Many movies have that moment. You know, that moment when the hacker, detective or secret agent sits in front of a computer and starts typing code as if the world depended on it (and in many movies, it does). Now, most people won’t pay any attention to the actual code printed on the screen, and as long as the hero has his hoodie on and types dir on a DOS green screen, everyone is satisfied. Well, not everyone.
Ron Orbach, a developer at Amazon’s Israeli R&D center, decided to take on the hero role, and check if the code written in the movies is legit, or not. The results, even had our hero surprised at the end.
Recreates code from the movie, and goes deep on the analysis
Orbach thought of the idea after his wife told him about a psychologist she follows on Facebook, who analyzes psychological aspects in TV shows and movies. “The premise sounded cool… I thought to myself, how could I replicate it with the knowledge I possess, and expose the world of software and developers to the general public,” Orbach explains to Geektime. From the idea, sparked a new Facebook group called cinematic.c0de (mostly in Hebrew).
In every post uploaded on the page, Orbach analyzes code from a movie or a series, in order to find out if the code is relevant to the plot, or just mumbo jumbo. “Every time I watch a series or movie and stumble upon some code being written, I check to see if it’s anything interesting. If it’s something I like then I check the forums for any mentions of the code, and from there all that’s left is to analyze it,” says Orbach.
Orbach explains that he initially tries to understand what the code does, its language, and environment. Then he attempts to figure out its place in the plot. Next stage is recreating the code and actually typing it out, which he notes is no easy task: “Sometimes it’s not clear or a little blurred. I try to increase resolution to make minor adjustments to the image, so that I can decipher each letter.” The recreated code is uploaded to Orbach’s Git, and then he attempts to track down the source of the code. He adds that most of the time, the code can be found in code storage sites like GitHub.
“There were more than a few times when at first glance the code didn’t seem interesting, but the hunt after its source led to some fascinating places. For example, the code used by NASA in the movie The Martian.” When finding code that doesn’t fit the plot, Orbach tries to understand why it was used for the scene, maybe there’s something else behind it. “Sometimes you try to imagine what the creators googled to get the code,” adds Orbach.
“Money Heist” displays code with profanity
Orbach also gives credit to the movies and TV shows which used code in the smartest and most correct way, naming Stranger Things, The Big Bang Theory, and The Social Network, among others. “They were really observant that the code used was relevant and correct. The effort is much appreciated, because the code really only appears in snippets during the show or movie.”
On the other hand, one of the worst examples of code on TV comes from the super popular Netflix series, “Money Heist” (La Casa De Papel), according to Orbach. In one of the episodes, the thieves want to hack billboards and advertisements in order to promote their message. The only problem is that the code they wrote is actually used to control a 3D printer’s plastic injection… In another scene, the cops try to disconnect the thieves’ feed by pushing code taken from malware that deploys DDoS, and includes a log error and profanity… “It’s really amusing that the show’s creators chose that specific log error line from a relatively long source code,” notes Orbach.
Orbach plans to continue posting weekly content to his page. He also invites you to comment on his Facebook posts with suggestions for shows or movies with code, and he’ll gladly write about them. Down the road, he says that he may branch out his analysis to technological aspects in cinema and TV not necessarily related to programming, including but not limited to hardware, systems, networks, and more.