, but left in any such footage that helps the story along.
- I've removed most of President Clinton. Love him or hate him, who wants to listen to a politician ramble on when the main character has received a message from another world!
- Many small cuts here and there, to keep the story moving at a more even pace.
- Not a part of the film itself, but I added a small nod to Back to the Future, and director Robert Zemeckis (who also directed Contact) in the DVD menu transitions. Some might find it a bit cheesy. Others might not.
- Used a handy little freeware audio plugin called Knockout to remove the music in several key scenes that I wanted to rescore with music from the Blu-ray isolated score. With a bit of care, one can remove most of the music with little degradation of the remaining audio.

In all, I've managed to cut 37 minutes from the film without leaving plot holes or unresolved subplots. I was careful and held in mind my goal of a complete and satisfying story while I was experimenting, cutting, and recutting.

I created fully animated motion menus for the DVD, the centerpiece of which is a representation of the wormhole Ellie travels through on her journey. The DVD also has chapter selection menus with motion thumbnails for each chapter.

The original source material came from the Contact Blu-ray. But even so, a bit of excessive graininess was apparent here and there. To fix this, I used the remarkable noise reduction plugin, Neat Video, on a mild setting to remove the excessive grain. I think you will find the picture quality of this edit to be exceptional throughout the film itself as well as the DVD menus, etc. I've taken great care to make sure this release is as polished as possible.

I'm sure that in time I'll remember more of the changes I've made to the film, but this incomplete list will have to do. I've taken great pains to make Contact: You Are Not Alone as enjoyable as possible. It was truly a labor of love. Contact is one of my favorite films. I hope you enjoy my work.


Tech Info:
Hardware and software information (what did you use to create your fanedit):

Hardware used:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550
4GB of RAM
3TB hard drive space
Windows 7 x64
ATI Radeon 5850 Black Edition

Software used:
Adobe CS5. including Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and Illustrator
DVD Lab Pro
Isolated score from Contact Blu-ray
Lagarith Lossless Video Codec
Neat Video for VirtualDub
Video Copilot Pro Scores, Designer Sound FX, and Optical Flares
Windows Notepad
Many plugins for the above named software, too many to list.

Release details (describe available version(s)): Final version.
Time needed for the edition: 35 days
Persons involved: Ultimist


And there you have it! I do hope some of you will choose to download the full DVD9 version as I worked very hard on the animations and full motion menus!

I'll provide download links to anyone interested.

Would very much like to watch this! :)
Stankpac, I sent you the links via PM :)

Hope you like it!
Sounds fascinating! I'll take the megaupload links when ready... :)
Used a handy little freeware audio plugin called Knockout to remove the music

That's interesting - can you elaborate?

I patiently await the links.....:)
Admin Note: The hijacked portion of this thread which discussed Knockout has been moved and can be found here.

Ok guys, I appreciate the replies but please let's not hijack my thread and get into a discussion about sound editing. I'm sure the info is out there for those who want to know...

I've sent the links out to a few people. Has anyone watched it yet? What did you think?

I'll PM the download links to anyone interested in watching this edit, either the 700mb mp4 or full DVD9.
Ok. So I just finished watching the mp4 version of the edit.
And I must say to me it feels and looks almost exactly like the original Contact.

The pacing is largely the same, nothing felt like it was missing.
Nothing that was cut was any big deal for me,
it didn't really impact the story much at all.

I didn't really care much that the senate hearing was moved to the beginning,
it works largely the same to me. Same thing with having the whole childhood in one piece.
I barely noticed anything was different.

I really like the original movie and hence I really like this version.
But they are both very long-winded, meticulous slow-paced movies,
and if I wouldn't have liked that about the original
I don't think this cut would have made it any better.

Now for what I didn't like:

The sound was much much louder then the rest of the movie
on the new constructed scenes moving from vega to earth both in the beginning and the end,
as well as the "a fan edit by the Ultimist" introduction,
to the point where I had to turn the volume down to keep my speakers from distorting.
(which is not a good thing in my book)

That's it.

So, yeah, thanks for making me watch Contact again. It's a good movie.
But next time I'll probably just pop in my old DVD instead.
(because it's easier, and will probably save me some speaker damage, not because it's a better movie)
Hmm, sorry to hear about your volume issues. Strange that it occurred, though, as I normalized all audio to the same levels before even beginning the edit. I don't seem to have that issue when I play it on my PC or on my TV with the DVD version. The problem might stem from collapsing all the sound to a stereo mp3 track in the mp4 version. Perhaps I'll redo the audio for the mp4 and see if that helps.

Thanks for the input!
Also, strange that you felt nothing was missing, as my version is 37 minutes shorter, lol... Maybe I should take that as a compliment? :p
Ultimist said:
Also, strange that you felt nothing was missing, as my version is 37 minutes shorter, lol... Maybe I should take that as a compliment? :p

Yes, that generally means you have taken care of all the plot points that may have gone awry in the fanediting process : )
Rogue-theX said:
Yes, that generally means you have taken care of all the plot points that may have gone awry in the fanediting process : )
no, it didn't read like praise to me. :-(
the funny thing is when he writes "now for what i didn't like" when all the previous comments were not that praise-worthy. :eek:
Kudos on being the first one to download and comment thou. keep it up. ;-)
I want to check this one out too, i just don't know how. :-|
I listened to the mp4 audio again, and to me the parts in question don't seem that much louder than the rest of the movie. The music has volume, to be sure, but doesn't seem louder than other portions of the movie that have a lot of music.

If others report this issue I'll look into fixing it.
Any chance there will be an AVCHD or blu-ray version of this edit?
Well, I was originally going to do the entire edit in HD since the original source material is from the Blu-ray of the movie. I'm just sort of an impatient person and when I discovered that the HD version was going to render at just a few frames per second, I decided to do the edit at DVD resolution.

