Smart Building

The Hummingbird Project… A Film Starring Belden Fiber!

Benoit Chevarie

This is the story of how Belden’s fiber solutions, including the FiberExpress Fusion product line, came to star alongside Selma Hayek, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Mando and Alexander Skarsgård in the upcoming film, The Hummingbird Project – and how Belden became the movie’s technology consultant along the way.

Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “That doesn’t look right!”? Or “That’s not how this works!”? (Like the movie Skyfall, where the data center is covered in dust and has no air-conditioning or server fans. Or the movie Independence Day, when a Macintosh PowerBook 5300 implants a virus within the alien fleet without being connected to an Ethernet network.)


To bring movie scenes to life in the most realistic way possible, many set directors choose to work with behind-the-scenes consultants who specialize in specific areas: science, history, music, psychology, etc.


Filmed in Québec and Montréal by Item 7, The Hummingbird Project tells the story of two cousins (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård) – both players in high-frequency trading – who decide to attempt to build a straight fiber optic cable from New Jersey to Kansas. Its purpose? To earn them billions of dollars by gaining access to stock market quotes just one millisecond (the speed of a hummingbird’s wing beat) ahead of everyone else.


To the movie team’s credit, they wanted the film to look and feel as realistic as possible when scenes portrayed tasks like fiber splicing, installing cable or having conversations inside data centers.


Because of Belden’s well-known, trusted reputation for producing high-quality fiber solutions, producers sent the movie script to us so we could examine the storyline and characters from a technological perspective.


After reviewing the script, we met with the team in person to discuss specific scenes. To create realistic settings involving the installation of a straight fiber optic tunnel, the correct products, tools and accessories would be needed (props, in other words). Working side by side with Mathieu Jacques, the property (prop) master, Belden created a list of cables and connectivity solutions to pull off this feat, including fiber spools, connectors, patch cords, splicers and cleavers.


The movie’s set director, Kim Thibodeau, had never been involved in a movie with such a tech-heavy background. She wanted to learn all she could about creating a data center space that looked 100% realistic on screen. Otherwise, she knew that inaccuracy would serve as a distraction to viewers. So Belden spent time educating her and her team about data centers.


Bringing them to Belden’s Montréal office, we were able to use our training room, which mimics a true-to-life data center with cabinets, patch panels, patch cords and connectors. Our Montréal office is also home to our F1 Center of Excellence for fiber optic assemblies. Here, we work hand in hand with customers to create custom fiber solutions from design concept and visualization to testing in a real-time environment that mimics yours. We can immediately check the designs we create before they’re produced so you know what to expect in terms of performance. (Watch for an upcoming blog on our F1 Center of Excellence soon!)


After the set director walked through the space, she was so impressed that she asked to borrow the components of our training center for use in the movie.


We said yes – and, from there, we helped her bring The Hummingbird Project set design to life, reviewing initial sketches and layouts, approving the final environment to make sure it looked like a real data center and providing products to use on set.


Once it was time to bring the sketches to life, The Hummingbird Project set director brought in one of Belden’s Montréal IBDN instructors, Stéfan Beaulieu, president of Zénith Services Télécom. He helped put the data center components together correctly, including racks, patch panels and patch cords. He also worked closely with the film’s actors, teaching them the appropriate way to handle fiber, as well as cut, cleave and splice fiber.


“Many years ago, I was struck with this amazing premise of people digging thousand-mile-long tunnels to try and shave a couple of milliseconds off of the time it took to make their stock market trades,” says Kim Nguyen, The Hummingbird Project director.


“I had this haunting image in my head of stock market hustlers struggling to walk through swamps and muddy forests in their expensive suits, putting their sanity on the line all for the good old dollar. Little did I know how complex bringing this to the screen would be. We talked with experts of every scientific expertise you could imagine: quantum physics experts, fiber optic physicists and highly specialized tunnel-digging experts. In retrospect, there is something about bringing forward what seems to be a metaphoric world, when, in fact, most of what is in the script is, in some way, true to life.”


Movies can be a great way to stimulate discussion about topics that are often overlooked. We’re excited to see what kinds of conversations arise about fiber and its capabilities after The Hummingbird Project is released on March 15.


Want a quick peek at the movie trailer? Watch the clip below! (Pay close attention at around the 1:08 mark – where a Belden splicer makes its debut appearance!)