Feature

This is where the heroes from the film The North Sea work in real life

Henning and Øyvind control the snake robot Eely, which is central in the film “North Sea”. But how much does their everyday life resemble what you see in the movie?

  • Text:Ove Ronny Haraldsen

In the film North Sea, two software developers receive an unexpected phone call early in the morning. «Bring your snake robot and meet at Sola airport! A helicopter is ready to fly you out into the North Sea. An oil platform has collapsed. Your robot is the only one that can find out if there are any survivors trapped in the depths.

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When this happens, the audience has already got to know the two main characters in the movie. They work in Eelume and have an indoor pool where they test and develop a snake-shaped robot named Eely. What many people do not know, is that the company Eelume also exists in real life at Nyhavna in Trondheim.

Here we meet Henning Stenersen and Øyvind Olsen, at the control-station by the pool where the snake robot eels around and sticks its luminous camera head out of the water.

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The script for the film North Sea was written based on the snake robot and what it was supposed to do in the film.

Some scenes with Eely are animated, but there are also several scenes recorded in the pool in the studio. Then it is Henning Stenersen who controls the snake robot.

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What made the most impression on you during the filming of The North Sea?

Henning: What made the most impression was the surprise on how big this would be for Eelume! I knew nothing about how involved Eely would be in the film and whether the Eelume trademark would be used. The first thing that met me on the film set was a large beautiful van with a giant Eelume logo on the side. Furthermore, there was a lot of use of the brand on all kinds of equipment etc.

The next thing that made an impression was that the filmmakers had made the Eelume lab very good and realistic. We joke a lot that things in the film are things we must have as well. And that the filmmakers not only learned from us, but we learn from them as well. There is some truth in that.

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I was also excited about how life is on a film set and how filmmakers interact with each other. There were a lot of good people there and I only managed to talk to a fraction of them.

How did you end up in this job?

Øyvind: I have a background in physics at NTNU, but quickly ended up with software in my first job, which was at KONGSBERG. But life brought me back to Trondheim and I eventually felt that I wanted to do more than just software and get more hands-on technology. So, I started on a 2-year master in cybernetics at NTNU as 50 percent.

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After a few months, an announcement came from Eelume, and I immediately seized the opportunity. That was exactly what I was looking for. Experience from KONGSBERG and simulation of missiles probably helped in the application process.

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Henning: I joined Eelume early as the first employee in the company. I think Eelume was looking for someone who had both good theoretical skills in robotics, but also the practical skills needed to put together an electromechanical system. I have always been a Reodor Felgen (a fictional Norwegian inventor) type with a wealth of hobby projects in mechanics, electronics and software.

Combined with a master's degree in cybernetics and some work experience, I was a good match for Eelume. Pål Liljebäck, our Chief Technology Officer, and I had just met at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology when Pål was doing post-doctoral work. He had received tips from mutual acquaintances and when I was asked if I would like to work with underwater robotics, I had to say yes!

You actually have the same job as the main characters in the film. How has it been to see "oneself" on film in this way?

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Henning: It has been very fun to "see yourself" in the main roles in the North Sea. Finally, someone has made a realistic and accurate film about being an embedded developer! When disaster strikes, I'm ready to save the world with technology!

Øyvind: It is a nice documentary they have made. The film shows a typical working day here at Eelume. But it's a little weird to see your job portraited on film. Now we just have to work to be as cool as the characters in the movie, says Øyvind who, like Henning, was encouraged to answer this question with some humor.

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What is the best thing about working with Eelume as you do?

Øyvind: Lots of variation in the work and always something new and exciting happening, like this film. Even though I am a software man, I get to learn a lot about new and exciting technology, equipment and participate in operations and testing. And finally, I get to make such a cool product as Eely.

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Henning: The best thing is that you get to work with an exciting technology in a workday that is varied, theoretical and practical. I love operating at the intersection of mechanics, electronics and software.

Here, two technologists play the main role in a disaster film and are not surprisingly also the big heroes. Do you think this can help make science even more exciting for those who shall choose education and profession?

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Henning: Science is already the most exciting thing you can work with. It’s just that not everyone has understood it yet! I absolutely believe that the film can be an eye-opener for many. It really highlights the fact that it’s a lot of exciting technology to work with in Norway.

Øyvind: I guess so as well. It is certainly good to show that you can have a cool and exciting job with science education!

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