I'll probably wait until I have a better computer to do full HD edits. I have a pretty fast quad core system now, but HD video just takes forever to process, convert, add effects to, etc... so I'm just too impatient for it, lol. I think at a million miles per hour and my current PC's ability to keep up with my imagination is sorely lacking. So I guess I'll stick to standard resolution edits for now, although I'll use HD source material whenever possible.

Having come from Blu-ray source, though, I have to say that the video quality for this edit is exceptional. I compared the picture quality to that of the actual retail DVD and was shocked at how much clearer mine is at the same resolution.
Ultimist said:
I listened to the mp4 audio again, and to me the parts in question don't seem that much louder than the rest of the movie. The music has volume, to be sure, but doesn't seem louder than other portions of the movie that have a lot of music.

If others report this issue I'll look into fixing it.

My experience when it comes to equal loudness is that normalization alone doesn't really help fix it.
I don't have the mp4 anymore so I can't check,
but I would guess that difference between the music in the scenes that were too loud with my TV soundsystem
and the other loud music is an abundance of bass.

Something like replay gain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replay_gain
would show the difference very clearly, even though simply checking the levels wouldn't.
I guess my TV sound system does have a limited dynamic range in the bass (and hence distorts easily from loud bass-heavy music), all tough it handled my Inception DVD fine for instance (and that's a movie with a very compressed and bass heavy soundtrack).
I guess since there won't be a HD version at least for some time.

Do not ask for this. Please read the rules.
I haven't seen the theatrical in over a decade, so this'll be an incomplete review...

On the technical side, the 700mb mp4 looks fantastic. There are a few super-quick fades that suggest fan editing, but I don't mind that. The recolored Pensacola scene looks terrific; I was afraid it'd be visually dull without the pink hue, but it isn't.

Now, on to the edits...

With the bulk of those 37 minutes removed being character scenes, Ellie sometimes comes off as unlikable. While I'm all for less of Palmer Joss and his ludicrous character, I could also never forget that they'd had a relationship in the theatrical. And with a lot of the science vs. religion talk trimmed, the result just didn't feel as heartfelt as I remember it being. Again, I'm not sure whether the fault lies with the theatrical or this edit, but the pacing did feel rushed overall.

As for the ending... there's a lot of ridiculous stuff in this movie (as though any government could keep the construction of the second machine secret), but the fact that no one except a political lady notices that the 18 hours of static might be significant is just beyond the pale. (As in, someone typed that fact up in the report, and no one mentions it until after a civilian hearing. Right.) And in the brief hearing scene, that questioner dude is way over-the-top melodramatic. I can't imagine it working well in the theatrical, but to put it at the start just sets things off on a weird note.

My thoughts are that there are two ways to end this: one, keep the linearity of the theatrical, but take out the 18 hours trump card and leave the question of whether she went anywhere truly ambiguous - I for one don't mind ambiguous endings, so long as there's a satisfying character arc, as I feel there is here: whether real or not, Ellie's journey and conviction gives her a bit of closure to her life-long loneliness and SETI obsession, as shown by her enthusiastic calm in the final scene.

Option #2: theatrical linearity again, but with a fade to black at the end of the shot zooming from Vega back to Earth. An abrupt ending, sure, but also a provocative one, in which you're forced to imagine what the world response would be (and with no hint that she'd be widely disbelieved).

But to keep the nonsense of the 18 hours discovery and put the goofy hearing up front, I think, is the least best resolution.

My gut reaction is thus to stick with the theatrical over this edit, but I have great respect for Ultimist's craft, thoughtfulness and technical proficiency. And thank you for inspiring me to watch this movie again, albeit in incomplete form. :)
I watched this a couple nights ago and here are my thoughts.

Overall, I'm quite liking it.

Putting the hearing at the start of the film, yes, this works. It adds much more of a suspense/intrigue, to find out what the hell they're all getting their knickers in a twist about.

Moving the early Ellie stuff to the beginning and all in one clump is better. I do hate getting bogged down in flashbacks (*see LOST!), as it feels a little like filler, so well done on that.

The removal of the romance angle, hmmm, well Palmer, becomes radically insignificant in your cut. Not necessarily a bad thing, it proves that the romantic angle can be safely removed as you don't even miss it.

Removal of overt religious stuff. This is where is doesn't quite work for me. Ellie is obviously forced (in both original and your edit) to admit she had some kind of experience which she can't prove. She has faith that it really happened, depsite no-one believing her. This entire issue is hammered hard home at the beginning of your edit, but it isn't really followed up. You cut Palmer's question to Ellie on the selection panel, which I personally felt was the most fundamental question of all. It would easily then justify why Drummond was selected over her. It then nicely contrasts the 2nd transport, which is all about commerce and 'they want an American'!

I don't recall the original beach scene, but it all looked fine to me.

A couple technical issues that jumped out to me :

After Ellie's questioning at the start, there's a very quick/abupt fade-out on her. This could have done with a gentle, slower paced fade out, with perhaps even a reverb on her voice.

At the party, after Palmer tells Ellie that he's unlikely to get his interview with Drummond, it cuts to Ellie listening for noise. It felt a little abrupt and it made me think 'is something missing there?'.

As indicated before, your removal of Palmer's question at selection was missed, but one can see that he as a prominent character quite clearly moves forward quickly to ask something which is cut.

I think I prefer your ending, it is a little more optimistic - the revelation about the 18 hours has always been a whammy moment for me. The proof we're looking for. So I liked it was left in and the hearing vastly reduced - James Wood's character is so annoying.

I'm on the fence at the moment as to whether I prefer your cut or not - but it was a nice ride. It's bold to take a solid film and try to alter it in a new/better way.

I think 8/10, with the original something similar.
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