Camera Angles in Whiplash

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Whiplash’s creative editing elements show a great storyline through presenting the ideas via camera work aspects such as angles and transitions. In every film, the stylistic elements that the editors and directors use assist in the flow and understanding of the movie. The editor of Whiplash, Tom Cross, combines the features of camera work and transitions as well as the mood-setting music accompanying the scenes. Through the techniques, he brings out the emotions of the characters to the audience by showing what is in focus through camera movements. The essay will discuss the editing styles with the primary concentration being on the camera angles that help in portraying genuine emotion. It aims at proofing the scenes in the movie are well constructed and thought of during the making of the picture.

The award-winning film Whiplash focuses on the characters roles by using the element of camera angles. Every scene in the movie is considered a story in itself since the characters can change the mood depending on the act.  The method of camera angles uses wide, medium and close up shots to establish the emotion of several scenes. Case in point, the section where Andrew and the girlfriend go on their first date illustrates the use of the angles. A wide angle shot is taken when they first begin their conversation to show the setting and introduce the characters to the scene.  Later in their conversation, the shot changes to a medium angle where the two begin leaning towards each other to show interest which is a typical first date. After they connect and get to know each other, the angles shift to a close up scene where Andrew is seen to look at Nicole regardless of his problem to maintain eye contact.  The audience understands the emotions flowing between the two and when Andrew asks about studies the scene reverts to a medium angle showing lack of concentration in Andrew.

Editing is considered a skill which entails more than just transitioning to required scenes. It follows creative guidelines set and are centered at portraying the storyline while connecting with the audience. The film employs several rules of editing such as depicting the genuine emotion of the character through the camera movements and angles. For example, the section where Fletcher asks Andrew if he was rushing or dragging after throwing a chair at him, shows camera angles transit from wide shots to close-ups setting a tensed mood. It is also demonstrated by the Cello player who looks down to avoid eye contact with Fletcher to avoid being next in the teacher’s wrath. The importance of the method, emphasis the story by capturing the audience’s attention, of the inspiring moments that show the emotion of the entire movie.

Tom Cross has also used the rule of eye-trace to show details in the shot by establishing where the audience’s focus will be. He uses camera angles to show the audience how Andrew has endured bullying and abuse as well as harsh comments both physical and psychological, under Fletcher, who is the conductor of his conservatory's awesome studio band. In a close-up angle, he focuses on Andrew’s tear within the frame after Fletcher strikes him. It is shown through the lean forward moment when the audience is captured by the sudden change of wide angle to close-ups. The moment maximizes the attention of the audience.

The movie “The Theory of Everything” which is based on the life of Stephen Hawking who overcomes the odds after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease. The camera angles used in the picture match with “Whiplash” in the way that the emotion of the main character is presented. A close-up shot can be seen when Stephen takes Jane to the fair and their feelings are well captured by the audience at the carousel ride when they look at each other. The lean forward moment in the film is established when the viewers see the Stephen hold his wife’s hand and when they get a child together. The entire movie has various moments where the camera angles shift from wide to close up similar to whiplash instilling profound emotional responses from viewers.

The director of the whiplash also used the camera angles in another movie called “La La Land” which is a musical about two dreamers who use the power of songs to connect. The central concept for the film expresses the storyline through the camera both interactively and physically. The angles in the picture are more noticeable to the audience through the camera lenses since the characters’ focus is used to tell the story emotionally. The editor wanted the camera angles and motion to match the behavior of a dancer in the film. For instance, Sabastian who is a talented pianist takes Mia to the planetarium. A passionate emotion is depicted to the audience when they connect. A wide angle shot opens the section as they drive up to the road followed by medium shots as the couple begins exploring particularly the part they dance past the Tesla coil where the camera follows them making the audience feel as if they play a particular character physically. Another wide angle is seen when they begin dancing with the illusion of floating in the sky and touching the stars. Thus creating a link to the viewers and sets a happy emotion.

In the movie “The pursuit of happyness” camera angles have been used to show Will Smith’s determination and struggle in getting a better livelihood for the son through various jobs he does. The editor uses close up shots during discussions with the son by the basketball court as well as the interviews which he attends when searching for a job at the stock market firm. There are several of the shoulder shots in meetings which focus on the characters emotion during the part establishing a connection with the viewers. The film portrays feeling similar to whiplash through the editor’s focus on the character especially in the way the picture shows him crying in a bathroom after being kicked out due to rent arrears. A wide to close up shot can be seen between him and his landlord when he comes to deliver the news on eviction showing the environment and the emotions of both characters.

“The blind side” employs medium and wide-angle shots in covering Mike when he was homeless aiming at striking the conscience of the audience to assist him especially the scene he first meets his adoptive stepmother. The struggle of Mike is covered in several sections and medium to close-up angles which trigger different emotions to the audience. For example, the directors start with a wide angle in the opening section primarily showing the setting when Mike was homeless and staying in the streets. The film’s bond is similar to whiplash since it links the viewer’s attention creating several lean forward moments which can be illustrated when she meets him walking alone at night while she was driving home and asks Mike to come with her. The scene showed a wide to medium to close-up shots where some sections elaborate the understanding of the picture.


Bradshaw, Peter. 2010. The Blind Side. March 25. Accessed January 16, 2018.

Collin, Robbie. 2017. La La Land review: you'll leave with a tear in your eye and a song in your heart. January 13. Accessed January 16, 2018.

Dargis, Manohla. 2006. Climbing Out of the Gutter With a 5-Year-Old in Tow. Dec 14. Accessed Jan 16, 2018.

Desowitz, Bill. 2015. Inside the Making of the Savage ‘Whiplash’ Finale with Editor Tom Cross. January 9. Accessed 1 05, 2018.

Mahadani, Bhushan. 2015. What Kind of Editing Techniques Did Tom Cross Use in Whiplash? April 7. Accessed 1 05, 2018.

Renée, V. 2013. How to Guide Your Audience: A Masterclass in Storytelling Through Editing. Accessed January 16, 2018.

Scott, A. O. 2014. In ‘The Theory of Everything,’ Stephen Hawking’s Home Life.

November 6. Accessed 1 05, 2018.

September 25, 2023




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