Remember all those movie scenes with cool guys putting on a serious face and start typing some ‘code’ in? Have you ever wondered what do those screens actually show? If they have any real meaning?
I’m Jamie Squillare and I’ll tell you more about it.
Just recently, one British programmer John Graham-Cumming decided to take a closer look at this topic. It all started with him watching Elysium. There was a scene of interaction with a futuristic computer showing a piece of code the programmer could recognise. So he took a screenshot and analysed its contents. And it turned out the piece originated from an old Intel manual.
Later, he tweeted about this small discovery, getting more than 500 retweets in almost no time. So Graham-Cumming decided to use the momentum and registered a Tumblr blog right away. The goal was to track down such “Easter Eggs” from anime series, TV shows, movies, blockbusters etc. Within two weeks “Source Code in TV and Films” gained over 12,000 followers. Besides, hundreds of visitors leave scene suggestions daily. Hopefully my Jamie Squillare’s blog will achieve same popularity.
And now it looks like the majority of film-makers are not getting overly creative about their coding scenes. Designers often copy-past the scribbles from neutral sources – manuals, website source codes, scripts. Some of them use code generators, others prefer to feature programming jokes of different kinds.
With blog growing and getting popular, John Graham-Cumming started receiving emails from set designers. Hard-working creators were defending themselves – it is not just laziness that results in copy-pasting. Director’s unpredictability often means dramatic lack of time to produce quality code. And considering it will flash just for a second somewhere in the background of the final cut, it is not worth the efforts. Add to that budget constraints and constantly changing script.
Even so, sometimes set-dressing has real thought in it. Movies like Iron Man, The girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Social Network use both legitimate AND relevant to the scene coding. In some cases, post-production designers add the proper coding later. But for most of the time producers prefer no to “waste” money on the whole thing.
Bob Ludemann, the creator of motion graphics for popular TV shows and movies, says screens for most of the shows’ episodes take less than 8 hours to make. Once he had to make a generic screen for some FBI guy checking email as a part of background setting. So Ludemann used one of his older FBI headers, inverted a screenshot of his own standard OS X Mail application to amp it up and submitted it. Ironically, the set was changed so the ’email opening’ made its way to a full screen shot and even was included on the DVD. To this day, Bob occasionally receives emails from people joking about his inbox contents.
For those of you interested in your own little code policing, Graham-Cumming recommends getting acquainted with multiple coding languages. Since once you know distinctive features of language’s syntax, it is easy to find the origins.
Alternatively, submit a screenshot to the blog and let him do it for you.